Raelee Taylor and her horse Tequila overcame injuries and odds to become a competitive duo in the arena. (ANGELINA KATSANIS/The Enterprise )

The first time Raelee Taylor rode her horse Tequila, she bucked her off. Taylor called it quits for six months after the fall, both recovering from surgery from a separate injury and fearful to get back on the horse.

“One day I looked at my mom and said ‘I feel like I’m missing out on something,’” said Taylor.

Five years later, Taylor and Tequila are set to compete in barrel racing in this year's Vale 4th of July Rodeo.

Growing up wake boarding in western Washington, Taylor had to find a new hobby when she moved to eastern Washington at 8 years old. Her grandpa, who owned a horse farm, made that decision easy for her.

“I’d always tell my mom, ‘You can’t take me home, you’ve got to leave me at Grandpa’s with the horses,’” said Taylor. “And my grandpa kept feeding into it. He’d give me a cowboy hat, and then some spurs and next thing I knew he’d signed me up for some local horse shows.”

As Taylor’s dedication to riding continued to grow, her grandpa decided it was time she got her horse. That horse was a chestnut 2-year-old American Quarter Horse named Tequila. Taylor and Tequila competed throughout high school, both distinctively different from those around them.

“Most of these kids had $10,000 to $60,000 horses and I have a horse that my grandpa handed me out of the pasture and said, ‘Make her do what you want,’” said Taylor.

Going into Taylor’s senior year, Tequila’s leg was impaled by a metal rake and doctors said it would be at least six months before the horse walked again. Taylor, without exact instructions from the doctors, took her on long walks each day to slowly build her strength back. Three months after the injury, Taylor and Tequila qualified for a professional rodeo barrel racing at the Lewiston Roundup in Idaho.

After her senior year of high school in Washington, Taylor chose to go to Treasure Valley Community College in Ontario because of its equine business program. Soon after getting there, she joined the TVCC rodeo team where she now competes in barrel racing.

“Everyone strives to help out everyone, which is phenomenal. You don’t really see that as much anymore because of how competitive everything is,” said Taylor. “If someone has one bad run, I try to tell them ‘Hey, you’ve got another event. Go make the most of it.’ I think lifting each other is so important on a team.”

Taylor will have a busy summer as she balances working at the Sorbenots Coffee in Ontario and competing in as many rodeos as possible. One of the events she’s most excited about is the Vale 4th of July Rodeo, which has been on her bucket list since seeing photos of the competition in high school.

“I’ve met quite a few people from Vale and they seem very passionate about their community and rodeo. I can’t wait to be a part of that.”

Raelee Taylor prepares her horse Tequila for practice in the arena. (The Enterprise/Angelina Katsanis)

Raelee Taylor and her horse Tequila overcame injuries and odds to become a competitive duo in the arena. (The Enterprise/Angelina Katsanis)

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