Though she was born and raised on South Whidbey, it wasn’t until she went away to school that Anne Madsen discovered her affinity for roping and rodeo. Four years after graduation, she’s back home, and hosting a rodeo at the Whidbey Island Fair, Friday, July 26 at 6 PM.

“Last year the fair asked me to put on a roping clinic,” Madsen said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I called the kids in my roping class—there was a huge interest, and we had a big turnout. They said we need to figure out how to get a rodeo going. This year, I wracked my brain to see what can we do to showcase rodeo. We came up with three events that were friendly for kids and adults.”

This is the first rodeo–after a long absence–in the fair’s 99-year history. For Friday’s event at the fair, Madsen chose rodeo sports such as barrel racing—where horse and rider race in a cloverleaf pattern around barrels; roping competitions; and pull-the-ribbon from a goat’s tail.

Anne Madsen ropes a calf dummy

An extra bonus at the end: a rodeo rescue race, in which the rider races and picks up an additional rider as the horse circles a barrel. The technique was perfected during  times of war, when horses rescued injured soldiers from the field and brought them to safety.

When asked about the welfare of the calves used for roping, Madsen said they’re trained for the sport and are used to the work.

Anne Madsen competes in a breakaway roping of a calf at a previous rodeo. Photo shared by Anne Madsen

“The calves are bred and used for roping…they’re very tough animals,” she said. “Whidbey Farm and Market up in Oak Harbor provides us with dairy calves. We like to rope dairy cows.”

Meanwhile, Madsen recalled her near-instant affinity for rodeo once she experienced it.

Attending Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Madsen—who competed in baseball and volleyball before graduating in 2015 from South Whidbey High School—enrolled  at Central to earn a special education teaching degree. At first she considered playing for the school’s volleyball team, and found rodeo instead.

“My friend said you should come to rodeo practice,” Madsen said. “I picked up a rope and said, ‘Why haven’t I done this before?’”

Madsen began competing in Northwest professional rodeos and still does, as a member of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association with the Columbia River circuit. Now that she’s back on Whidbey living on her family’s land, Madsen and her husband Joe Goss have started their own Western riding and roping arena, A&J Western Riding.

Lassoing a calf dummy on the first try, Anne Madsen is in her element competing in professional rodeo. She and her husband Joe Goss have started their own Western riding and roping school, A&J Western Riding in Clinton

“I started my own business because I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to be a part of rodeo and learn a sport that has really given back to me,” Madsen said. “I thought about how do we get rodeo here and not have to travel to learn the skills. I started teaching roping. I put on roping clinics here during the winter. It was the biggest one, so far—15 people. It was a blast.”

Madsen’s grandma Myrna Bradley lives on the family compound and influenced her granddaughter’s early love of riding horses.

“My grandma was a barrel racer and a rodeo queen from Idaho,” Madsen said. “She ended up moving to the island. She taught me everything I know. She always encouraged her kids and grandkids to be involved with horses. I rode horses my whole life. Horses are amazing.”

Reggie, a 15-year-old quarter horse bay roan, is her favorite roping horse.

Feisty, Anne and Reggie under a willow tree on family property, which hosts a riding and roping business A&J Western Riding

“I got him six years ago,” Madsen said. “He was roping some. When I got him, I started teaching him breakaway roping. It’s a popular women’s sport to rope a calf as fast you as can. You’re in the shoot, and the calf is released, you rope the calf around the neck and a rope breaks away from the saddle.”

Feisty, a 25-year-old paint horse, will also perform at the fair’s rodeo.

Feisty the horse and Anne Madsen share a moment

Feisty, Reggie and other rodeo horses will open the rodeo in a grand entry, bearing flags from the rodeo sponsors: Madsen Enterprises, Whidbey Coffee, Eagle Builders, Sebo’s Do-it Center, Frontier Paint, and Hanson’s Building Supply.

Teaching comes easily to Madsen, which accounts for the many students who come to her to learn roping techniques—it’s easy to learn from someone who loves what they are teaching. After graduating from Central, she taught students in special education for two years in Mt. Vernon and a year in Oak Harbor.

Madsen looks forward to expanding her riding and roping classes at home.

“We have five—soon to be six—horses on the property,” Madsen said. “So many families who can’t own horses– our work gives them opportunities to be part of the horse community. That what Central did for me. I didn’t compete until then.”

Anne Madsen is in her element when roping calves and performing in rodeo

Check out the rodeo Friday, July 26 at 6 PM at the Whidbey Island Fairgrounds Horse Arena. Could be roping is in your future. Contact the Fair for more information: 360-221-4677.

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