At home in the saddle

Published 5:11 pm Thursday, July 3, 2008

Madison Waddell of Wilsonville trotted away with two blue ribbons and her first silver piece at the Chattanooga-Cleveland Charity Horse Show June 21.

This was Madison’s first major show in the American Saddlebread division — a division recognized for the beauty and showmanship of the horses.

“The horse has a lot of motions it does with its legs, because it steps so high,” Madison said. “I think its just really pretty and the horses are so sweet. I trust them and they trust me.”

The 8-year-old rode CH Viper in the competition. The CH in Viper’s name designates that he is a champion horse — one of two champions out of the 40 horses housed at the James Hale Stables in Chelsea. The Waddell’s began leasing CH Viper from Jeff and Valeria Hall of Cummings, Ga. earlier this year because although CH Viper had matured and was prepared to step down from adult competition, he still possessed a lot of spirit.

“He is just not ready to retire yet, and we are excited about this new chapter in his show career,” said stable owner and trainer Jackie Hale.

The American Saddlebred horses are natural competitors, Hale said.

“They are very showy — they hold their head up high and have lots of presence and athletic ability,” Hale said.

Known as the ‘Peacocks of the Show Ring’, they enjoy performing for a crowd.

For Madison, the judges watch to see if she can pull all of her riding skills together. They look to see if she holds her arms and legs correctly and if she sits up tall in the saddle. They also want to know that she can handle her horse and keep their composure when asked to do each gait.

Madison began taking lessons before she turned 4. Now, after more than four years of riding lessons, she knows her way around the ring and the stable.

“You don’t have to win the blues to enjoy this competition,” said Madison’s mom Debra Waddell. “She has made tons of friends, and it’s not just riding. She’s learned how to brush him and take care of him.”

Madison knows that it’s her responsibility to get CH Viper ready for a ride and that when practice is over its her job to wash and brush the dirt off his coat. She also knows when James and Jackie bring a new horse to the stable its important to observe his or her stall manners and make sure they like kids.

“These are the kind of horses that you shouldn’t scare, so when my friends visit the stable with me I tell them you have to use a really calm voice,” Madison said.

And, of course, maybe pass along a few peppermints — a treat CH Viper and Madison enjoy after a good practice.

Madison won blue ribbons in the 10 and Under Walk and Trot Equitation and the UPHA 10 and under Challenge Cup. The Challenge Cup win qualifies her to show in the national finals at the American Royal horse show in Kansas City, Mo. in November. Madison said she is ready for the challenge and for working to compete in the World competition in Kentucky next year. Hale said there is always another show to try your skills.

“You can start doing this as a kid and do this your whole life,” Hale said. “There’s always another horse around the corner ready to teach you something new.”

Madison also hopes to one day translate this love of big animals into a career as a veterinarian.