ICU Nurse Dominates Rodeo Scene, Nearly Wins WCRA Triple Crown
Despite being a top pro, rodeo is only a part-time job for the 24-year-old Texan.
MADISONVILLE, Texas— Editor’s note: Watch the full story tonight at 10 on WFAA.
It takes about half a second to blink one eye.
At rodeo, that can mean the difference between glory and darkness, and it’s especially true at roping, where riders chase after a calf running off a rung and try to rappel it down as fast as possible.
One of the best in the sport is 24-year-old Tacy Kay Webb from Madisonville, about 45 miles northeast of College Station.
“You sort of have timing in your head, like a clock in your head,” Webb told the WFAA. “You know if you’re fast.”
Webb began horseback riding in the seventh grade, learning from her parents, particularly her father, who had also competed in rodeo.
“I think I knew it the moment I was little, when I got on my horse,” Webb said. “I used to be always on my pony. My dad couldn’t really pull me off my horse.”
Although rodeo is a top pro, it’s only a part-time job.
Webb started as an intensive care unit nurse at St. Joseph Hospital in Bryan, Texas in January 2020, two months before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I got a taste of what it’s like to be a regular nurse without COVID, and then everything was taken from me,” Webb told the WFAA. “Seeing so many sad things over and over again. It’s starting to wear off on you. I think it was really traumatic for me and for a lot of nurses.”
To avoid bringing COVID home to her family, she lived in a trailer for more than six months while working at the hospital full of patients.
“At first I was so scared and I wanted to protect her,” she said. “I didn’t want to live with the fact that I gave them a disease and let them die.”
The idea of becoming a nurse came to her just a few years after she got serious about rodeo when her family doctor recommended it as a career in high school.
“You have to know people and I have a very bubbly personality. So when I talk to people and meet them and make them feel comfortable, that makes me happy,” Webb said.
In July 2021, while hospitals were still full, Webb competed in the Days of ’47 Cowboy Games & Rodeo in Salt Lake City, one of three rodeo majors. With a time of 1.95 seconds, she secured first place. And after a year and a half of night shifts in a crowded ICU, she won her first major.
In a post-contest interview, Webb broke down in tears as the crowd applauded her for her work during the pandemic.
“I don’t think a lot of people have any idea what we’ve been through and have been through,” Webb said in an April interview. “It meant so much to her to recognize and appreciate that. There was no way I wouldn’t cry.”
The win came with nearly $28,000 in prize money, but it also set her up for something no one has ever done.
WCRA’s Triple Crown of Rodeo will pay $1 million to each athlete who finishes first at three consecutive majors. Nobody has ever won the competition, and only five people have ever won two in a row.
“It’s cool to think about. It’s like, ‘Wow, I can actually do this,’ so I’m trying to like the moment live,” Webb said. “It’s going to be really tough, but I’ll shoot for it.”
In a world where the blink of an eye counts, it takes more than skill to win three times in a row.
“There’s so much room for error so it has to be really, really perfect and dialed in perfectly to win first,” Webb said.
In December, Webb was in Fort Worth for the Cowtown Christmas Championship, the next major she had to win for the million dollar prize. She left the tournament with a win and only needed one more win to become the first millionaire in rodeo.
“I was pumped. I knew I had to do well, and I knew if I did well, the rest would come together,” Webb said. “My horse did really well. I had a really good calf. It was perfectly straight and they made my job easier.”
It would mean six months of intensive care work through Omciron’s surge, weekend practice sessions and nervous waiting before she would get a chance to fight for the triple crown at the Rodeo Corpus Christi in mid-May. On one side of the arena was a poster that read “Millionaire Cowgirl?”.
“I feel like rodeo is very humbling, so I always try to remind myself how awful it can get,” Webb said. “My colleagues bring it up again and again. They say, ‘Okay, will you quit if you win the million dollars,’ and I say, ‘No, I won’t quit’.”
For the competition, she first had to qualify for the top two in her daily round before going around $1 million in the final round.
“I’m going to really try to focus on my run before I go,” Webb said before the competition. “I really think I’m going to put everything in the hands of the Lord because ultimately, if it’s my time, then it’s my time.”
Her run of 2.68 seconds put her in second place, which would take her to the finals. But two women remained, and at the rodeo, the blink of an eye often decides a rider’s fate.
Right behind Webb was Jade Kinney, a Junior American Champion. The crowd gasped as she completed her run in a time of 2.67 seconds, 0.01 faster than Webb and enough to complete her $1 million ride.
“I compete against so many girls and they’re all tough,” Webb said. “It was a really fun ride. I’ll just try to rope up another one.”
Webb’s ride may be over, but it’s far from over.