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SPOKANE — In January 2010, Amberley Snyder made a decision that would change her life forever.
A rodeo champion, the then-18-year-old was on her way from Utah to the Denver Stock Show and Rodeo, and decided not to wear her seatbelt after a stop at a gas station in Wyoming.
“I wear my seltbelt all the time, my truck will ding at me if I don’t have it on,” she said during her presentation at the Spokane Ag Expo and Pacific Northwest Farm Forum. “But this morning I had a stomachache all morning. I thought, ‘I’m going to take it off just for a minute.’”
Less than 10 miles down the road, Snyder looked down to check her map. She looked up and realized she had gone into the other lane. She overcorrected and her truck slid off the road and rolled. She was thrown from it and slammed into a fence post.
She later phoned her father.
“This is how this phone call goes to my dad,” she recalled. “‘Hey, Dad?’ He says, ‘Hey.’ I said, ‘So I got into a car accident.’ He said, ‘OK, how bad?’ I said, ‘Pretty bad. I rolled my truck.’ He said, ‘Are you OK?’ I said, ‘I can’t feel my legs.’ He said, ‘Amberley, are you paralyzed?’ I said, ‘Dad, I don’t know, I’m just telling you I can’t feel my legs.’”
Today, Snyder competes in rodeo professionally. She’s even beaten her barrel racing times from before the accident, she said.
During her Feb. 8 presentation to 487 FFA members and guests, Snyder wore the first buckle she won while riding the first horse she trained after her accident.
“Now keep in mind, I won 70-something buckles before my accident,” she said. “It wasn’t if I was going to win one in the year, it was how many I was going to win. And I don’t say that in a boasting way, I’m just telling you that’s how it was. This buckle took me six years to win. ... Even though I may not be like I was before, I can still compete and win with the best out there. Maybe not the way I planned, but definitely still possible.”
She described revisiting the locations she was at before her accident with her mother several years later.
“So I was telling her, ‘Mom, this is the last place I ate, this is the last place I filled my truck up at. Mom, this is the last place I was walking. And this span of fence, well Mom, that’s where my life completely changed,’” she said. “Of course, this was pretty rough on both of us.”
About 20 minutes later, she stopped at a gas station and noticed a sign hanging on the wall: ‘Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
“With the right attitude, we can move forward and make our firsts better than those lasts ever were,” she said. “Our attitude makes a big difference.”