Jesuit Grad Finds Inspiration in Directing Rodeo Biopic

The latest project for Dallas filmmaker Conor Allyn, left, chronicles the recovery of Utah equestrian Amberley Snyder following a horrific 2010 truck accident. (Photo: Netflix)

Less than five years after nearly losing her life in a car accident, Amberley Snyder received a standing ovation from more than 40,000 rodeo fans at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

As part of Snyder’s amazing journey from tragedy to triumph, in 2015 the barrel racer from Utah became the first paralyzed rider ever to compete in The American — the richest one-day rodeo in the world — and earned her legions of fans along the way.

“I didn’t know how much that run was going to change my life,” Snyder said. “It opened up so many new doors for me. It allowed me to share my story on a bigger platform. It was a time that I felt like I was able to show people what I was capable of. But I didn’t want it to end there.”

Snyder’s true-life story is dramatized in the Netflix biopic Walk, Ride, Rodeo, which marks the latest project for Preston Hollow native and 2004 Jesuit graduate Conor Allyn (Java Heat).

Snyder, a daughter of former Major League Baseball slugger Cory Snyder, was a standout on the youth rodeo circuit who was traveling to a competition in January 2010 when her truck slid off a Wyoming freeway and rolled over seven times. Snyder, who wasn’t wearing a seat belt, was ejected. The teenager suffered a spinal cord injury that paralyzed her from the waist down.

The film chronicles her recovery and determination to return to barrel racing, despite not having use of her legs. With the help of a customized saddle and the support of her mother (Missi Pyle), Snyder (Spencer Locke) manages to ride again only months later. But competing, and winning, is another matter.

Allyn, a son of former Dallas political consultant and screenwriter Rob Allyn, became involved on the recommendation of producers Elizabeth Cullen and Sean Dwyer, who worked with the filmmaker on the cable television movie Zoe Gone in 2014.

“We were all instantly attracted to the story,” said Allyn, who now lives in Los Angeles. “It’s a little closer to home for me. Texans love our culture and we go out of our way to embrace it.”

Snyder, 28, took an active role during production, even performing stunts for Locke during the riding sequences aboard her own horse, Power. Her younger sister, Autumn, was the stunt rider for the pre-accident scenes.

Prior to filming, Snyder also worked extensively with Locke (Insidious: The Last Key), who didn’t have much experience with horses.

“I put her through a boot camp, honestly,” Snyder said. “I wanted to let her experience a little piece of my life. I’m so grateful how much she wanted to put into it.”

Although Snyder was on set for most of the production — the film was shot primarily in New Mexico last summer — she stayed away for some of the more emotional sequences concerning her accident and recovery. Watching the finished film also was difficult at first.

“It’s crazy to relive parts of your life, but it’s good now,” she said. “I’m hoping people feel like they got a chance to go on a journey with me. I hope people find strength in it.”

Snyder still competes regularly in rodeos, including a return visit to Arlington last month for The American, where she reached the barrel racing semifinals. She’s also a motivational speaker and recently finished a children’s book, also called Walk, Ride, Rodeo. The film begins streaming online this week.

“I really never thought, when I was sitting on the side of that road, that nine years later a movie would be getting made,” Snyder said. “Not everybody that is in a situation like mine gets an opportunity to share their story and inspire other people. But I’ve been lucky enough to do that.”

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