Taylor Long’s love of barrel racing began with a can-do attitude, affection for horses and a need for speed.
The 16-year-old recently displayed her passion for the sport at the National Barrel Horse Association Youth World Championships. The invitation-only event was held in Perry, Georgia from July 19-26 and is the largest youth barrel race in the world, drawing in over 1,900 contestants from over 36 states, Canada, Italy, Panama, France and Australia.
What makes Long’s inclusion in the race so extraordinary is the fact that she has only been competing for one year. Receiving her registered quarter horse, Heartbreaker, when she was 14, Long knew if she wanted to compete, she would have hard work ahead of her. Heartbreaker was a rescue horse. According to Long’s family, the horse was 200 lbs. underweight and incredibly skittish. He wouldn’t even ride in a horse trailer. But Long knew that bigger things waited for Heartbreaker.
“Turning circles, getting the pattern, long trotting,” Long said, describing the training that she and Heartbreaker continue to do in preparation for competition. “(He) works on hills to build up his strut.”
The hard work paid off, as Long and Heartbreaker began competing in February of 2013. Riding in North Carolina District 3, Long qualified for the state division in her first year. She made it to the finals and was a sixth-place winner. That impressive win merited her the coveted invitation to the NBHA race.
Out of the 1,100 contestants competing against her, Long clocked an impressive 16.02 in round one and 15.995 in round two.
The contestants competed for over $300,000 in cash and prizes, some of which included Tony Lama boots, an Alamo Champion saddle and a 4-Star horse trailer, but it wasn’t the prize money or the goodies that interested Long.
“I just like to go fast and like to be with my horse,” she said.
She and Heartbreaker continue to practice just about every day, working patterns around the house and occasionally going to an arena. Their next race is local and toward the end of the month, and if Long has her way, it will be one of the first of many barrel races to come.
“My dream would be to make this a career,” she said.