How It’s Done: Horseback Riding with a Spinal Cord Injury

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Riding a horse when you can’t walk can feel almost like the real thing. The canter of the horse; you may not be the one actually walking, but it sure feels like it. It’s no wonder so many people with spinal cord injuries get into horse riding post-injury, or decide to return to it like Amberley Snyder, a barrel racer before her injury.

But horses can be rather scary. They’re size, their scared-easily mindset, it takes some gumption to not let a horse scare you away, especially when you’re sitting down in front of one. A good kind horse however is more than possible to find; one that will swiftly carry you’re paralyzed butt wherever you want to go, as our very fun horse-riding videos below prove. Check ’em out!

Our first video comes from paralyzed barrel racer Amberley Snyder. A T11-12 paraplegic injured in 2010, Amberley comes from a very physically active family. Her dad is ex-LA Dodgers baseball player Corey Snyder, who brought the family to Utah after retirement, and this is how the energetic Amberley fell in love with horses.

After her car accident in ’10, Amberley got back in riding as soon as she could, and she’s even competing again and breaking all kinds of barriers for disabled riders. In this video she made on Horse Care 101, Amberley shows how she can saddle a horse on her own. She is one tough, agile cookie, especially considering she does not have a powerchair with an elevator seat to reach the horse easily. Watch Amberley saddles her horse Wrangler

In our second video, you get to watch a real paraplegic equestrian get on her horse in her training center using a mechanical lift. It’s like a giant, horse-riding Hoyer lift and it makes getting on a horse *so* much easier when you’re paralyzed. Watch her get lifted up onto her horse

And if you’re a quad and think you can’t get in on the fun, you’re wrong. Many quads are still able to ride horses using modified saddles with a reinforced back to help with balance. As Nick Smith, a C6-7 quad injured in 2004 proves, it’s not only possible, but you can make it look easy.

In his how-to video, Nick shows his saddle and how he still can pull on the reigns to ride. A former trainer, he admits there are a lot of moves he can’t do now, but he doesn’t let that stop him. Plus, he says riding has improved his balance. Watch Nick ride his horse on the family farm

Our last video shows Curtis, a paraplegic horse trainer, training horses by having his  horse balance himself on a block, and holy cow is it impressive (and does not look easy lol). It takes a certain amount of courage to sit in front of a balancing horse. Curtis definitely has no fear. Check out a training session

Remember, adapted horse riding can be enjoyed by all levels of mobility, and the best part – it’s a great way to get outside and get your body moving again. It may take a bit of extra work, but as these videos prove, the effort is 100% worth it. To find adapted riding opportunities near you, check out Disabled Sports USA

Have you ridden a horse post-injury?

Watch the videos!

– Amberley Snyder showing how she saddles a horse

– “Para-equestrian” showing how she gets on her horse

– C6-7 quadriplegic rides a horse

– Paraplegic training a horse


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