So many of us in life are looking for inspiration,
or even motivation, to push ourselves, drive us to our goals, or just to be happy and at
peace with what we have. This week, The Ride is taking us to Logan, Utah to meet a beautiful
and amazing cowgirl named Amberley Snyder. She showed an interest in horses at a very
young age, like changing her diapers age. That was when she first told me because on
the top of the baby fresh wipes there’s animals on the top and every time I’d change her diapers,
she’d point to the horse and say “me ride.” When my Mom saw that I had an interest in
horses when I was little, she was like “alright, we’re building upon that.” When she said she wanted to ride, I thought sweet, she’s gonna run barrels because I didn’t get to do that. So I would take her hand and I would do three circles and I would just
draw the barrel pattern. We finally found a place when she was three that would take
a three year old. I’d set up cones and I would take my pony
and I would do the barrel pattern. I was hooked. When I was 7 years old, my dad pulled all
us kids into the room and said “alright guys, we’re going to move to Utah.” And so I said
“Dad, the only way I’m moving to Utah is if you’re buying me a Palamino barrel horse.”
So when we moved to Utah, I found my first Palamino barrel horse, her name was Lacy.
I started in the fall and won two buckles that first fall on her and felt like “Hey,
this is the way I want to go. I love it and I’m pretty good at it. Might as well stay
in it.” She raced bareback until she went to high
school. And she beat everybody. In my family, you win. We’re competitive.
My dad in the major leagues. He was a competitor. That’s what he did. There’s six kids in my
family, and all of us are very competitive. She just had so much God-given talent it
was amazing. My stellar, probably my proudest year, was
in 2009. I made High School Nationals and then the week after High School Finals was
the Little Britches Finals in Colorado and I ended up leaving there with 11 buckles and
a Finals and World All-Around Title. Winning two All-Around saddles at this big rodeo,
I was on the top of the world. I had been offered a job in Denver for the
Stock Show. I was going to work there for the two and a half weeks and I got up at 4:30
in the morning to start my drive. At about 10:00 in the morning, I stopped in Rawlins,
Wyoming at a gas station and when I got back in my truck, I didn’t put my seat belt back
on. Less than 10 miles down the road, my life completely changed. At 10:00 I texted her, said “how’s it going?” I didn’t get a response back. I looked down to check my map and when I looked up, I had faded over a lane and was heading towards a mile marker on the side of the road. So I grabbed my wheel and tried to bring it
back straight. Right as I thought I was going to be okay, the dirt caught the back right
tire on my truck and pulled me completely sideways. So I closed my eyes and I could
just hear banging and crashing going on around my head and my truck, and I felt
myself pick up and leave my window and could hear my truck still rolling and I left my
truck at 70 miles an hour and hit a fence post on the side of the freeway. That’s what
broke my back. I wake up and I’m sitting on the side of the freeway and I can see my truck
in front of me and I am just thinking “oh my gosh, what just happened?” I realized I was thinking fine and I looked down at my fingers and I moved them and they were fine.
So next I looked down at my toes and tried to move my toes and nothing happened. I was at the top of the stairs when I sent that text. I walked into my room and it wasn’t my phone, I just remember another phone rang and my oldest son answered it and he came to the
top of the stairs and he said “It’s Dad.” He handed me the phone and Cory said “Am’s
been in an accident and she can’t feel her legs.” I just fell to the floor and started
sobbing. It was that devastating. It’s not a phone call you want to get. I waited for my life flight helicopter and it was in Rawlins and I was first told “the news” you’d call it. A doctor walked in and he started talking about being paralyzed and
I said “whoa, wait a minute, what are the chances of me feeling or moving my legs again?”
And he said “slim to none but more to the none.” She had just barely come out of surgery when we got there. The doctor said the surgery
had gone well and he did everything he could but there was no hope. This was a permanent
thing and she’d be paralyzed for the rest of her life. I just looked right at him and
said “you don’t know my Amberley. Just take me to Amberley.” So they took me to her in
ICU. We both looked at each other and I was just so grateful that she was still here.
But there was a point when she was asleep and I was sitting on the side of her bed.
I was in a chair at the side of her bed and I lost it. I put my head down on the bed and
I was just crying and Amberley’s hand came over and she just put her hand on top of my
hand. That’s just the bond we’ve always had. She didn’t say anything but it was just Mom,
I’m still here. I didn’t cry until two days after surgery.
That was the first time that I actually broke down about this whole situation. A paramedic
came into my room and he said “if you’d had your seat belt on you’d have your legs.” When
he left the room, I turned to my mom and said this one mistake has cost me my whole life.
I said “Amberley, there’s no shoulda, woulda, coulda’s, we can’t go back.” She said “my
mistake cost me my legs.” I said “your legs are still attached and we’re just going to
work on it from here.” I said “how can you tell me that? How can you look at me in the
face and tell me this is going to be alright after he just said that?” She reached over
at that point and put her hand on my leg and I felt it. Crazy thing. So since then, I can
feel a little bit past my knees and I can move some of my muscles a little bit. From the beginning, I was getting back on. The doctors and nurses, I told them “I ride horses. When can I get back on a horse?” and the said “you know you should probably find
something else. You’re not going to be able to get back on horses any more. That’s not
going to happen. That’s impossible so you’re going to have to find something else that’s
going to over take that.” And I said “okay, let me just tell you guys, I’ve been riding
horses since I was 3 three years old. It’s not what I do, it’s who I am. So you can’t
just tell me to change who I am. I’m going to do this.” When she first came home, she could see her horses out her window. She was in bed and she would never let me open the blinds. I told her “Amberley, when your horses have
been hurt, you had to wait for them. Now your horses are going to wait for you.” One of the hardest days of my whole life was the first day I got on my horse because I realized that it wasn’t going to be the same. I kept telling myself that if I got back on
that was going to be the only part of my life that didn’t change and that was unrealistic
because it did change. It was going to have to change. So I have a seat belt that hooks
on my saddle and I have velcro straps that are around my legs because my legs were kind
of kicky. I rubber band my feet to in and then I have one strap that comes across one
of my hips. When I’m running barrels, it holds me so that I stay totally centered. Power, he’s changed since the accident as well. Before, he was very high strung. We went out and got him and then she lead him with the lead rope and halter in her wheel
chair and he walked just real quiet behind the wheel chair like he’d done it his whole
life. Really understood the situation and he’s really been like that most of the time.
He knows there’s something different and he is completely different with her.
If I hadn’t of been pushed as a kid and really had that drive from day one, I don’t know what
I’d be doing now. Because for me giving up wasn’t an option and even not just getting
back on, that’s wasn’t okay with me. I was going to be competitive. I was going to get
back on and show up to a barrel race to win like everybody else. She had to relearn everything that she knew before and it killed her to have to relearn that. Relearn to ride, she has to get put on her horse and that kills her every time someone
has to pick her up but she doesn’t let that affect her so she can chase that dream of rodeo. I’m attending Utah State University. My major
is Agriculture Education and then I’m going to pursue a Master’s in school counseling.
As an Ag Ed major, it actually covers so many different things. Part of that is my greenhouse
class. I just need to plant the peppers. Let’s see what we can find.
Okay, perfect. Are you counting?
Oh, no. Up here at Utah State, I’m on the rodeo team
and right now I’m sitting in 5th in our region. They take the top 3 to the Finals so I have
to do really well from here to make the finals but it’s in Casper, Wyoming and that’s where
I got my back surgery. They told me I’d never ride again.
She still out rides most people and she used to use all legs, that’s how she queued her
animals, now she’s having to do it different. She still out rides them.
Every Wednesday, I do a wheel chair Wednesday, where I show the inside of my life being in
a wheel chair. So it’s Wednesday, which means nothing but
it is wheelchair Wednesday, Amberley what do you have in store for us this week? I’m Amberley, this is Cord McCoy, he’s here with me here today. I’m just going to show you how I put a halter on my horse, Power. He’s pretty tall as you can see, so if he
put his head straight in the air which sometimes he does, I would not be able to reach it.
This is how I get a halter on him. I put my lead rope around his neck, pull his head down
to my height, put my halter up over the top of him and there we go. See, he stays at my
height and it makes it a lot easier for me to be able to reach him to put a halter on.
So, there you go. It’s wheel chair Wednesday today. Thanks for having me. That’s the only thing you need assistance
with is getting lifted up? I actually have an engineering group at Utah
State is building me a lift. You’ve got to be kidding me.
So I’m so excited. Yep! You know how everyone has that happy place, this is it for me. When I get on my horse, it becomes my legs. It makes it so that I go out and do everything that everyone else
is doing. I get to leave my wheel chair in the trailer, that whole part of my life gets
to go on hold for a minute and I’m able to just live in the moment on my horse’s back. Amberley, you’re a heck of an inspiration, you know that?
Thank you. It’s about time we called it a day, isn’t it? Let’s go.
Let’s roll out. My first motivational speaking was actually
right after my accident. I was serving as State FFA President here in Utah and a part
of that is that at the end of the year you give a retiring address. I had written it
in December of 2009 and you can write it on anything that you want. So I decided I wanted
to write it on overcoming obstacles. Not realizing that less than a month later, I was actually going actually to be living that speech. Three months after my accident was when I gave it on stage
at State Convention and it hit me so hard when I gave that speech that I now have this
ability to inspire other people. I just fell in love with it. I fell in love with speaking,
I fell in love with getting up on stage and talking to people and helping them through
what they’re going through. In life in general, there are going to be
obstacles. But don’t let those keep you down. Don’t let those things stop you from accomplishing
what you want to accomplish. You all have the potential to be great. You have the potential
to be amazing. And you have the potential to not only change your life but other people’s
lives. Standing in front of over 1,000 kids and saying “guys, I’m facing this obstacle.
I’ve living this and no matter what you guys are living through, you can do it too.” Somebody messaged her, I don’t know if it was on Facebook, I think it was on Facebook, and a kid messaged her and said that he had planned on killing himself after the FFA convention
until he heard Amberley’s speech. Her first speech saved the first life. It really wasn’t until I got my Facebook page that it hit me really what I can do on a daily basis. You read what people write and I mean they’ll
tell her you’ve changed my life or saved my life or whatever. That really was the big
turnover point for her when she saw the impact she had on other people. We have the producers Josh Mills and David Pappen and they are in full production for a movie that we’re making. Desert Winds Fim Productions, so we’re just getting started through that
process and I’m super excited to see how that turns out. I’m grateful. I’m very grateful that she’s still here and able to have the impact on
people that she does. I was at an assembly one day, elementary kids,
they’re all very innocent, and I get done and I always let people ask questions. He
raised his hand and he said “If you could go back to January 10th, would you change
it?” I sat there on that stage and I thought “that’s a tough question.” There are so many
good things that have come out of it that it’s hard for me to say okay if that had changed,
you wouldn’t have any of those good things. Even just my family, we are so close now.
I wouldn’t change that for anything. She an inspiration to me every day because
most people don’t realize how hard life is in a wheel chair. I know the daily things
that Amberley goes though. Every little tiny obstacle Amberley’s overcoming that most people
don’t even think about. I’m her mom so I know. I drove a truck and I wrecked and they said
sorry you’re just not going to… You’re a girl, you’re not going to have the muscle
to get into a truck. I have the muscles. I can do it. They told me that I couldn’t do
so I decided alright, I’ll prove you wrong. Amberley Snyder in the future is still going
to be competing, still going to be wanting to win, still being competitive, but definitely
coaching. My little sister when she does well, it means the world to me. Before the accident, it was Amberley and her horses, that was all that mattered, period. And that’s a huge change I’ve seen in Amberley. I was Amberley Snyder, what can I achieve.
It was very important what I could hand you what I’ve accomplished. I look at myself now
and I think of okay when all of that had to go away after my accident, I had to become
me. I had to become Amberley Synder without those awards. Without those titles. I had
to become who I was as a person and really it’s made me think that you know that I can
be those achievements but I need to be a good person without that. I want other people to
realize that too that even if you aren’t bringing home those title and those awards, you can
still be a great person. And you can still change lives of everyone you come into contact
with but you can’t do that if you give up. You can’t accomplish those things and you
can’t touch people’s lives if you give up.