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Oxford's Taylor Stanley learns lessons in latest barrel horse riding competition
Taylor Stanley competes during a barrel horse racing competition in Perry while riding her horse named, Heza Slick One. - photo by Mike Harrison | The Covington News

Georgia State Perimeter College freshman Taylor Stanley, a graduate of Newton County High School and Newton College and Career Academy, is studying to be an Early Childhood Education teacher with a dual diploma in special needs. 

In the meantime, she is competing in barrel racing events on her horse, Heza Slick One.  

Taylor spent eight years with the Covington Regional Ballet before turning her attention to barrel racing. According to Taylor, it was the adrenaline rush that first attracted her to the sport. Ballet has helped her with the balance and leg strength she needs to be successful.  

Taylor’s best time so far was a 16.0 second run at Manley Arena in Eatonton at the Summer Classic this past June. 

From the beginning, Taylor set a goal to qualify for the Teen World Championships being held in Perry, Georgia this month. In order to participate in the National Barrel Horse Association (NBHA) Teen World Championships, a rider must first qualify through a point system based upon their performances in shows and events throughout the year. 

The best times in each event are classified as 1D. After that each subsequent group is 0.5 seconds slower than the preceding group’s best time. Only the top five scores in 1D, 2D, 3D, 4D and 5D are awarded points. So far this year, Taylor has placed in 2D, 3D and 4D categories. Taylor competes in Georgia District 4. Only the top 12 riders in each district qualify.

Competing against over 1000 riders from all over the United States plus Canada, Australia, Panama and Italy, Taylor’s goal at the Teen World Championships this week was to qualify for the Saturday Finals and, if not, to go home and try to qualify for next year. 

Her trainer, Jennifer Vickers Kelly of Sawtooth Ranch in Covington, says that Taylor has shown her in their first year working together that she will put in the hard work it takes to get what she wants. Kelly sees Taylor succeeding in barrel racing as a result of her work ethic. Taylor is already assisting Kelly with the smaller children at Sawtooth Ranch. 

Running 43rd in the competition early Monday morning, Taylor's time had her in first place in 4D until a slew of low times knocked her out of qualifying in the first round of runs. 

On Friday, the riders ran in reverse order so Taylor ran in the last hour of the second round of competition, knowing she had to run in the 16.2 second range to have a chance to qualify. 

After a quick start, Heza Slick One began to buck as they approached the third and final barrel. It appeared Taylor was well on her way to beating her personal best time, but her ride ended abruptly when she was thrown from her horse. 

Thankfully, she was able to stand up and walk away.

Although she failed to qualify for this year’s Finals as she had hoped, Taylor earned her way into the event. She is already planning on participating in district shows to finish out the year ,including one next month in Augusta. 

Crediting her trainer, her family and friends for their support, when asked what advice she would give young people interested in barrel racing, Taylor said: “Find a good trainer, take lessons, work your way in and don’t give up.”

Obviously it’s advice Taylor plans to follow herself.