For years, Bobby Winstead and his wife were in the dark.
"When our daughter was three months old, she wasn't progressing like she should," said Winstead of Arlington, Tenn. "From then until she was 17, no doctor in that time frame could give us a good explanation about her condition. They just told us she had pervasive learning delay."
Early on, Shelby had crossed eyes, which were corrected with surgery, and eventually, speech delays. Physically, Shelby was short and stocky, and would have tight calf muscles and walk on her toes.
Said Winstead: "When she was about 3, a physician told us she would never ride a bike. We were to just teach her basic life skills such as how to feed herself and put her clothes on. We didn't like that answer. So we started looking for alternatives to get her far along as possible. She had a great personalty and didn't have a mean bone in her body. She has always given 110 percent in everything she does and never complains."
Like most parents would, the Winsteads wanted their daughter to be the best she could be. They discovered Shelby liked horses, and when she was 9 they bought her one. At age 11, Shelby wanted to learn barrel racing, a competitive, timed rodeo event in which a rider and horse weave around barrels. Learn she did-and she excelled.
Having a horse and competing helped bring Shelby out of her social shell. She joined the National Barrel Horse Association, and eventually qualified in her district for the Youth World Teen Division. Four years ago, she participated in the NBHA Youth World Championship, finishing fourth among 1,700 competitors to earn $1,000.
Now 20, Shelby barrel races nearly every weekend, except for winter. She socially fits in at barrel racing, and most competitors don't know she has developmental delays. She still has trouble with basic math problems and has never driven a car, although she wants to begin.
Three years ago, the technology became available for chromosone testing, and Shelby's physician described her condition as a rare "elongation of the Q chromosone in the third division." Winstead said, "For someone who was told she would never ride a bike, she does. And she can ride the hair off a horse, too. My advice to parents is to not set your expectations too low."
For more stories of courage in disability, visit www.danieljvance .com or find them on Facebook at "Disabilities By Daniel J. Vance." LittleGiantFudge.com and Palmer Bus Service made this column possible.