WELCH - There probably isn't a time in Taylor Offtermatt's young life where a horse wasn't around.
Taylor, 12, said she got up on her first horse when she was only 2 years old and started barrel racing just six years later.
Now, the Welch resident and Cannon Falls seventh-grader is less than one month away from competing in the top barrel racing event in the country.
Barrel racing wasn't even a competition her family was heavily involved with, Taylor's mother, Dianne Offtermatt said.
Offtermatt said she grew up competing in a variety of horse-related competitions - her favorite is cutting horses, but was surprised by her daughter's decision to be a barrel racer.
Barrel racing just seemed like fun to Taylor, saying it makes her feel "happy" and "free."
Taylor began competing around the state doing Pee Wee barrel racing with one of Dianne's old cutting horses, Ed. Once she began to advance in her career, Ed was replaced with Kitty.
After two years in competition, Taylor was a natural, moving onto the United Barrel Racing Association World Championship. Taylor did well in the competition, placing first overall in the fourth division.
Shortly after moving from Hastings, Kitty got hurt, forcing Taylor and Dianne to find a new horse.
Dianne said they were able to find Taylor's current horse, Twister, who has been her main competition horse since Kitty got hurt.
The relationship between Taylor and Twister, who's full name is actually GB Bobs Classy Twist, was instantaneous, with Taylor saying he always takes care of her so she always takes care of him.
Dianne compares their relationship to owner and dog, with Twister constantly following her around, without a halter even.
Now that Taylor was progressing, the pair only entered barrel racing competitions around the country, facing against the world's best youth riders.
Last year, Taylor placed 16th in the world in the third division with Twister at the National Barrel Horse Association Youth World Championships in Augusta, Ga. There were 700 youth from around the globein the competition.
Dianne said she was incredibly "proud" of her daughters efforts in the competition and asked her daughter what her new goals would be.
Taylor's response: compete in the 2018 KK Run for Vegas.
The best way to describe the KK Run for Vegas is the "Super Bowl of cowboys and cowgirls," according to Dianne. Kids and teenagers from all over the world go to Las Vegas to vie for the title.
Taylor will compete in the junior division. Currently, she is second in the country in points earned after competing in Iowa, Tennessee, Colorado and New Mexico this past year.
Taylor will race for $130,000 in cash and prizes, racing three times next month.
But footing the bill for a competition like this isn't easy for a normal family. It's long hours in the car, a lot of training and making sure the horses are in the best position possible to succeed.
"We're kind of the underdogs," Dianne said. "We're not the normal horse people that have a lot of money behind them."
A GoFundMe page is set up in Taylor's name to help raise money to cover some of the expenses the family will accrue on their trip to Las Vegas: https://www.gofundme.com/taylors-jr-nfr-dream.
The Offtermatts will load up the truck, along with cat Macy, who never misses a trip, soon to leave.
Taylor's studied YouTube videos in preparation for the event, doing mock runs to get her timing down. Each day, Taylor takes Twister on five to eight miles of trail on the outskirts of their Welch farm, Rising Starz Ranch. Twice a month they'll do some barrel work, but the trail riding is usually enough to sustain the horses.
Her personal best is 13.5 seconds, a fast time considering Twister is more than 10 times the size of Taylor.
Taylor hopes to run somewhere between 14.4 to 14.9 seconds during competition in Las Vegas. If she does, she'll give Twister one of his favorite treats: SweetTarts.
When comes to competing against the top barrel racers in the world, Taylor says she doesn't get overwhelmed. Rather, getting the chance to ride Twister is win in itself.
"I'm just so grateful, even if we get last place, I'd still be really happy," Taylor said.