Ranch Horses

NRSHA Crowns Champions: Meet Melinda Mayes-Kelly

Planning and preparation finally brought this limited non-pro her championship.

College professor and mom Melinda Mayes-Kelly set her sights on a championship in Guthrie, Oklahoma, at the National Ranch and Stock Horse Alliance National Championship Show, and she made it happen. A teacher at Weatherford College in Texas, Mayes-Kelly rides a horse owned by her husband, Robby, but it’s clear that Look Whos Primo is very much Mayes-Kelly’s partner in the show pen.

Melinda Mayes-Kelly in win picture at NRSHA and AQHA show
While Look Whos Primo is owned and used as a rope horse by Robbie Kelly, at right, Melinda Mayes-Kelly partners with him in the versatility arena. The duo were the NRSHA limited non-pro all-around national champions and the AQHA reserve world champions.

 The duo stayed focused throughout the week and left Oklahoma with the NRSHA limited amateur ranch all around and the American Quarter Horse Association versatility ranch horse limited amateur reserve world champion titles. In 2018, she was fourth in the AQHA limited non-pro all-around standings. While the golden globe may elude her, Mayes-Kelly is thrilled to claim the NRSHA title for 2019. 

Ranch Horse News caught up with Mayes-Kelly to visit about her win and her horse 

RHN: First, tell me about your horse. 
Melinda Mayes-Kelly: Look Whos Primo, or “Roper,” is 18 years old, and we have owned him since he was 5. He is truly a part of our family. He has been showing at the world and national level since he was 4 years old. I am proud of his longevity and soundness. I started riding him in 2015 at versatility and stock horse shows, and he hadn’t competed in reining or cow horse since 2006. He had never done trail or cutting. I’m really proud of what he’s learned late in life. 

RHN:Does your horse have a “day job” during the week?
MMK:Roper’s main job is to be my husband’s team roping horse, but we are also “weekend cowboys.” That is what is so great about VRH and NRSHA— there is a place for everyone! I teach at Weatherford College and my husband manages our ranch, breeds team roping cattle and bales hay. Roper is broke to death and will do anything you ask of him in or out of the arena. 

RHN:What NRSHA affiliate association did you show in to qualify? Was qualifying a goal all last year?
MMK:I qualified through Stock Horse of Texas. It was definitely a goal to qualify for the national show. I love the chance to win double prizes and money with one run at the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Show. I have already started qualifying for next year! 

RHN:What class challenged you the most at the national show?
MMK:I’ve ridden my entire life, but I’m new to the cattle events, so we work on those a lot. We got lucky and the cutting went very smooth. The cow work went really well, too, including an aggressive turn when my horse beat the cow to the corner and I nearly fell off! The trail actually ended up the most challenging at the show because Roper did not want to lope up to and past the Hot Heels roping dummy—heel horses never go past the dummy! It took me three days to get him to do the maneuver [before we showed]. 

RHN: How do you prepare for the all-around versatility shows?
MMK: I do have a few tricks to pilot such a wise, old guy through the reining and ranch riding. Mainly, we don’t practice those classes! I don’t school ranch riding at all. My preparation focuses on my newer events, like the cattle. For several weeks, I practiced working out of the herd for the cutting, working the flag to keep Roper in correct form, and boxing cattle.

Because of his age, I usually work him two days on and then give him two to three days off. He felt ready a week before the show, so I worked him one day on, with two to three days off with lots of turnout time last week. I believe this has contributed to his longevity. I mix in reining maneuvers here and there during warm-up. The day before we left for the show I worked him over elevated logs for trail. I write a riding and prep schedule and pray the weather cooperates. When showing, I ride each maneuver as it comes, stay out of the penalty box, and plus our strengths. My goal this year was to be solid in all the events and let the placing fall as they may. 

Melinda Mayes-Kelly victory lap
NRSHA Limited Non-pro All-Around National Champion Melinda Mayes-Kelly, in purple, and Reserve NRSHA Limited Non-Pro All-Around National Champion Pamela Rasmussen take a victory lap

RHN:What was your first thought when you were announced champion? 
MMK: “Wow, we did it!” Roper was near perfect all week. I was so proud our hard work paid off. We were top 5 or top 10 in every class. Also, he had a mild bellyache before the cow work and he still worked his heart out in the class. 

RHN:What are your future goals in ranch horse events? 
MMK: Future goals include qualifying for the National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebration of Champions, competing for a SHTX world champion title, and that ever-elusive AQHA world champion buckle. I also want to try going down the fence in cow work. Roper still doesn’t understand why we box so much! I would like to look for a new, ranching heritage-bred horse, but it’s so tough to get off Roper. 

For more on the NRSHA champions, visit ranchhorse.net. AQHA has complete coverage from the Zoetis-sponsored World Show, and Level 1 Cattle Championships, at aqha.com

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