Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites

Bull Mountain girl, horse make winning combination


Maddie Fiorante and her quarter horse ride their way into record season

by: JAIME VALDEZ - Maddie Fiorante and her quarter horse, Denny, won the overall circuit championship for Novice Youth at the 2012 Summer Classic. The pair won a Bob's saddle, as well as a buckle and various other prizes. She also competed in the 'Champion of Champions' class.Tigard High School freshman Maddie Fiorante is a champion.

The 15-year-old Bull Mountain girl recently completed her first season of showing her American Quarter Horse, Denny, and the two amassed an impressive amount of awards, including a Bob’s saddle, buckles and various other prizes.

Fiorante will be honored by the Oregon Quarter Horse Association during a banquet in January, where she will accept the 2012 Novice Youth All-Around Rider Award in the 14 to 18 age category. The award is based on total points accumulated at all the OQHA shows for the entire year.

Going places

Horse and rider have been training together since September 2011, when Fiorante was on the hunt for an experienced quarter horse to help her enter a new arena of competition.

Fiorante spent three years competing with the Pony of the Americas breed and was ready to tackle a new challenge.

“I was looking for a good all-around, a horse who had been there and who could take me places,” she recalled. “That’s exactly what Denny’s done.”

Quarter horses are a competitive breed, Fiorante explained.

“It was a really big change for me to step into this field of horses and serious athletes,” she said. “I knew the expectations would be even higher.”

Having a great horse as her partner proved to be the key to a successful transition.

“The first time I rode Denny, he was such a good boy,” she recalled.

“We just clicked. He is such a well-trained horse. He’s got a good brain.”

Denny’s experience, along with Fiorante’s natural talent of working with ponies and horses alike, proved to be a winning combination.

Fiorante and Denny compete in all-around events, including showmanship, English and Western equitation (the art of horsemanship, specifically a rider’s position while mounted), English and Western pleasure, trail (where they navigate a series of obstacles) and Western riding.

When the two step into the arena, Fiorante said it’s “game on.”

“It’s cool to see him stare down a challenge,” she said. “He is the most willing horse. He does everything I ask of him. We are both excited to compete.”

Top of the game

In the OQHA Summer Classic, the team won the overall circuit champion for Novice Youth and competed in the “Champion of Champions” class.

During the Oregon State Fair, the two competed in showmanship, Western equitation and hunt seat equitation, where they earned the highest score of each class and advanced to the Medallion class, which is the final round of competition.

More recently, Fiorante and Denny traveled to Las Vegas for the American Quarter Horse Association Novice Championship. They competed in halter, showmanship, Western pleasure, Western riding and Western equitation and made the finals in the top 20 out of more than 100 competitors in each class.

“This show put in perspective what the world show will be like (in 2014),” Fiorante said. “Competing against so many talented riders, you really have to be on top of your game — there is no room for error at that level.

“The novice show was a great experience and so much fun.”

Love, apples and care

Fiorante’s mother, Terri Rise, is the first to admit that her daughter could live in a barn if given the choice. As it is, Fiorante doesn’t miss a day in caring for her horse.

Ever since Fiorante first stepped into a stall one Christmas Eve to find a pony named Chloe awaiting her, the Bull Mountain girl has learned the commitment and responsibility that comes with ownership.

“It’s a huge commitment,” Fiorante said. “You need to keep them exercised and fit. You also need to spend time, not just ride.”

While Chloe now has a new home, making sure Denny knows he is loved is Fiorante’s top priority.

“His happiness comes before everything else,” she said. “He’s always happy to work, but I also want him to be a horse.”

“They are a really good team,” Rise noted as she watched her daughter praise Denny after a ride.

The two share a unique bond, she added.

“I found horses and it was like I belonged,” Fiorante admitted. “There is something about communicating with an animal that is 10 times your weight and having a bond with them. It’s more than a sport — it’s amazing. It’s a passion.

“It’s the most accomplishing feeling ever, knowing you are doing something really well that you love.”

Looking ahead, Fiorante and Denny are already making improvements for the 2013 season. The freshman also plans to compete with the Oregon High School Equestrian Team for Tigard High School.

“I am super excited for that,” Fiorante said. “My goal is to ride for a NCAA college.”