In­spired Rider

Horse & Rider - - Contents - By Am­ber­ley Sny­der

OUR LIVES are full of lit­tle mo­ments. All the pieces come to­gether to make our life story. Some­times it’s easy to get tied up with look­ing at the at the big pic­ture, the long-term goal, the end re­sult, and we for­get to en­joy the road get­ting there.

Here are some of my “lit­tle mo­ments” that led me to where I am to­day.


It was a mem­o­rable year for me. I’d grad­u­ated high school at the top of my class. I was elected Utah FFA state pres­i­dent. I fin­ished my high school rodeo ca­reer by mak­ing the Na­tional High School Fi­nals in pole bend­ing. I earned the Na­tional Lit­tle Britches Rodeo As­so­ci­a­tion World All-Around Cham­pion ti­tle. My world was perfect.

My dad was coach­ing a base­ball team in Hawaii, and in De­cem­ber he asked if I’d like to spend some time there be­fore he came home for Christ­mas. I flew out the week be­fore Christ­mas to the beau­ti­ful is­land of Maui.

We walked along the beach ev­ery morn­ing. We talked about my ac­com­plish­ments, my up­com­ing plans, and where I saw my­self in the fu­ture. I’ve al­ways been the plan­ning type, know­ing where I'll be in one year, five years, 10 years. I felt the world was my stage and I could be whomever I wanted.

One morn­ing, I no­ticed our foot­prints in the sand. I looked be­hind me, saw where we’d been; I looked in front to see the blank path ahead of us. I was so fas­ci­nated by this that I took a pic­ture of the prints my feet had left. A few days later, we re­turned home.

Lit­tle Mo­ments; Big Changes

Fast-for­ward two weeks to Lo­gan, Utah. The FFA of­fi­cer team met to dis­cuss plans for our state con­ven­tion. I wrote my farewell speech on over­com­ing ob­sta­cles. I wanted to share with FFA mem­bers that they could over­come any ob­sta­cle.

I soon learned that to be true.

On Jan­uary 10, 2010, I left Lo­gan at 4:30 in the morn­ing to drive to Den­ver, Colorado. I’d scored a job work­ing at the Na­tional West­ern Stock Show. I was ex­cited to take in two weeks of work, play, and ad­ven­ture.

Rawl­ins, Wy­oming, was to be my last stop be­fore Den­ver. I jumped in my truck to drive the fi­nal leg with my stom­ach hurt­ing; I left my seat belt off for a minute. I checked my map, over­cor­rected, rolled my truck, was ejected, and broke my back. In an in­stant my planned life changed. But the lit­tle mo­ments lead­ing up to it re­mained.

Ten days later, I be­gan my long road

to heal­ing. Spinal-cord in­juries take time to heal. You can’t will your nerves to con­nect and fire. You can’t try harder to move your legs. You have to do the best you can with what you have.

In the hospi­tal, I scrolled through photos on my phone. I came across my foot­print in the sand. That small mo­ment, in­signif­i­cant at the time, was now a mo­ment that’s shaped my life.

New Mo­ments

March 12, 2010, two months af­ter my ac­ci­dent, I gave my re­tir­ing ad­dress at the State FFA Con­ven­tion. My speech on over­com­ing ob­sta­cles had be­come my daily life. I not only could tell those mem­bers you are tougher than you think, but I could also show them. I told them life will throw chal­lenges you don’t ex­pect, and you’re the only one to de­cide what you’re ca­pa­ble of. It was now the story of my life.

Think about my foot­prints in the sand. You can see the past—where you’ve been, what’s hap­pened. But you also must look at the blank sand ahead of you, ready for you to write the next page of your story. You can’t change the past, but you can de­cide what lit­tle mo­ment comes next.

In my case, I’ve looked back at lit­tle mo­ments dur­ing my life on legs and have been sad. But I’m also grate­ful for the ex­pe­ri­ences I was given be­fore and af­ter Jan­uary 10. They all led me to where I am to­day.

I choose to look ahead while also trea­sur­ing the jour­ney, re­mem­ber­ing the mo­ments that shaped me into who I am, and I en­cour­age you to, also. Rec­og­nize that to­day can be that beach, just wait­ing for your next move. It might be on your feet, it might be on wheels, or it might even be on a horse. 

Am­ber­ley Sny­der, Elkridge, Utah, is a bar­rel racer and in­spi­ra­tional speaker who’s fought her way back from tragedy. She in­spires rid­ers across the coun­try by telling her tri­umphant story of re­turn­ing to the sad­dle af­ter a tragic truck ac­ci­dent that left her with no feel­ing be­low her waist. Just 18 months af­ter her wreck, she was back in the sad­dle. She’s made the ul­ti­mate come­back to com­pete in rodeos across the west­ern United States and shares her jour­ney and horse life on so­cial me­dia and at am­ber­leysny­

Lit­tle mo­ments in Am­ber­ley’s life led her to opportunities, such as coach­ing rid­ers.

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