LOGAN, Utah (AP) — Not everyone can say they’ve been a stunt double in a feature film.
But that’s exactly what Utah State University alumna Amberley Snyder, partially paralyzed professional barrel racer, is able to say now that she has finished filming "Walk Ride Rodeo," slated to debut on Netflix in 2019. The film will be a dramatic portrayal of Snyder’s life with a full cast of actors and actresses.
In an interview, the Utah County native talked about what she hopes viewers take away from the movie.
"We are capable of what happens after a traumatic event," she said. "We don’t always get to choose what happens to us, but we do get to choose how to handle it."
Snyder has been paralyzed below the waist since 2010, when she crashed her truck while driving to a riding competition.
As the story goes, Snyder, who was not wearing a seatbelt, looked down at a map while driving. When she looked up, she realized she was veering out of her lane and overcorrected her vehicle. Her truck went off the road and Snyder was ejected, hitting a fence post that broke her back.
Doctors told Snyder had she been wearing a seatbelt, she would still be able to use her legs.
Nevertheless, after months of surgeries and staying in the hospital, Snyder was back on a horse and finished her education.
She received a bachelor’s degree from USU in 2015 and her master’s degree earlier this year, both of which were obtained at the Logan campus.
She continues to compete and was one of the barrel racers in this month’s Cache County Fair Rodeo. In addition to barrel racing, Snyder is a motivational speaker. Snyder lives outside of Tremonton.
Several years ago, a production company called Poke Prod approached Snyder to make a movie about her life — something she was uncomfortable with at first.
"I felt like it would be traumatic for my family to go through again," she said.
But it turns out her parents "thought it would be an awesome idea," according to Snyder.
"They told me it was about the people we could touch and the lives we could change by making a story," Snyder said. "They convinced me that was more important."
Tina Snyder, Amberley’s mother, said her daughter’s story is one that is worth telling.
"I believe that it will inspire and influence a lot of people," she said. "Amberley has worked very, very hard to triumph over her tragedy and I think that will help a lot of people who are struggling with things in their lives."
Sean Dwyer, president of Poke Prod, the company Netflix hired to make the film, said he learned about Snyder through one of his producers, whose niece is a barrel racer.
"We thought it was an amazingly compelling story," Dwyer said. "It blows your mind when you hear about it."
"Many moving parts"
Dwyer said Snyder requested to play the horse riding scenes in the movie.
"There was just one thing, one thing she needed to do, and that was, ‘I need to be the stunt person for the post-accident riding,’" he said. "We made sure, through the stunt union, that this could happen — and it happened."
For Snyder, the request was "non-negotiable" for her.
"I’m the only paralyzed barrel racer in the entire United States, so you can’t find someone to be that," Snyder said.
Not only was Snyder cast, but so was her younger sister, Autumn. While Snyder was a stunt double for the post-accident scenes, Autumn was stunt double in the pre-accident riding scenes.
"Amberley taught Autumn how to ride," Tina said. "Autumn rides very similar to Amberley and so that was just awesome to both girls in it."
Tina drove her daughters’ horses down to New Mexico, where the movie was filmed, and was on set for much of the filming.
Watching production, however, proved to be a challenge for her
"Was it easy to watch the whole story being recreated? No," Tina said. "I had to leave the set — or not even go to the set — on several occasions."
Parts of the month-long filming were stressful for Snyder as well.
"There are so many moving parts," she said. "But I felt like it was an exciting thing to be a part of."
Riding on a horse as a stunt double for her own biopic proved satisfying for the USU alumna.
"I’m really just truly doing what I’m doing every day," Snyder said.
Tina is grateful to Poke Prod for taking care in making the movie about Snyder.
"I felt they really, really took an extra special interest and care in how they brought about her story," she said.