Back by Popular Demand: Madison McDonald at the 75th Chief Joseph Days Rodeo


Madison McDonald for 75th Chief Joseph Days

By Katy Nesbitt
Photography by Angelika Ursula Dietrich  – Wild Horses Thunder

At 28 years of age, Madison MacDonald is one of the World’s Top Equestrian Athletes in her arena. Born and raised just south of Calgary Alberta Canada but now calls Stephenville Texas home.

A seasoned entertainer with over 21 years of experience under her belt, Madison has had amazing opportunities to perform across Canada, the United States and Mexico at World Renown Events and Rodeos.

She has been selected as 7X NFR Contract Act and has had the honor of performing at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas since the age 18.

Madison not only spends her time Trick Riding. When she is not on the road she spends her time going down the road as a WPRA Barrel Racer, Team Roping, Training Horses, Teaching Lessons and spending time with all her animals and family!

Here is the full interview from 2018
by Katy Nesbitt

This year Chief Joseph Days Rodeo presents a specialty act not to be missed – trick rider Madison McDonald-Thomas.

In rodeo cowboys ride rough stock at one end of the arena and highly trained roping horses at the other – it’s the middle of the arena where the women of rodeo really shine running barrels, drill team patterns and grand entry run-ins. This year McDonald-Thomas brings one more act of horsewoman talent to the Harley Tucker Arena – the thrill and elegance of trick riding.

McDonald-Thomas was just finishing six performances at the Ponoka Stampede in Canada when she took a break at a laundromat to talk about her profession. A native of the Province of Alberta she said her next stop was the Calgary Stampede before heading back to the states for rodeos in Utah and Oregon.

As a pre-school age girl, McDonald-Thomas said she accompanied her mother to the Wild West shows she organized for the Calgary Stampede.

Mesmerized by the trick riders she started taking lessons when she was six and performing at eleven.

“Mom and Dad put more miles on the road taking me to lessons and performances,” McDonald said. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am.”

By the time she was 18 she was invited to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, but it was a performance in Texas that drew out the true cowgirl in her, where she now makes her home.

I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” McDonald Thomas said.

She was accepted at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas and attended the school for a few years until she could no longer juggle her profession and still show up to class. She eventually chose to focus on her work, but Stephenville remains home base.

“Stephenville is cowboy capital,” McDonald Thomas said. “A ton of us PRCA contract acts are within 30 minutes of each other. It’s the big rodeo community that makes me feel at home when I go back down there.”

Despite the incredible distance, McDonald’s ties to Canada are strong. She said her mother serves as her secretary and helps design her costumes.

“Last year my parents came to watch me in Great Falls and ended up staying for all five days. My Dad helped in the arena every performance. I told him, I knew you’d miss it eventually’,” McDonald Thomas said.

In recent years her husband, Keegan Thomas, is her main support in the arena.

“He does a lot of stuff in the arena for us – he’s our second set of eyes,” McDonald Thomas said.

When she isn’t performing, McDonald Thomas said she spends a lot of time teaching.  “Teaching helps me stay sharp and strong because I am always having to go over the basics. I can get burned out on teaching – performing is what it’s all about.”

A consummate horsewoman, McDonald Thomas said in her limited spare time she races barrels at PRCA rodeos.

Check out McDonald Thomas during each night at Chief Joseph Days Rodeo. Video of her performances are on her website or find her on Facebook at Madison McDonald-Trick Riding.

©Katy Nesbitt – All Rights Reserved
Photography ©Angelika Ursula Dietrich – All Rights Reserved

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ANGELIKA URSULA DIETRICH, owner and publisher of Wild Horses Thunder and Wild Horses Media Productions, is a professional Freelance Photographer, Videographer, Publisher, Writer, Social Media Consultant, and Website Developer.

Angelika's photography work has been displayed on the front cover of Idaho Magazine (2022), the Nimiipuu Tribal Tribune, Cowboy Lifestyle Network (2021), Cowboys & Indians (2016 & 2018), and in various Oregon and Washington entertainment and vacation publications, Chief Joseph Days Rodeo Program and website (2012-2020), at Art Gallery Festivals, private businesses, as well as for display advertisement for many clients in and out of Wallowa County including the Wallowa County Chieftain (2003-2007).

Between 2007 and 2009, Angelika worked in radio as the news and sports director for owners Lee and Carol Lee Perkins at KWVR Radio in Enterprise, Oregon. After the station was sold, she created Wallowa Valley Online, an independent online news magazine publishing and writing news and engaging in photojournalism.

After ten years of Wallowa Valley Online, Angelika decided to concentrate more on her photography & video productions, and cover and write human interest stories on Wild Horses Thunder - The studio & journal, and volunteer at the Nez Perce Wallowa Homeland.

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Katy Nesbitt's accolades include the Capital Press, Oregon Cattlemen Association, La Grande Observer, East Oregonian, Wild Horses Thunder (formerly Wallowa Valley Online), and Chief Joseph Days Rodeo.

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