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    LANCASTER—Many folks told Madison Fay Wagner this would not be a good year for her to run for the Miss California Rodeo title. At 19, they said, she was too young—most candidates are in their 20s—and they also told her there were too many other strong candidates.

    But the Valley Center native stuck to her plan and not only ran, she won the coveted title.

    “I was told that I didn’t have a chance,” says Wagner, who became eligible for the pagent last spring when she was named queen of the Valley Center PRCA Rodeo. “I took this as incentive to ride even more, study even harder, and practice, practice, practice. While advice is well-intentioned, it can also be misplaced. Have confidence in your ability and don’t underestimate yourself.”

    Madison Fay Wagner

    Madison Fay Wagner

    This year’s pageant was held Oct. 3-6 in conjunction with the California Circuit Finals Rodeo, and over the three-day pageant contestants were put through a variety of events including speech, modeling, written tests on rodeo knowledge, horsemanship, and interviews. Contestants also participated in live media interviews promoting the Circuit Finals Rodeo and various sponsors.

    Wagner finished first in the personality and appearance categories as well as the respective written test and speech awards. Perhaps the most challenging was the horsemanship category.
    “We got draw horses, so the horses that we competed on, we had never seen before, never ridden, never even touched,” said Wagner, who owns four Quarter Horses. “We were basically just handed a random horse, told our pattern that morning, and we had to go deliver a horsemanship pattern. You get five minutes to warm up before the pattern, and then you are thrown into the ring and told to ‘go for it.’ It’s kind of a one-shot deal.”

    How does a rider prepare for such a format? Practice, she says.

    “I had been practicing a lot with friends’ horses—and different horses that I just kind of went to their house and they let me ride them.”

    Her work paid off, as did her ability and confidence when her random mount proved a bit limited.

    “He did not want to pick up his right lead,” she says. “He was a roping horse, so he was really fond of the left lead. I just kind of stuck with it, brought him down, brought him back up—tried to get the lead, stick with it. I did my best on what I was given.”

    The judges noticed and gave her second place in horsemanship.

    The daughter of Valley Center Stampede members Billy and Medelyn Wagner, Madison is a lifelong equestrian active in the horse world. She is an equine veterinary assistant and gentles mustangs through the BLM Trainer Incentive Program. Next fall, she will transfer from Palomar College to California State University, San Marcos to complete a chemistry degree—preparing her to develop pharmaceuticals to treat mental illness.

    Growing up on her family’s ranch, she says she was never “a pageant girl.”

    “I was more of a tomboy,” she says. “My mom couldn’t keep me out of the dirt.”

    Her introduction to pageants came in 2012 when she ran for her first Young Miss title. The lady running the pageant was Mackenzie Cayford, who happened to be the 2012 Miss Rodeo California, and they became connected.

    “She told me, ‘you have to run for Miss California Rodeo when you’re older,’ “ recalls Wagner.

    Just as Cayford set the bar for Wagner, Wagner in turn fills that role for Junior Queen Kaylee Tate.

    “She is the sweetest girl in the entire world, and when I see her looking at me the same way I looked at Mackenzie, it inspires me to be a great role model however I can,” Wagner says.
    Her reign as Miss Rodeo California will commence Jan. 1, and it comes with a scholarship, belt buckle and saddle as well as the use of the Hunter Dodge Ram of the West truck and Golden West trailer, plus other prizes donated by sponsors. But she has already recognized intrinsic rewards that come with the challenge of competition.

    More online: http://bit.ly/811_queen

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