Amberley Snyder - More Than a Netflix Star
Updated: Aug 30
In June, while browsing movies on Netflix, my wife and I came across "Walk. Ride. Rodeo." It tells the incredible true story of Amberley Snyder, a barrel racer on her way to a pro career in rodeo, who suffered a near-fatal car accident, but was racing in competitions again just eighteen months later. Now paralyzed from the waist down, she fights to earn back her place in the sport she loves. I encourage anyone reading this to watch it as you will find many nuggets of inspiration, motivation, and get to know Amberley through Spencer Locke, the actress who portrayed her.
There is a tremendous amount of information about Amberley online, in addition to the movie, but we were lucky enough to meet her and learn first hand what makes her so amazing. Snyder was 18 years old and on her way to becoming a professional rider. She had already won a junior world championship, when a decision changed her life forever.
On January 10, 2010, she was driving to Denver, CO. and in Wyoming, after stopping for fuel, she looked down to check her map while driving and drifted into the wrong lane. Fortunately, or unfortunately, after filling up her truck at the gas station, she forgot to put her seatbelt back on. Attempting to get the truck back in the right lane, she overcorrected and the truck's back wheels hit dirt, causing the vehicle to stray off of the pavement and go into the dirt, and she lost control of the vehicle. The truck rolled a total of seven times, with Amberley being thrown through the window of her truck. She landed against a fence post, crushing her T12 vertebrae, paralyzing her from that location down.
She told me that one of the first time she cried after the accident was when an EMT told her, "If you would have had your seatbelt on, you would have the use of your legs." I am not an expert but I'm unsure how he determined that, as in looking at the truck and in my opinion, had she remained in the vehicle with seatbelt on, it's possible she would not have survived. It really isn't possible to know what would have happened with her seatbelt on but it was devastating for her to hear that.
I asked her what she remembered from the accident and to my surprise she said, "Everything. I remember flying through the air, seeing my truck, and landing. I heard the truck being crunched as it rolled and when I hit, heard my back break too." She told us, "I didn't have any pain until they slid the board down behind my back." She also said that she remembers the helicopter coming to get her and the accident, as it often does, was in slow motion.
In the movie, after her accident, she attempts to go see her horse and falls out of her wheelchair due to the terrain not being conducive for wheelchairs. At that moment, I told my wife Lisa, "She needs a Freewheel!" I reached out to Amberley and after a few months our schedules finally allowed us to meet.
A FreeWheel is a device that was invented by engineer Pat Dougherty who lives in Boise, Idaho, after himself being paralyzed. Through the Steadfast Foundation, Limbitless is able to provide them to those who need it. The Freewheel is attached to the front footplate of the wheelchair and allows for greater mobility in terrain that is a bit more difficult. With the Freewheel it's possible to go over grass, gravel, snow, sand, bark, and other difficult substances. It can be put on and taken off easily and is stored on the back of the wheelchair when not in use. We have provided over 40 FreeWheels to participants of the Limbitless Challenge - Table Rock Ascent.
After a 4-hour drive we arrived at Amberley's house in Utah. It was as though we had met before as our conversation moved and darted into topics and discussions not typical for new acquaintances . What I quickly realized is she is far more than a professional barrel racer and a Netflix star, she has a very welcoming disposition and there was not any awkwardness. She is very down to earth and we then went inside and talked more.
Beyond the fame and countless (literally) belt buckles and world title she has won, there is a young woman who is very competitive and has a mindset of never giving up. She has a heart to help and serve others, which is very admirable and something Lisa and I really like about her.
What a lot of people don't realize is all of the little things that those not in a wheelchair take for granted. Taking a shower, getting in and out of a truck, walking in the grass or on a beach, basic things that require more work for those in a wheelchair. Having a FreeWheel may help her in some situations, but not all, and more devices and ingenuity are needed. The adaptive community needs time and money dedicated to creating tools and implements to make life a bit easier.
Below is a video of Amberley trying out her FreeWheel for the first time.
It was a pleasure to spend quality time with her and know she will continue to help others worldwide. She is a class act, has a great heart, and is not too bad of a barrel racer either.
Amberley also provides a video every week called, "Wheelchair Wednesday." Each video shows her doing something in her wheelchair, a trick or tip that she uses and wants to share.
Her most recent Wheelchair Wednesday is about the FreeWheel she received and it can be watched by clicking here or the below screenshot.
One final note I'd like to leave you with is if you reach out to her on social media, please be patient if she doesn't reply right away. She answers each and every fan personally (no robot or someone else doing it) and that simply takes time with the quantity that she receives every hour of every day. Let's also not forget she is living a very busy and productive life, speaking all over the country, and making her way through life as we all do. Be gracious and patient.
Netflix Trailer for Walk. Ride. Rodeo
Watch some amazing and in-depth videos on Amberley's website by clicking here.
Follow her on social media by clicking here in the footer/bottom of her website.
If you are interested in receiving a Freewheel or wish to contact the author of this article, you can reach Ronald Kern at Limbitless.
* All photos, videos, and this article were used with Amberley's permission.