Roping Horsemanship?

Who says you can’t teach a rope horse new tricks?

From The American Quarter Horse Journal

Editor’s note: Melinda Mays of Weatherford, Texas, wrote to tell us about turning her husband, Robbie’s, rope horse into her horsemanship mount.

My husband, Robbie Kelly, has a rope horse named Almosta Boom, who was trained in reining and cow horse as a young horse by Al Dunning. Al bred, raised and trained “Little Al.”Little Al has multiple Superiors, 50 points or more in a specific event, and almost $3,500 in National Reined Cow Horse Association earnings.

We bought him as a 6-year-old, and my husband has always just roped on him, but I enjoyed riding him for fun. In 2007, I decided to try my hand at reining. We were progressing quite well, when on a muddy day in April, Little Al suffered an injury. Luckily, it was not career-ending, but he had to be confined to a stall for three months. We were given the OK to start riding him at the end of July of that year. We were told to leg him up slowly and let him go as fast or as slow as he was comfortable.

In late August, Little Al was coming along great, and I started to notice that he seemed to enjoy jogging slow and loping slow. Well, I showed all-around as a kid and always enjoyed the horsemanship. 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. I had to wake up my horsemanship muscles that I had not used in 15 years and update my tack and wardrobe – wow! But by the end of September, we were in the horsemanship and hanging in there just fine.

I talked to my trainer, Brenda Jeter, about getting serious about this and whether we could be competitive. She said everything looked pretty good, but we had to get Al’s head down. 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. (Everybody makes fun of my bit collection now, but Al wakes up a little different every day.) It took a good year of ups and downs – of his head mostly – but in the fall, he really came around.

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Now, mind you, in the meantime, my husband qualified Al for amateur heeling at the (AQHA World Championship Show) and we both showed him at several long circuits. By the last day of the Texas Classic and RedBud show circuits, he was exhausted. He was such a trooper and always gave us his all.

After a good start in 2008, including a Regional Experience championship in novice amateur horsemanship and a reserve championship in amateur horsemanship, I decided to work toward the All American Quarter Horse Congress. At the end of July, Al took a hiatus from roping, and we brought him home to concentrate on just horsemanship. The fall went great, and he was a champ at the Congress. We had one bobble in the novice horsemanship but still made the finals. Then, as an extra class, we entered the amateur horsemanship, too.

We were very clean and made the finals in very deep company. We even placed eighth under one judge out of 74 entries. It was so thrilling. He kept his head so good and stayed so nice and soft. I didn’t know how he would do on the rail with such deep company, but we hung in there really well.

I just think it is so neat that a horse can be so good-minded and so versatile for his owners. He did reining and cow horse as a 3- and 4-year-old, then learned the roping as a late 4-year-old, qualifying for the World Show in junior tie-down and heeling. Then my husband bought him as a 6-year-old after Michael McCool had showed him at the (Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show).

Robbie has shown him in tie-down, breakaway, heading and heeling with much success. At 9 years old, in 2008, Al was a two-time finalist at the Congress in novice and amateur horsemanship. Just two weeks later, we headed to the World Show in amateur heeling. Robbie missed his dally in the heeling prelims, so they missed the finals. In 2009, I qualified him for the World Show in amateur horsemanship.

I’m very proud of Almosta Boom. He will be in our family forever. He has a great job, and we plan for him to be our walk-trot horse someday for our child. I am so grateful for his soundness, his heart and his second show career. You know, God works in mysterious ways, because without that injury, I would have never thought to try the horsemanship.

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