Madeline Luddy is Learning, Growing, and Moving Up in the Desert

Maddie Luddy and Triple Crown

By Irene Elise Powlick

There aren’t many 12-year-old riders who have been to multiple national championships, have countless wins to their name, and ride in all three rings, but Madeline “Maddie” Luddy is one of the few. Thanks to her very seasoned Medium Pony Hunter mount (see him in Golden Oldies: Truly Noble and Northwind Just Josh’N Reaffirm That Age is Just A Number) Northwind Just Josh’N, Maddie is learning and growing, and starting to move onto horses.

Maddie’s mom, Nancy Butano, got Maddie into riding. Butano grew up riding and met Traci Barmen Brooks when she was a young rider. She became a working student for her and continued riding with Brooks through her early amateur years. “I’ve done hunters, jumpers, and equitation—a bit of everything on a lot of different horses,” said Butano. 

Maddie Luddy and Northwind Just Josh’N. Photo by Nancy Butano

Maddie started riding when she was around three years old and moved up the ranks from the poles, to crossrails, then the small ponies with CL Blue Angel and then into the medium pony hunters with Northwind Just Josh’N, who are both still ridden and shown by Maddie. “I’ve had Josh for about 3 years, and he is a great help! He has taken me to pony finals three years in a row in the Medium [Pony Hunters],” explained Maddie. “Josh is 23 years old this year, and he really helps me go to the jumps. He is the best!” 

As Maddie is now growing both in height and as a rider, she has started to ride and show some horses. “I actually took my mom’s two horses, Theo and Leo,” she laughed.

Theo (Triple Crown) will stick to the 2’9” and 3’ hunters and equitation, while Maddie has hopes of Leo 425 being her equitation mount for the 3’6” classes in the future. “Theo is very easygoing, happy-go-lucky. And Leo is just a cool dude and cruises around; nothing affects him,” said Butano. 

In addition to her new hunter and equitation mounts, Maddie has begun to get her feet wet in the .80m jumper classes with Bonhomme, or “Bono” for short. “He has a big black spot on his body so everyone recognizes him around the horse show. He’s very sweet, like a pony!” While Maddie has only been showing Bono since December, she has racked up plenty of results, getting placings in nearly every class and even a win in their very first classic together. 

Maddie and her mom, Nancy Butano, review a course before heading into the ring.

For training, Maddie has quite the team behind her. Butano trains her daughter most of the time at home and is involved with the management of their horses, but at the shows, Maddie meets up with Brooks, her mom’s childhood trainer. “She also used to ride and she’s been a trainer for a long time, and I just like the way she teaches! I learn a lot from her!” said Maddie. When asked what Brooks teaches her, Maddie explained that Brooks helps her break some of her bad habits.

Additionally, when the family was stuck at their Oregon farm and couldn’t show because of the pandemic, Jeff Cook was brought in to help Maddie. “He got her really dialed in for the equitation, getting her leg strong and her thumbs up,” explained Butano. Maddie agreed that both trainers help a lot, “It’s nice to have another set of eyes on me.” 

Maddie and CL Blue Angel horsing around

With a busy show schedule, Maddie has recently switched to Pearson Academy, an online school by Connections Academy, which affords her more flexibility to travel and show. “I like doing online school, it definitely makes horse showing easier,” she said.

With plenty of mounts and a flexible schedule, Maddie has her eyes set on both short- and long-term goals. For the rest of the winter circuit, she aims to move up with her horses and continue bringing along her green pony. “Hopefully I can move up on Leo to the 3’3” and higher. We also have a large pony named Remy, and I’m hoping to show him. He’s a green pony, and he’s very fancy and fun!” she said.

As always, Pony Finals are on the schedule for the summer, and she hopes to qualify for some medal finals in the fall. Maddie also hopes to eventually go to the 3’6” national medal finals, including the USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final and the ASPCA Maclay Finals, as well as continue to progress in the jumper ring. 

Life isn’t always a whirlwind of showing and blue ribbons, though. Luddy’s family has 20 acres in Bend, Oregon called Copper Lane Farm, as well as a farm in Thermal, California, only a few minutes from the horse show. “[Living on the farm] is really nice. I can go out and don’t have to drive anywhere to go ride,” said Maddie. “Whenever we have snow outside [in Oregon], we can hop on the ponies with their blankets on and run around in the snow. It’s a lot of fun, and I like living on the farm.”