By Zirconia Alleyne
The horse began to trot. The slow saunter that 11-year-old Taylor Reed had grown comfortable with gradually turned into a steady gallop and the horse bolted into the woods. She tensed up, held on tight and tears began to stream down her face. Her dream of riding a horse had suddenly turned into a nightmare, but Taylor couldn’t jump off or let go.
“I wanted to do it so bad for a long time that it became fun once I got over I wasn’t going to die or fall off,” she said.
Taylor, now 17, is glad that she didn’t give up, as she currently holds the title as All-Around Cowgirl for the Kentucky High School Rodeo Association — that was her goal when she first started riding six years ago.
The first time Taylor laid eyes on a horse she was smitten.
“When we moved in front of somebody who had horses, my friends and I used to sneak up there and pet them and feed them apples and waffle cones or anything we thought they would eat because we didn’t know a lot about horses,” she said. Until one day, they got caught.
The girls darted across the field, afraid of getting reprimanded by the people who lived there, but Taylor heard a woman yelling in the distance.
“She was yelling that it was OK, so I went back, but by that time my friends were already back at the house,” she said. “Then, she offered to give me lessons and said I could come back any time.”
The woman was Jessica Boyd, who had just moved to Hopkinsville with her husband, David. The couple’s home sat on 65 acres with a small horse pasture, arena and barn.
Jessica had just graduated from Murray State University, where she was a member of the equestrian team.
“I was around 23 when I started giving (Taylor) lessons,” she said. “We didn’t know a lot of people around here and she kind of kept me company too.”
Jessica started out by teaching Taylor the ins and outs of ground work. Cleaning the stalls, brushing the horses, putting on saddles. She helped out as much as she could and learned how to ride in exchange.
“She had a huge work ethic,” Jessica said. “Every day, she was at my house and wanted to learn more. She just had a passion.”
That passion has never faltered despite several scary experiences Taylor has had on horses. The first scare happened during one of her first trail rides on the Boyds’ horse named Cash. The horse took off into the woods with Taylor in tow.
“I did not want to get back on,” said the Christian County High School senior.
“She was terrified,” Jessica recalled, “but I wouldn’t let her get off until she calmed down. She stepped off for a minute when we got back to the trail and walked him, but I didn’t let her quit.”
Another scare happened once Taylor started competing in rodeos. She was getting ready to do a roping competition in Memphis on a horse named Fish.
“He got excited in the box, and the bit we had on him was too strong,” the teen said of the 1,300-pound steed. “He just reared up and lost his balance and fell over on me. I fell into the gate and he fell on top of me.”
Taylor’s mom, Cheryl Spain, was filming it and panicked when she didn’t see her come out of the box.
“It was horrible,” Spain said. “It took me a minute to realize what happened. By the time I got over there, they were calling the medics and she was unconscious.”
Taylor was determined to compete in the last event later that night, so she pushed through the pain and finished the competition.
Perseverance has been a recurring theme for Taylor since she started. Not only has she had tough times on top of horses, but buying her own horse and getting to rodeos wasn’t easy or cheap.
On top of being in Beta, National Honor Society and FFA, Taylor is the president for KHSRA and works two jobs to pay for her horse and rodeo fees.
Horses can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 while each rodeo registration can cost anywhere between $350 and $500, her mother noted.
The horse trailer they bought cost $6,000 and then needed $2,000 in repairs and interior updates.
Maintenance of a horse isn’t cheap either. For example, a horseshoer costs $80 every six weeks, Taylor said.
“We had to cut a lot of corners,” said Spain, who also works two jobs. “Our horse didn’t cost nowhere near the amount that everybody else’s did. We pulled one out of a field that used to rodeo. It used to duck and buck. She had to totally train it.”
That horse is now named Trigger. It’s a Mustang/Quarter horse that people said was the meanest horse they’d ever dealt with and encouraged Taylor to get a new one, but she stuck with it.
Spain said her daughter was determined to turn her horse into a winner.
“Ever since she started rodeoing, everybody’s told her get a new horse, get a new horse, but she wouldn’t give up on Trigger,” Spain said. “She had such high expectations of him … people offered her other horses to use, but she wouldn’t because she said if she couldn’t do it on Trigger, she didn’t want to do it.”
She finally won her title as All-Around Cowgirl in June while riding the underdog.
Her mom and coach were crying in the stands, but Taylor, who appears to be modest, said she was celebrating on the inside.
“It was really rewarding to me to show myself that I could do it and with Trigger,” Taylor said.
Jessica, a special education teacher at Christian County Middle School, said Taylor is a true testament that if you give a child the opportunity, then they’ll make it happen.
“I don’t really take credit for what she did at all,” the coach said. “I’ve learned that you can do anything, if you’re willing to try and put yourself out there, and you can take nothing and make it into something.”
Since then, Taylor has gotten two more horses — Roanie, a 29-year-old retired roping horse, and Chaos, a roping horse that she is currently training for barrels.
In May, she will graduate from high school and plans to go to Murray State to major in ag business. She hopes to become a professional horse trainer.
As far as her next goal, Taylor wants to rank in the top 20 at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Rock Springs, Wyoming. The competition takes place July 12-18.
The last time she was there, Trigger turned around and walked right out the ring. She and her mom think it was the noise and all the people that freaked him out. This time, she’s sure things will be different.
“If you can hear people in the crowd, then you know you’re not focused,” she said. “I try to focus on me and my horse and us doing our job.”