Go beyond the stats in our special Q&A spotlights on first-time NFR qualifiers in the barrel racing at the 2023 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

No. 4 Taycie Matthews

headshot of Taycie Matthews
Taycie Matthews. Photo courtesy WPRA

Hometown: Wynne, Arkansas
Horses: Fame Fire Rocks (“Poprocks”), 2017 mare, Firewaterontherocks x W R Aces Fame x Dash Ta Fame; Heavenly Firewater (“Bud”), 2012 stallion, JL Dash Ta Heaven x Fire Water Fanny x Fire Water Flit; Stoli My Firewater, 2018 mare, Heavenly Firewater x Stoli My Guy x Frenchmans Guy
WPRA Season Earnings: $144,161.4
Rodeo Count: 79
NFR Qualifications: 1 (2023)
*EquiStat Lifetime Earnings: $353,270.3
Recent Career Highlights: Fame Fire Rocks voted 2023 WPRA/AQHA Horse of the Year. 2023 Champion Salinas, California; Killdeer, North Dakota; Big Fork, Montana; Herriman, Utah; Searcy and El Paso, Arkansas. 2023 Reserve Champion CINCH Governor’s Cup Playoffs Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Kalispell, Montana; Crossett, Arkansas; Los Fresnos, Texas. Fourth place 2023 Calgary Stampede. 2023 College National Finals Rodeo Barrel Racing Champion. Finished No. 19 in the 2022 WPRA world standings. Multiple college, pro rodeo, open and youth wins.

Spotlight on First-Time NFR Qualifiers

Interview by Abigail Boatwright

Taycie Matthews turns first barrel
WPRA/AQHA Horse of the Year Fame Fire Rocks helped Taycie Matthews qualify for her first NFR. As of press time, “Poprocks” suffered a hock injury and will be unable to compete at the 2023 NFR. Photo by Roseanna Sales

BHN: Let’s hear about the horses that got you here.

Taycie Matthews: “Poprocks is only 6. Janna Brown trained her, and we originally bought her for my mom, but I got to take her. Bud, I’ve been riding him since he was 5 and I was 14, and I’m 20 now. I rode Bud until Cheyenne of last year, and then I got on Poprocks, and I stayed on Poprocks all last fall and all of this year through the winter rodeos. Bud was at the breeding farm, so I was giving him a break. She worked so well over the winter rodeos that I fi gured I might as well stay on her, because I felt comfortable with her. I gave her a break around July when it was time to go to the Northwest. I swapped them out a couple times, but Poprocks got more runs.”

BHN: At what point in the year did you feel like qualifying might happen for you?

Matthews: “The winter rodeos went pretty well, and I thought I would go through Cheyenne and just see. I called my mom and said, ‘If I don’t start doing better, if I don’t do good at Cheyenne, I’m not staying out here for two more months. I’m ready to come home.’ It’s hard being away from home. But then after Cheyenne, I was around the top 10, and my mom was like ‘Well, you better stay out there.’ My attitude was a lot better. I stayed out there and fi nished the year.”

BHN: What does it mean to you to make the Finals?

Matthews: “It’s a dream come true. I’ve watched the NFR since I was little, and I’ve always wanted to run there. It’s really cool to actually be in their shoes instead of just watching it on TV.”