Born to be a team roper
Ryley Beach overcomes defect to win roping titles
The old paint horse is patient while Ryley Beach prepares her for practice.
Ryley knows his way around a horse.
Both 14 years old, Ryley and Aunt Bee have been roping partners for nine years.
Ryley smiles when he talks about his faithful old horse.
“I got her when I was five years old. I learned on her. She tries hard every run no matter what the circumstances. She does her best every time, and that’s really helped me,” he said.
Ryley chuckles and his smile grows when he talks about her name.
“We named her off the ‘Andy Griffith Show’ because she’s Aunt Bee and I’m Opie, and she’s supposed to take care of me, and she definitely has,” he said.
Ryley and Aunt Bee, and Ryley’s second horse, Nash, spent a surprisingly mild afternoon practicing in the riding arena owned by Jerry Brown, who is a horse trainer and a neighbor of the Beach family in Loma.
Watching Ryley prepare his saddle, work the rope, trot around the riding arena, there’s no sign of his birth defect.
He and Aunt Bee bolt from the gate in pursuit of a young steer, Ryley whipping the rope over his head and flinging it perfectly over the steer’s horns for a perfect catch. Still no sign of the birth defect as Brown swoops in and catches the hind legs of the steer.
Ryley is the “header” of the team-roping team. The “heeler” will wait until the steer is roped and turn to the left, then he or she will snag the hind legs with their rope.
Ryley almost never misses. His single miss on this practice day left him frustrated.
Ryley Beach was born to be a team roper. Those are his words.
He was born with a defect in both of his arms. His forearms have just one bone that doesn’t allow him to rotate his palms upward when he tries to twist his wrists.
“I’ve learned how to get by. For roping, it actually really helps because you’re not ever supposed to turn your hand over, and I can’t. So, I guess I was born to be a team roper,” he said with a chuckle.
Ryley has been roping since he could walk — his mom’s words.
“He’s always roped everything that moved or didn’t move,” Janelle Beach said.
The dog, the cat, a chair, his brother, a doorknob ...
“He had this little rope when he was younger, and he would rope the doorknob for hours and hours,” she said. “It would drive me crazy.”
Ryley loves to rope. He grew up watching his dad, Jake Beach, rope.
“I was raised roping,” Ryley said. “I started roping as soon as I could.”
Ryley is now a Little Britches World Champion in team roping and dally ribbon roping.
Those titles were earned after hours, hours and more hours of riding, roping and roping and roping, and roping some more. Roping a practice dummy, roping steers, practice, practice, practice.
Winning world championships was a culmination of all that hard work and long hours in the ruthless baking heat of Loma.
“My dad always said to work hard and you can make it,” he said. “Work hard, and you’ll get what you want, he told me. To have it finally come true is just awesome.”
Brown, who spends hours working with Ryley as the practice heeler, was proud of his young neighbor.
“How can you not be excited for him,” he said. “And besides that, he’s just a great kid.”
Mom watched her oldest son put in all that work and rope everything that moved or didn’t move over the years.
“Ryley is a kid that the most important thing in the world to him is roping, so (seeing him win) was pretty emotional,” she said.
She also saw her son in pain at times. After years of roping, doing chores, helping with the ranching duties, Ryley’s arms started to give out. There was a big problem.
His elbows started popping out of their sockets and would lock up completely.
In the spring of 2011, a surgeon shaved off about an inch of each of his radius bones in his forearms, and he was good to go.
“There was about a month that I felt pretty worthless and couldn’t do anything, but after that I felt really good,” he said. “I could feel a change as soon as I started doing stuff again.”
He still has to be careful to not overwork his arms, and he ices his elbows regularly to prevent possible problems.
Ryley also lifts weights to get stronger and plays on the basketball team.
“He’s got an ugly basketball shot,” Janelle said, smiling, referring to the problems with Ryley’s arms.
“Yeah, probably not the prettiest jump shot on the team,” Ryley said, also with a smile. “But I’ve learned how to get around it, and I always try hard, and that will get you by.”
But it’s roping that Ryley loves most.
He said team roping is all about trust and not letting your partner down.
His team roping world champion partner, 14-year-old Jace Norell of Delta, says Ryley makes things easy.
“If your header is inconsistent, it’s hard. With Ryley, he catches every (steer), so it’s easy to just think about your game,” he said.
As a kid who was “raised roping,” Ryley has his sights set high, and now he’s looking to build on those Little Britches World Championships.
Later this month, Ryley will compete for the Tri-County (Mesa, Delta and Montrose) high school rodeo team. Then it will be back to Little Britches as a senior competitor, then onto college rodeos. And then, maybe the big time.
“Hopefully, one day it will carry on to professional rodeos,” he said.
Ryley Beach was born to rope, so it just might happen.