When the production company first asked me if they could make my story into a movie, I said no. I thought the experience was hard enough for my family the first time around. My parents talked me into agreeing to the idea. They felt sharing my story would have a positive impact and would be worth the anguish.
[WATCH: WALK. RIDE. RODEO. TRAILER]
We wanted the movie to stay as accurate as possible to my story. For full transparency: There are scenes and details that were made a little more dramatic for film. The timeline had to be shifted to fit everything into a 90-minute movie. I wish there could’ve been time to highlight my family’s personalities, too. We’re not the average “everyone rides horses and it has been passed down for generations” family. We have a gymnast, baseball players, and a dancer included in our family.
Hiring the Cast
Spencer Locke plays me in the majority of the movie. But when we were working out the logistics for the film, I requested that I’d ride for my post-accident self to maintain authenticity.
Spencer didn’t have experience with horses or wheelchairs, so she flew to my house to get accustomed to being around both. It was difficult to shove my experiences of 24 years of riding and eight years of being in a wheelchair into two days, but by the time Spencer left, she could trot comfortably and even lope a little without squealing. Her wheelchair skills improved a little faster, including being able to pop a wheelie.
The producers did a good job finding someone who could resemble me. Spencer is blonde and has grown her hair out, so that helped for starters. She’s thin, so her legs looked similar to mine without any special effects. She did have to get blue contacts to imitate my blue eyes, but overall, I thought she made a good actor Amberley.
Spencer was amazing on set. She constantly checked in with me to ensure that her emotions were accurate and wanted to know how I felt in each scene during the remake of my life.
Missi Pyle played my mom, and Bailey Chase played my dad. As far as movie parents go, I thought they were a great fit. Missi accurately portrayed the strength and kindness of my mom. I was amazed how Bailey was able to fill my dad’s shoes. My dad is our family’s anchor. It was important to me that Bailey accurately represent my dad’s ability to take care of everyone.
Alyvia Allyn Lind plays my youngest sister, Autumn. My little sister has my heart, and Alyvia made me so proud of her! Autumn found herself in front of the camera, too, serving as stunt double for my pre-accident self. It was truly one of the most rewarding experiences to have her involved.
All my movie siblings were fun to get to know—on set, at lunches, and even still now. My family is so important to me. I wouldn’t be where I am without them. I wanted their characters to reflect that.
My horse Power had four doubles of his own, each dyed black to match the original. I rode the real Power for my scenes. Autumn rode Spanky and Power for her shots when she portrayed pre-accident Amberley. Spencer switched between Spanky and another horse named Seeker.
The producers chose Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to film during a four-week period. I flew back and forth from Utah during the week to be part of the filming, but I still rodeoed on the weekends. It was such a process! It’s incredible to see how much goes into one scene of a movie. You wouldn’t believe the time, effort, manpower, and work it takes to build something we just watch on a screen.
Preproduction for “Walk. Ride. Rodeo.” took two years. Filming required four weeks. Editing happened over the course of six months. I’ve been told this was an extremely fast process compared to other movies.
But truly, this story has been in the making for 28 years. My background, family, obstacles, failures, and victories have all created a story. I just got lucky it turned out to be a story Netflix felt was worth telling.
I’m a true believer that everything happens for a reason. My life hasn’t played out the way I imagined, but I do know God prepared me to handle what I’ve been given. This opportunity is another part of the life I was destined to experience. I hope to continue on a path of fulfilling my purpose, whether it’s on the back of a horse, in a wheelchair, or on a movie screen.
[READ: INSPIRED RIDER WITH AMBERLEY]