GUTHRIE — Shelby Frost believes anything is possible.
Shelby, 11, recently moved to Guthrie from Mulhall. She has curly brown hair, rosy cheeks and a contagious smile. She’s full of optimism and wants to be a writer when she grows up.
Shelby was born without a right arm or leg and only partial limbs on her left side.
Doctors detected the birth defect through an ultrasound before she was born. They told her mother, Stacy Foshee, 33, that Shelby might not be able to sit up when she got older.
“She started scooting on her bottom as soon as I put her down,” Foshee said.
To Foshee’s delight, not only was her daughter able to sit up, she soon learned how to use her abdominal muscles to help her move on her own. She now jumps on her trampoline, hula hoops and shows sheep at county fairs and at the Oklahoma Youth Expo.
Frost was one of 14,000 participants at this year’s expo, where students in grades 3 through 12 showed hogs, goats, sheep and cattle they have raised and trained.
Event organizers aim to teach students life skills while bringing families together. Awards include plaques, ribbons and college scholarships.
For Shelby, showing sheep is a passion and a way of life. She is continuing a tradition her grandmother began on the family farm in Mulhall.
“My mom and aunt and grandma all showed sheep,” Shelby said. “So I do, too.”
It never occurred to Shelby to allow her physical disability to limit her showmanship, or her life.
“We adapt,” Foshee said. “There are still some things that are challenging for her. But, for the most part, she’s pretty independent. There’s not a lot she can’t do.”
Shelby said part of adapting to a life without full limbs included molding eating utensils and grooming necessities, such as a toothbrush, to fit around her left shoulder. To write and draw, she clamps a pencil between her chin and shoulder. She uses what Foshee calls her “abs of steel” to swim.
Every year, Shelby rolls into the Jim Norick Arena at State Fair Park and shows one of her five sheep with grace and poise.
When she noticed that her inability to hold her sheep’s head up caused her to lose points during the competition three years ago, she adapted again by attaching a metal bracket to her wheelchair. A family friend custom-made the bracket to fit her wheelchair. The bracket adjusts to the sheep’s size and attaches to the animal with the help of a harness.
“Their heads kind of hung low when I first started,” Shelby said. “Now they they hold their heads up high.”
It’s a transition Shelby said she understands. There are times, she said, when she feels discouraged.
“At the shows, I don’t get looked at so much,” she said. “But sometimes I notice it at other places like at school.”
Focusing on the positive
Raising sheep keeps her busy, she said, and allows her to possess the attitude she prefers.
“It keeps me from focusing on the bad,” she said. “I prefer to look at the positive.
“When I first started showing, I was afraid people would stare at me. But now I know that it’s all about the sheep and how they look and how I present them,” she said.
The support the organization provides to all contestants is something Youth Expo Executive Director Tyler Norvell is proud of.
“For kids with disabilities, this is one place in life they can come and compete at the same level with their peers,” he said.
His wife, Beth Norvell, is president of Diamond Hats, an organization that supports Oklahoma’s women and girls involved in agriculture.
The organization recently raised money to buy Shelby a new wheelchair.
This year, with the help of her sheep Katy, she won eighth place out of 25 in showmanship at the Youth Expo. Her other sheep are Pistol Pete, Baby, CeCe and a fifth one she plans to name Diamond.
My mom and aunt and grandma all showed sheep. So I do too.”