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LOGAN — 22-year-old Amberley Snyder's story is one of triumph over tragedy, and it all boils down to the fact that success comes once you determine that you'll never give up.
Snyder says she loved horses since she was little.
"When I'm on the back of a horse… it is the happiest place on earth for me," Snyder said.
By the time Snyder was in high school, she was competing in barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying and breakaway roping. And not only was she passionate about riding horses, she was also talented, winning national titles.
"I was seriously probably the happiest girl in the entire world, hands down. I had just won that national title that I'd been dreaming of doing from the time that I started at 7 years old," she said.
By her senior year, she was Utah's FFA president and sat at 10th in the world in the all-around.
"For me, rodeo was the first thing I thought of when I woke up in the morning and the last thing I thought of when I went to bed," Snyder said. "So I never imagined life without that, nor did I think I was gonna have to."
I wear my seat belt all the time... and my one mistake has cost me my life. It's cost me everything. I mean, I sat and watched my life in pieces around me as I'm sitting in this snow bank.
But one winter day, on her way to compete in a rodeo in Denver, Snyder was driving down the highway and looked down to check her map.
"And when I looked up, I faded over a lane, and I grabbed my wheel and over-corrected my truck," she said.
Her truck hit a fence post on the side of the road and Snyder broke her back on impact. She wasn't wearing a seat belt at the time.
"I wear my seat belt all the time...and my one mistake has cost me my life. It's cost me everything," Snyder said. "I mean, I sat and watched my life in pieces around me as I'm sitting in this snow bank."
She says she started pinching and rubbing her legs to feel something, but she couldn't feel anything at all. The accident left her paralyzed from the waist down and as soon as she could, Snyder asked her doctor if she would ever be able to walk again.
"What are the chances of walking or feeling my legs again? And he said, ‘Slim to none— but more to the none,'" Snyder said.
She was also told she wouldn't ride or rodeo again.
"That was devastating," she said. "That was more devastating for me than learning I wasn't going to be able to walk."
Snyder was determined to ride again. She made her mom to promise that she would be able to rodeo again and together they came up with a plan.
"I have a sea tbelt that hooks behind my seat on my saddle, and it just comes up and holds me in place," Snyder said. She says she's learned a lot from her ordeal.
"I know who I am and I know what I stand for, but to have my entire life, I guess, turned upside down... I had to realize who I really was," Snyder said.
You feel really free when you're on a horse. I feel very content, and I feel very at peace when I'm on my horses. And, especially now, that is the place where I feel the most free, because my horse is my legs.
Before the accident, Snyder says her source of self-worth came from her awards and titles. She realized that her life couldn't be about that anymore.
"I had to show people that I'm Amberley Snyder without those things," she said. "And I can be a good person without those things."
Snyder says she is happy she never gave up on her dream of riding horses again.
"I think when the times are the hardest is when you are the closest to what you want to accomplish," she said. "That feeling is beyond describable for me, because it is the freedom that I can't have now with my legs… but I do with my horse."
And she's coming back as a competitor, even faster than before.
"You feel really free when you're on a horse," Snyder said. "I feel very content, and I feel very at peace when I'm on my horses. And, especially now, that is the place where I feel the most free, because my horse is my legs."
Snyder was recently chosen as the runner-up for Wrangler's "Ultimate Cowgirl." She also says that because she has a unique situation and experience, she wants to help teenagers by being a high school counselor when she graduates from Utah State.