By Kristen M. White
With a year of professional rodeo under her belt – and a shiny new Rookie of the Year title to her name – Carly Taylor is ready for whatever the 2020 season brings.
Taylor, from Andersonville, Tennessee, finished the season with a total of $72,300. She finished 18th in the WPRA World Standings, not far off from making the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (15th place, Lacinda Rose, had $88,936).
The 21-year-old rookie says she’s thrilled with the year she had.
“I really enjoyed it,” she said simply. “It’s cool, being able to look back on the year and see what I’ve learned from the beginning to now.”
What did she learn?
“I think it’s easy to look at rodeos for an entire month or year and overwhelm yourself,” she explained. “The best thing I learned was to sit at the beginning of a week and map everything out. Focus on them one by one.”
Taylor profusely thanked Ann Thompson, who does her entering for her. She said Thompson “really does have it down to a science,” and that Taylor couldn’t even begin to imagine entering on her own.
This was Taylor’s first year of major rodeo experience. She did some local shows near her home when she was growing up, participated in the Junior WPRA ranks and eventually made the leap into WPRA this year when she felt her horse, Diva, was ready.
“She’s the kind of horse you don’t get all the time, so I figured while I had her and was able to go, I would give it a try,” Taylor said. “I felt like she got a lot stronger toward the end of the summer, more consistent. At the beginning of the year, I was kind of seasoning her to the rodeos, so I think I built confidence with me and her, and it made her more confident too.”
Perhaps the turning point of Taylor’s year was when she won Cody, Wyoming, over the Fourth of July. Not only did she add $10,819 to her bottom line, but winning a big rodeo, and beating out other top competitors, really gave her a push in the Rookie race and a shot of confidence.
“I think Cody will always be super memorable for me,” Taylor said. “Really, the end of July and August were pretty memorable. Things started to really click. One of my biggest goals for the year was to make each run count. It’s hard when you’re out there doing it, so I think in August is when I started making each of them count.”
Although the Rookie of the Year title was the goal Taylor had her sights set on from the start of the season, she said she tried not to put too much pressure on herself and Diva, taking things day-by-day. She wanted to see where her successes could take her, without overthinking it.
“At the beginning of the year, I never expected to be in the Top 20 in the world standings!” she said. “I’m so happy. I’m going to start back at rodeo in January and see where it takes us. It’s an added bonus that this year I qualified for the bigger rodeos so I’ll do Denver, Fort Worth, San Angelo, Houston, San Antonio, all of those.”
Taylor headed home about two weeks before the 2019 season came to a close. Even though she was on top of the Rookie standings, she said she couldn’t truly believe it and “accept it” until the calendar hit October 1 and she knew it was all said and done.
Winning the honor is a huge goal to have accomplished, and it puts Taylor in some excellent company. Previous Rookie of the Year winners includes Sydni Blanchard, Jackie Ganter, Brittany Pozzi Tonozzi and Charmayne James.
“You can’t breathe!” she said of officially winning the title. “It was a lot of excitement and amazement. When you’ve set out with a goal, it’s really awesome to achieve it.”
At home, she’s busy riding some colts and getting them started. And although being home is great, she said she’s also ready to get back out and do it all over again.
Prior to hitting the road in 2019, Taylor explained that Diva had only ever run indoors. She wasn’t sure what the summer would look like, but she quickly learned in California that Diva likes the outdoor rodeos. Still, she knows she’ll be solid in the big indoor venues at the beginning of the year, too.
“I’m excited for those big winter rodeos in the buildings, the ones I didn’t get to do before,” Taylor said. “All she’d ever done before this year was indoor pens so I know she likes them.”