My name is Madison, also known as “Mustang Maddy” from my work with wild horses. I want to take a moment here to drop the curtain, so to speak, and just tell you the truth about my story in the hopes it may help you along your own journey.


I’ve been crazy about horses for as long as I can remember. However, limitations in my knowledge and skill level around horses, as well as suffering emotionally, led to some pretty big obstacles along the way. When I finally convinced my dad to get me a horse of my own at the age of 8, it wasn’t exactly the fairytale ending I’d imagined. I was bucked off, charged at, bolted off with, and kicked. My dad’s only advice was to get back on the horse that threw you (much to my mom’s horror, as she watched terrified from the sidelines!).

Well, my mom finally had enough of that rodeo! We changed our approach and went back to the market for a family safe, babysitter, reliable horse. After a few rounds of having different horses and the same results (it didn’t help I was always attracted to the especially wild ones), I became frustrated and got closer than ever to giving up on the dream I’d started this journey with.


“I hated the thought of giving up on the dream that got me out of bed each morning, but I didn’t know what else to try. Until, that is, I faced the hard truth–The problem wasn’t with the horses. Rather, the problem was with me. Once I came to this realization, I knew the course of action I needed to take to keep my dream alive!”

I began to frantically search for a solution by improving my knowledge and skillset. I was sure there was some way to get my horses to want to be with me as much as I wanted to be with them. The journey was long, rough road that required great sacrifices. Much of it consisted of learning through trial and error. In my quest, I rode as many horses as I could swing a leg over. When I wasn’t on a horse, I was poring over every book I could find about horses.

Then things started changing. In 2013 I trained my first wild horse. In 2015, I competed in my first Extreme Mustang Makeover, and presented my first bridleless freestyle performance after 100 days of gentling; it took the internet by storm. I entered the competition never having won a single thing with horses and left taking home the honors of Fan Favorite, Freestyle Champion, Rookie Champion, and Young Guns (Youth) Champion. For what felt like the first time in my life, I started believing in myself.

I went on to successfully train my first zebra that year; many professionals told me doing so was impossible. I also began starting colts in timed settings and won the first colt starting challenge I ever entered while competing against old-time cowboys with considerably more years under their belts.

In 2016 and 2017, I participated in makeovers again, continuing with my bridleless theme and taking two more freestyle championships. My 2017 competition, called “Mustang Magic” was especially successful. I started riding my mustang, Amira, during the first week of her training without any tack—she’d never even worn a halter before the first ride. Amira and I continued on our journey together to be named 2017 Mustang Magic Champions 100 days later.

By the fall of 2018, my training videos on Facebook had racked up a whopping 15 million hits. I found myself featured by Horse & Rider as a top “trainer on the rise,” published on the cover of COWGIRL magazine, featured as a special guest on Animal Planet, and traveling all over the world to share my training techniques–and passion for the mustangs–with others.

Sounds great, right? You’d probably be thinking I was at an all-time high during this time, but this still isn’t the fairytale ending you might expect. Although my career was at its peak, I was secretly facing an emotional all-time low. I tied my happiness and fulfillment with what I was capable of achieving. Not long after winning Mustang Magic, a long time dream of mine, I realized the “end of the rainbow” illusion that had been. I could win all the competitions in the world and after the high wore off, I still wouldn’t feel like I was enough. So behind the scenes, I was battling my own inner demons. I faced severe depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and overwhelming self-rejection after years of suppressing a past scarred by rape and one toxic relationship after another. The pain of daily tasks, and especially performing and traveling, became too much to bear. And for the very first time in my life, not even the horses, my deepest, most burning passion and sense of purpose, could get me out of bed… and that’s when I got really scared. I put everything on pause and decided I needed to heal myself if there was any hope of me continuing my work with the horses and with others.

“It’s been quite the journey, and I am still learning more every day about horses and about healing. I am now grateful for the challenges I’ve faced along my own path, seeing how they all worked to show me the lessons I needed to be where I am now.”

I truly believe our darkest moments are our tickets to transformation if we can surrender our resistance to the lessons that they bring to us and find the courage to travel inwards. The challenges I’ve faced have allowed me to have compassion for others who struggle in their own ways and to develop a pathway for my students that hopefully makes this journey easier for them.

My struggles have also allowed me to take my understanding of the horse-human connection to a much deeper level that I am now thirsty to share with others. I always felt there was something “missing” in other horsemanship and training programs. Or something I tasted on the surface but wanted more of. For me, it was the realization that the magic with our horses doesn’t necessarily lie in what we can teach them, but rather what they can teach us. The horse (and mustang in particular) is a powerful teacher and healer; she reminds us of our inner freedom and authentic, wild self. It’s not just about the horses; it’s about how the horses can allow us to become more aware, more compassionate, and more responsible as human beings.

It’s hard to believe that not that long ago I was laying in the dirt after getting bucked off for the umpteenth time and running under the fence to avoid being charged at, about to give up on my dream of having a connection with horses altogether! And that even less time ago, I was doubting whether my life was even worth living. Now, I’m committed to impacting as many lives as possible by sharing what I’ve learned (and continue to learn) through my work with wild horses and zebras. I teach people a fundamental understanding of how horses think, feel, behave, communicate and interact in a way that allows them to build a healthy relationship with their horse–One that is built on understanding, compassion, and mutual respect. My goal is that this ripples out into the way my students approach relationships with other humans and with themselves, ultimately bringing more awareness and connection to our planet.

I work towards serving this mission through my newly released Mustang Maddy Academy, which includes a membership program, case studies of mustangs I’ve trained and rehabilitated, in-depth training courses, and on-campus immersion style learning opportunities here at my ranch in southwestern Colorado. I’ve found that through the Academy’s on-line learning opportunities, especially, I can maximize my time and impact as many horses and humans as possible. Please say hi over on Instagram or Facebook, as I love to hear what your selected form of learning is bringing up for you and the lessons you are learning along your own horsemanship/healing journey!

Wherever your own journey takes you, remember that you are worth it. You were brought to this world for a reason and a purpose much bigger than yourself. And you are not drawn to the horse by accident. There is something she is needing to teach you. We teach the horse, but at the same time, the horse teaches us. Understand that teacher and student are not separated.

I know what it’s like to be frustrated and saddened by the thought of giving up your dream with horses all together. I know there are challenging times and pain that seems inescapable, never-ending, and all consuming. But my story is proof that you can survive. And not just survive, but come out of your struggle transformed into a better horseman, horsewoman, and even human being.

“Commit to your journey along with me–If you are being tested the horse is telling you it is time. Transformation is possible and changing the world starts with changing ourselves. The horses, humans, and the world need you now more than ever, friend!”

Much Love,


Running Wild: Mustang Maddy

by Abigail Boatwright of Horse&Rider | September 17, 2019

It’s not often you meet a person who has an uncanny communication with horses, at least with five American mustangs at once…

Meet Mustang Maddy: The Female Horse Whisperer

by Stacy Lorton of COWGIRL | January 9, 2018

Cowgirls… if you don’t yet know about Mustang Maddy, it’s time to get educated! Taken from Maddy’s official Facebook page, “Madison Shambaugh…

Lee Lee Robert and Mustang Maddy

by Equestrian Legacy Radio | March 15, 2018

Mustang Maddy (Madison Shambaugh) joins us on Equestrian Legacy Radio’s SADDLE UP AMERICA …

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on Animal Planet | July 2018

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