WELSH — Sixteen-year-old Taylor Ardoin is looking forward to the future.
In it are plans to pursue a medical career and continuing to travel the rodeo circuit.
But for now, the Welsh teen is focusing her attention on the sport of barrel racing and other rodeo competitions after being crowned the new Louisiana State High School Rodeo Queen at the Louisiana High School Rodeo Finals earlier this month in Lake Charles.
“I’ve always wanted to go to nationals and represent the state, but it wasn’t until I was crowned Louisiana State High School Rodeo Queen that I took on the responsibility of being an ambassador to Louisiana,” Ardoin said. “It will give me the opportunity to speak on and represent our state.”
She will travel to Rock Springs, Wyoming next month to compete at the 70th annual National High School Finals Rodeo as a queen contestant. There she will compete against 1,650 contestants from 43 states, 5 Canadian Provinces, Australia and Mexico — making it the largest rodeo in the world.
As a contestant she will compete in horsemanship, speech, 50-question test, interview, impromptu questions and modeling.
She will also represent Louisiana at various rodeos, parades and events throughout the year.
It’s a busy schedule the high school junior is used to.
“It’s very wild, you are always on the road and always very busy that you don’t get very much sleep,” Ardoin said. “I’ve learned to maintain a good, flexible balance between school, traveling and caring for my animals.”
Ardoin has also learned to maintain a 3.98 GPA and is working toward receiving a high school diploma next year despite her hectic schedule.
She no longer attends a traditional brick-and-mortar public school.
She enrolled in the Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy (LAVCA) four years ago while a seventh grader. The online public charter school allows her to balance barrel racing, rodeo competitions and travel with school work.
Ardoin cares for her horse, Tango and her dog, Tater while at home and on the road.
“I’m normally out on the road and gone for three weeks out of the month,” she said. “The Louisiana Virtual Charter School makes it so much easier for me because I don’t have the time to go sit in a classroom eight hours and listen to someone and take tests.”
For Ardoin, it has been a perfect fit. With the Virtual Charter School, she is able to read, study, take tests and finish assignments at her own pace and when she has time. She usually spends at least three hours a day on her studies while on the road.
“I spend a lot of hours traveling in the truck so there’s a lot of hours spent studying and going over tests,” she said.
Live classroom lessons also provide Taylor an opportunity to interact with teachers and other students.
Early mornings and evenings are spent feeding her horse, cleaning stalls, practicing her barrel racing, working with her trainer and tending to her animals.
“I try to ride nearly every day or at least workout to keep in shape,” she said.
Her travels keep her away from home a week to two weeks at time during rodeo season.
She’s been to Oklahoma, Texas, Mississipi, Wyoming, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina.
“I’ve seen a good part of America and I love traveling and seeing something new,” she said.
The rodeo circuit has also allowed her to meet a lot of people from different states and countries. Many of them she considers her family, she said.
Ardoin has been rodeoing since she was 9 years old, but has always been around horses because her older brother was also into rodeos.
“I was very much born into it and got into horses at an early age,” she said.
Her mother, Karen Ardoin says attending LAVCA allows for more flexibility in Taylor’s busy schedule. She said Taylor lives a “very active lifestyle,” but one that has taught her so much.
“It has so many benefits for her,” Karen Ardoin said. “It’s a lot of sacrifice for the family, but it keeps her going and the rewards far outweigh the bad because she is learning life skills and responsibility.
A lot of times she is traveling 12 hours a day and doesn’t get to bed until the stalls are ready and the horses have water.”