Rodeo Queen Assists Beyond Boundaries

Mattison Gafner has been riding horses since she was seven. She competed in her first rodeo queen pageant when she was ten. Now as reigning Teen Miss Rodeo of the Mid-South and Arkansas State Fair Junior Rodeo Queen, she is turning her attention toward helping a non-profit she has come to care for very much—Beyond Boundaries.
A couple of years ago, as the reigning Junior Miss Rodeo Arkansas, Mattison was asked to give out client awards at the Beyond Boundaries Family Day. Beyond Boundaries is a non-profit center that utilizes horses as a therapy tool to increase motor, sensory, speech and behavior/social responses. It was at that time that she met many of the clients and became acquainted with the people who work at the center.
Mattison said, “Beyond Boundaries gives kids with any disability the chance to get to do something other kids get to do. They get to go outside the classroom and receive therapy through riding and other activities.”
This past year, Mattison heard that the Beyond Boundaries board members wanted to purchase a horse trailer to be used by the center. She decided that she wanted to do something to help.
“I figured if I could raise $6,800 for a pageant in Texas, why couldn’t I raise money for a horse trailer in Arkansas?” Mattison explained.
Mattison scheduled a meeting with the Beyond Boundaries leadership and then began meeting with several business owners in the Central Arkansas area. She created a sponsorship packet that she distributes when she meets with potential sponsors, and has reached out to sister rodeo queens in Northwest Arkansas and the Crossett Area to help her promote the project.
Trailer Country, which is one of the sponsors, has already been given a check to purchase the trailer. Mattison plans to present the trailer to Beyond Boundaries at its annual fundraiser, “The Mane Event,” on October 7. She is also raising funds to help the non-profit with the cost of the trailer insurance, a banner to recognize the sponsors and shirts for the patients.
Mattison, 15, is the daughter of Steve and Tracy Gafner. This past year, she was an honor student enrolled in pre-AP classes at the Vilonia Freshman Academy. She was active in FBLA, FCCLA and Beta Club. She will be a sophomore at Vilonia High School this fall.
Competing in rodeo queen pageants is something Mattison has wanted to do since 2013, after watching her trainer give up her title as Arkansas State Fair Rodeo Queen. Her trainer let her try the crown on her hat and she was hooked. Less than a year later, she won Junior Miss Rodeo Arkansas. She has also held the titles of Miss Rodeo Old Fort Days Princess, Teen Miss Vilonia and Faulkner County Jr. Fair Queen.
Mattison also competes in barrel racing, pole bending and reining events at local rodeos and horse shows. She has several horses, including Skeeter, her reining and horsemanship horse, and Jazz, her primary horse. She also performs with the Crossroads Angels at the Two Bar Two Arena during the family rodeo each month in El Paso, AR.
Participating in pageants has given Mattison a lot of experience in public speaking. “Pageants have put her far ahead in the area of public speaking,” said her mother, Tracy Gafner. “She has to put herself out there to meet the requirements, so it has enhanced her abilities.”
Last year, she and her teammate, Jordan Thomas, won their division for team demonstrative speech at the State and Southern Regional 4-H competitions. She also served as president of her local 4-H chapter, Saddles and Spurs in Vilonia last year.
Mattison plans to compete in more pageants once her current reigns end this fall. Her goal is to eventually become Miss Rodeo Arkansas and compete for Miss Rodeo America. Contestants in these pageants must be 19 to 26 years old.
One of the requirements of many pageants is that contestants have a “platform.” Mattison is already working on a presentation called “Ignore, block, delete and tell” which focuses on internet safety and measures to prevent cyber bullying. She is developing variations of the presentation so she can adapt it to different age audiences.
Mattison will also continue to practice her horsemanship skills as the patterns she must execute in the rodeo queen pageants will become increasingly more complicated as she competes at a higher level. Contestants must take their horses through reining patterns and rail work.
In September, Mattison will head back to Southaven, Mississippi to hand over her crown to the next Teen Miss Rodeo of the Mid-South. The pageant is held every year as part of the Mid-South Fair and PRCA Rodeo. On October 21, she will give up her Junior Rodeo Queen title at the Arkansas State Fair. Two weeks later, she will compete in her next pageant.