What started as a childhood love of horses has turned recent Alta High graduate Madison Bigler into an award-winning champion.
After five years of riding and training her horses to compete in dressage competitions, Bigler has won several prestigious awards, including first place in the country at her level in her age group and the bronze medal from the United States Dressage Federation.
Beyond all of those awards, Bigler says her favorite part of competing and training her two horses is having a connection with her animals. She rides four or five times a week, and visits her horses every day, rain or shine. For her, taking care of them is a labor of love.
“I love the fact that each of (the horses) has their own personality,” Bigler said. “And you’ve got this thousand-pound animal that will listen to you. … I look forward to going to the barn every day and hearing them talking. They know who I am, and that is very cool.”
Bigler, who plans to attend the University of Utah this fall and study to be an animal doctor, knows her horses so well she can tell when one is having a good day or if one is feeling stubborn. Dressage is a highly disciplined sport that requires the animal to be attentive to its rider, so knowing when to push and when to back off can be key.
“When the communication (between horse and rider) is right, it helps the horse get through the harder parts of the training,” Bigler says. “A lot of it is ‘speed up, slow down,’ … but it’s based on the rider and what horse you’re getting on.”
Bigler started riding horses when she was 7 years old, thanks, in part, to her father’s love of animals. At one point, he owned a pet store. Now, her parents are firmly on “Team Bigler,” attending each of their daughter’s shows despite the fact that her mother is allergic to all of the hay and dust that come with horses and horse competitions.
“I was the horse-crazy kid and I never grew out of it,” Bigler said. “My parents were really hoping I would grow out of it … but I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. They’re my big support system.”