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Rodeo: A force on a horse

West Ranch junior to compete at nationals in equestrian sport

Posted: July 14, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 14, 2011 1:55 a.m.

West Ranch junior Chrissy Madgwick and her horse Johny try to prevent a cow from rejoining the herd during a horse cutting competition. Madgwick won the California High School Rodeo Association state title.

 

Chrissy Madgwick has spent a good portion of the summer at Lake Hughes in the northern part of the Angeles National Forest.

No, she isn’t vacationing, camping or going on hikes.

The West Ranch junior heads to the family-owned rodeo practice facility in Lake Hughes nearly every day leading up to National High School Finals Rodeo competition opening this weekend in Gillette, Wyo.

Madgwick, 16, earned the invitation to the nationwide contest after winning the California High School Rodeo Association state championship in the girls horse cutting event.

“It was really, really exciting and it was such a great experience and I hope to come back the next two years,” Madgwick said.

Her overall score of 55 points beat Jenna Drammer’s 49.5 in event last month in Bishop, which included 45 girls from around the state.

Madgwick can’t be given all the credit, though. Cutting is a partnership sport.

Madgwick’s partner is Johny, a 16-year old quarter horse described as “very quirky.”

Johny is the perfect kind of animal for the sport because it requires sharp instincts and patience on the part of both the horse and the rider.

In competition, riders are given 2 minutes and 30 seconds to guide two cows from a herd individually and prevent the cows from returning to the herd thereafter.

“It’s a very challenging sport because its very technical,” said Madgwick’s mother Barbie. “It’s hard to tell just by watching just how technical a sport it is. It takes years and years to train a cutting horse.”

The scoring is all by judgement, which is based on the style, the quietness of the horse and the length of time the cows are held off.

Competition at nationals begins on Monday for Chrissy, and she continues to make the trip from her home in Castaic Lake to Lake Hughes in order to keep her and Johny’s timing sharp as well as keeping the horse in shape.

More than anything, she has to maintain a strong relationship with Johny.

“You have to understand your horse, your horse has to understand you. He has to understand the emotions you make,” Chrissy said. “He has to understand what communications you’re trying to make with him. I have an amazing connection with my horse.”

Chrissy has worked with several horses in her cutting career, which began at age 8.

She and the rest of her family also take part in family competitions year-round while Chrissy balances frequent high school contests throughout the school year.

Chrissy’s busy schedule takes her all around the state to compete at venues in Lancaster, Paso Robles, Hesperia and Plymouth, to name a few.

“If you want to be competitive, you pretty much have to put everything in,” Barbie said.

She could get a lot out of it too.

Chrissy’s two older sisters, Tara and Megan, have almost entirely paid for their college educations with scholarships earned in rodeo competition.

Chrissy is well on her way to following her sisters’ paths.

Her mind is centered on next week, though, when she takes her talents to the national stage.

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