From Ropin’ to Lopin’

Amateur returns to showing horsemanship with her husband’s roping horse.

I ran into Melinda Mays and her husband, Robbie Kelly, at the 2009 Texas Classic.

Melinda Mays and Almosta Boom compete in the TQHA Champion of Champions novice amateur horsemanship class. (Journal photo)

Last year at the AQHA World Championship Show, we wrote a story about how Melinda was taking Robbie’s roping horse, Almosta Boom, and competing in horsemanship on him.

“Little Al” was trained by AQHA Pro Horseman Al Dunning in reining and reined cow horse, but Robbie purchased the Boomernic son as a 6-year-old for roping. Melinda decided to try out reining and also started using Little Al. Things were going well until the gelding suffered an injury that confined him to a stall for a few months.

When Melinda was given the OK to start riding Little Al again, she noticed that he seemed to enjoy jogging slow and loping slow.

“Well, I showed all-around as a kid and always enjoyed the horsemanship,” she told us at the 2008 World Show. “I started kicking around the idea that maybe Little Al could do horsemanship, too. We started working on the transitions and slowing everything down, including the spins.”

It wasn’t easy for Melinda. She hadn’t ridden in horsemanship for more than 15 years and was a little out of shape for that style of riding. Also, her tack and clothing were out of date as well. But within a couple of months, the two were competing in the horsemanship and doing just fine.

But Melinda wanted to get serious and take Little Al to the 2009 World Show. She asked her trainer, Brenda Jeter, what she needed to do.

“She said everything looked pretty good, but we had to get Al’s head down,” Melinda said. “So, I started playing with different bridles and draw reins and martingales to see if he could keep his head down while doing maneuvers on light contact and stay slow. It took a good year of ups and downs, but last fall, he really came around.”

However, at the same time Robbie had qualified Little Al for the amateur heeling at the 2008 World Show. Melinda asked if she could have the horse to herself for 2009 to see if she get Little Al qualified in horsemanship. There was also another reason for the urgency – Melinda and Robbie plan on starting a family at the end of 2009.

Robbie agreed to let Melinda take Little Al, and the two started showing at the beginning of the year. By the time they made it to the 2009 Texas Classic, she was only seven points away from being qualified.

But he had one stipulation — she couldn’t cut his mane. Robbie will be getting Little Al back at the end of the year for roping again and didn’t want the horse’s mane shortened. So Melinda shows the gelding in the horsemanship class with a flowing long mane while the other horses in the classes have short, banded manes.

“He does stand out especially since I’m 6 feet and he’s only 15 hands,” Melinda said.

At the Texas Classic, Melinda was hoping to get the last seven points she needed to qualify to the World Show. It didn’t happen but something else did. Melinda and Little Al won the Texas Quarter Horse Association’s Champion of Champions novice amateur award in horsemanship on May 30.

“I was very happy to win that award,” Melinda said. “I worked really hard at being good at that class, but I was very pleased. It was the culmination of a lot of hard work. And I have to give a lot of credit to Little Al too. He probably works harder than I do.”

Next up is Redbud for Melinda and Little Al as they chase those last points for qualification. If they don’t get them in Oklahoma City, then Melinda has a plan to hit three AQHA shows in Texas before the July 31 deadline.

“That’s why I’m hauling a little more than I normally would,” she said. “I’m very careful about not burning a horse up for something that I want. I don’t think that’s fair. But I am showing harder than I normally would because if I don’t do it this year, I’ll be two years out.

“And I’m really hoping to take Little Al to the World Show. He’s been there in the tie-down, the breakaway and the heeling, and I think it would be neat for him to go there into something else like the horsemanship.”

Tonya Ratliff-Garrison
Field Editor
American Quarter Horse Journal

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