When Amberley Snyder, a wheelchair-using rodeo rider, was approached about having a movie made about her, she didn’t immediately say yes. “I originally didn’t want to do it,” she shared. “My family had been through enough.” But with her parent’s encouragement, Walk. Ride. Rodeo. began filming in New Mexico last July and is now available to stream on Netflix.
Snyder, who was injured in 2010 when her truck rolled on the way to a rodeo show, consulted on the film that dramatizes her journey to get back to riding rodeo post SCI. “Once you sign away your life rights, you have an opinion, but in the end, they will decide what they want to do,” she shared. “They Hollywooded up a couple things and shifted around the timeline, made the lows a little lower. They had to shove five to six years of my life into an hour and a half, so it was interesting to see what they picked and how they thought the timeline should go.”
What was most important to Snyder is that the film got its message right. “I think it did,” she shared. “Even though it’s not easy and there are hard days and there are hard moments, the strength comes through and wins in the end.”
Spencer Locke, who looks strikingly like Snyder, plays her in the movie. Snyder, who had no input on casting, and I discussed the controversy of nondisabled actors, like Locke, playing disabled characters. It’s complicated. Walk. Ride. Rodeo. goes back and forth between pre-accident and post-accident, so hiring an actor with a disability wasn’t an option, especially without an Avatar budget to allow for CGI.
Snyder does play her own stunt double in the film though. “It was part of our agreement,” she shared. “I didn’t want them to get somebody whose legs worked and told them to get on the horse and pretend like they didn’t. That was why I rode for myself and why I even recruited my little sister to ride as my pre-accident self because I wanted it to be authentic.”
Locke also wanted her portrayal to be as authentic as possible and visited Snyder at her home in Utah to prepare. “I let her jump in my extra wheelchair and we worked on the basics of that,” shared Snyder. “I also had her ride. And then we worked on transfers so she could practice without using her legs. We also went over the emotions of each scene. She did an amazing job.”
Snyder’s favorite part of the movie is when her character drives for the first time post-accident. “Honestly, I knew how freeing it was when I did that, but we never really discussed it and I wasn’t even there when they filmed that scene,” she shared. “But when it came across on camera, it just really captured a very strong, free moment for me.”
In watching Walk. Ride. Rodeo. Snyder hopes people will recognize how important family and support systems are. “We can’t climb a mountain by our self,” she shared. “I also hope people recognize that it’s okay to have hard moments. I feel like I’m opening up every hard moment I ever had.”
Image credit: Photo by Author