Behind The Slide – Beth Kelley

Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. The motto of the Special Olympics organization is known worldwide and can be particularly applied to Beth Kelley, an athlete competing in the NRHA para reining.

Born with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Kelley has spinal degeneration and is partially paralyzed in her left leg. After being wheelchair-bound for several years, Kelley set out to try new procedures to give her back her legs and get her in the saddle.

The paralyzation of her left leg requires Kelley’s mount to be a special one, willing to learn which movements are intentional and providing instruction and which are accidental and should be ignored. A little less than a month ago, she purchased Pale Face Whiz, a 2015 gelding by NRHA Three Million Dollar Sire Pale Face Dunnit and out of Lady Naskiia Whiz.

“I was never allowed to use my disability as an excuse,” Kelley said. “As an adult, I’m thankful my parents didn’t let me limit myself.” 

Athletes competing in the para-reining ride have a modified version of the current NRHA patterns. Kelley will be riding a modified pattern eight, of which she is most excited for the spins.

“If you put your hand down, he’ll really go for it,” Kelley said about Pale Face Whiz, who she calls Junior.

Kelley is excited for the pare-reining, held during the 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel on Sunday, June 25, but her goals aren’t limited to events held only by the NRHA. Kelley dreams of a day when she represents her country in the Paralympics. In order to be able to make that dream a reality, Kelley knows that there will need to be a dramatic increase in how many individuals are competing in para-reining.

“I hope that we have enough people that in each class that we fill up every single category, and we are as big and popular as the rookie,” Kelley said.

Reining is a difficult sport, full of technical complexities and requiring hours of practice. This is only compounded when a rider has extenuating circumstances and difficulties.

“I would say never, ever give up. It’s gonna be hard. There will be times when you think you can’t do it. There are going to be times when it hurts so much that all you want to do is get off your horse and just quit. Don’t. It’s all worth it. It’s all worth it,” Kelley said, thinking of those who would want to let difficulties keep them out of the arena. “There is nothing better than ending on a perfect stop and coming out of the arena with a really good run.”