- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

WELSH, La. (AP) - Taylor Ardoin is a busy eighth-grader. She travels - often several days out of the week - to barrel racing and rodeo competitions she has been involved with since she was 9.

Taylor, a Welsh native, attends school through the Louisiana Virtual Charter Academy, an online school that allows her to balance competitions and coursework, her mom, Karen Ardoin, said.

“I like it because it allows me to do my work on the road,” Taylor said.

The young competitor has been around horses since she was about 2 or 3, she said. Her brother also competed in rodeo, which allowed her the opportunity to begin the activity at a young age.

Her main mount is an 8-year-old American Quarter Horse gelding named “Streakin to Passer” or “Vegas” as she calls him.

She has been in competitive barrel racing for the last four years. She placed second out of 928 riders at the Youth All American in Jackson, Mississippi, in June 2015.

She has qualified for a number of World Finals, including the BBR World Finals in 2014 where she placed 11th in the 3D competition out of 1,500 horses.

She has competed in a number of barrel race competitions in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma, Ardoin said, and will be competing in the Louisiana Jr. High Rodeo Finals in Lake Charles at Burton Coliseum later this month.

Taylor attended public school until the sixth grade. In seventh grade she tried another schooling program before switching to LAVCA.

“It’s enabled us to keep her in a state-accredited school; she’ll graduate with a high school diploma,” Ardoin said. “It’s a struggle, but … she has the opportunity to travel across the country with her trainer, to compete in events that, if she was in a regular school setting, she wouldn’t be able to do.”

Ardoin said her daughter is able to compete in “open” events, including charities, across the country where some of the nation’s top barrel racers compete.

“It is a wonderful opportunity,” Ardoin said.

Taylor’s trainer, Dustin Angelle, recently competed in the top five of the American Rodeo in Dallas, allowing Taylor to get a firsthand look at the “World’s Richest Rodeo” and assist with the horses and barn duties.

Because of her work in the rodeo, watching her trainer and being enrolled with an online schooling program, Ardoin said Taylor has developed as a person. She has learned social skills and skills for traveling with a number of horses on the road at a time.

“She’s seen a lot of the country traveling, and she’s become very independent doing this,” Ardoin said of her daughter. “She has to handle horses; she has to get up early in the morning to feed. She’s taking care of all of this.”

To complete her schoolwork, Ardoin said Taylor must be self-motivated. While on the road, she has to keep up with her lessons and finish her assignments by their due date.

She said that instead of trying to create a home-schooling program to fit their travels, LAVC’s courses offer flexibility that works out well with Taylor’s back and forth schedule. The teachers are live and recorded and Taylor can easily contact them through their electronic mail system.

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Information from: American Press, https://www.americanpress.com

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