COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Success in the sport of rodeo doesn’t fall on just the human athlete. Their horses play just as big of a factor when they step foot in the arena. The Nutrena Horse of the Year presented by AQHA awards provides recognition to ProRodeo’s top horses. Making the award extra special to each WPRA member is the fact that their fellow competitors are the ones that vote on this prestigious award.
The 2023 Nutrena Horse of the Year presented by AQHA awards were unveiled Oct. 11. Winning for the for the first time in the barrel racing category was Fame Fire Rocks “PopRocks” ridden by Taycie Matthews and owned by Mission Ranch LLC.
PopRocks, a daughter of FireWaterOnTheRocks, “Happy,” and out of W R Aces Fame has carried Matthews not only to a College National Finals Rodeo Championship in 2023 and to the winner’s circle in Salinas but also to her first Wrangler NFR qualification coming in ranked No. 4. Matthews of Wynne, AR, has earned $144,161 after competing in 79 rodeos.
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A horse that was meant to be her mother Kim’s horse joined the Matthews’ barn in January of 2022 after Janna Beam Brown had trained the now 6-year-old sorrel mare. Taycie’s older sister, Jaylie first rode the mare at the CNFR in Casper in 2022 winning a round but since then Taycie has laid claim to the horse after finishing as reserve WPRA rookie of the year in 2022.
Finishing second was Jets Top Gun “Benny” owned by Busby Quarter Horses and ridden by Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi, who carried his jockey to the Reno, Calgary and Salt Lake City titles just to name a few this summer. It was in Salt Lake City that Pozzi Tonozzi crossed the $3 million mark in career earnings.
Rounding out the top three in the barrel racing was Fiery Miss West owned by Gary Westergren and ridden by Jessica Routier. Routier claimed the NFR Open title in the mud this summer aboard Missy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Routier will be making her sixth appearance at the NFR in December.