After Paralysis, Amberley Snyder Makes Triumphant Return To Barrel Racing


In just a matter of seconds, rodeo barrel racer Amberley Snyder’s life changed forever.

On January 10, 2010, Snyder, then 18, got into a car accident that saw her thrown out of her truck and into a metal pole. After being rushed to the hospital, she learned she had broken her back and her legs were paralyzed.

When she landed, “everything slowed down and I couldn’t feel my legs or my toes move,” Snyder told PEOPLE. “I felt like I was sitting in warm water from the waist down. I knew right then that was something was definitely wrong.” She still laments not wearing a seatbelt on the day of crash, noting that she’d still have the use of her legs if she did.

Doctors told Snyder she’d never walk again, let alone ride, but she has found a way to return to competition. She eventually outfitted her saddle with a junk yard seat added a nylon strap across her left side to keep her centered atop her horse, and put Velcro strips on her pants to secure her legs.

Seven years later, she is now back at the top of the barrel racing circuit and recently won $10,000 in Las Vegas’ All In Barrel Race.

“It took a lot of work, but I’ve earned my professional card and now I can compete with the best girls out there,” said Snyder. “Getting back on a horse again has taught me that anything is possible and not to give up. Now I’m determined to walk again. To me, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ ”

These days, Snyder works as a riding coach at Mount Pleasant’s Wasatch Academy. She has become a popular motivational speaker and regularly documents her successes and setbacks on Facebook.

“Watching her progress from when she had everything taken away from her to now has been a ride that I’m honored to have witnessed — she’s my hero,” says another friend, Emmy Peterson, 25. “I can’t wait to see what she does next.”

But for all of Snyder’s triumphs, there is still one thing left on her list.

“I’m going to walk again,” she says. “I’m saving money to have stem cell surgery done on my back, so you never know. And until that day comes, you’ll see me every chance I get in the arena, riding on a horse, going as fast as I possibly can.”