Denise’s first horse, Sonny, gave her an insatiable taste for winning. Together, they dominated youth events wherever they went. In 1979, at age eleven, Denise became the youngest member ever to win the Utah Barrel Racing Association (UBRA) Rookie of the Year Award (now known as the Novice Rider Division). She was also the Open Pole Bending Champion that year.
At age eleven, Denise began training her first barrel horse, Saddle Kan. Two years later, Denise (age thirteen) and Saddle Kan (age four) were ready to take on competitors from all across the western United States in barrel futurity competition. At that time, a futurity horse was any horse four years old and under who was in its first year of barrel racing competition. Male or female riders of any age were allowed to compete in futurities, and no distinction was made between the riders (ie. There were no youth classes or Amateur Rider divisions available). Although each barrel racing futurity was held separately, two futurities in Idaho and one in Wyoming teamed up to sponsor the Northwest Futurity Championship. Points were awarded at the Snake River Futurity in Buhl, Idaho, the Idaho Coors Futurity in Nampa, Idaho, and the Wyoming Futurity in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Not only did Denise and Saddle Kan accumulate enough points to become the 1981 Northwest Futurity Champions, they were also champions at each of the three sponsoring futurities!
Two years later, Denise captured the Northwest Futurity
Championship again on a four-year-old gelding named Mr. Fog Horn, whom she
affectionately referred to as “7-11.”
By the time Denise was old enough to compete in high school rodeo she had won seven futurity championships. She continued her winning ways in high school rodeo when she qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals in Douglas, Wyoming, as a freshman in both barrel racing and pole bending. Carrying two events to the national finals automatically qualified her for the all around race, and Denise did well enough in both events to become the Reserve All Around Cowgirl at the 1983 National High School Finals Rodeo.
In each of her sophomore and junior years, Denise was able to go to the National High School Rodeo Finals in two events. Each year she was also fortunate enough to make the short round in at least one event at the national finals.
The highlight of her accomplishments in high school rodeo, however, came in her senior year of competition when she was named Utah State Champion in Barrel Racing, Pole Bending, and Girls Cow Cutting, and Reserve Champion in Breakaway Roping. She ran away with the Girls All Around title and with memories that would last a lifetime.
In college, Denise was able to capture both a Championship and a Reserve Championship in barrel racing in the Rocky Mountain Region during her four years of competition. She also ended up third overall her sophomore year at the National Intercollegiate Finals Rodeo in barrel racing.
After graduating from college, Denise took a job as a computer analyst and worked in Salt Lake City, Utah, for six years. She continued to rodeo on the weekends, capturing a Western States Rodeo Association Barrel Racing Championship in 1994 and a trip to the Wilderness Circuit Finals as a member of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) in 1996.
Since then, she and her husband Dean have devoted much of their time and efforts toward building their veterinary practice (Aspen Grove Veterinary Clinic) and horse business (Denise Taylor Barrel Horses).
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