Mountain Home, Ark., high school student’s love for horses wins her high honors

What started out as a little girl with a horse story has evolved into the tale of a youngster growing into a fine strong young adult.

Maddie Grothe, 17, is a native of Mountain Home, Ark. She attends Mountain Home High School and like many other students her age, is looking ahead to college. While school is an important facet of her life, the time she spends out of school is just as important, if not more so.

While living in the family home in Buford, 8-year-old Maddie got a bay Quarter Horse gelding she calls Coyote. The horse was 4 at the time. But because there was no room at her home to keep him, Coyote was boarded at a nearby farm. There she could only ride in the corral.

The family soon purchased a 40-acre parcel close to their original home and converted a pole barn into a home. Coyote made the move, too. Because the duo was together much more, they began, in Maddie’s words, “to gel.”

Soon she was competing at shows and rodeos. But the connection proved vital when Maddie’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. “He helped me so much with my anxiety going through that,” she said. “He was my therapy.”

And there is more bright news. “Mom is really doing good now,” Maddie said. “She fought it and she won.” The bay gelding is still Maddie’s confidante, friend and therapy, though.

When Maddie entered high school, she started taking agriculture classes, especially liking animal science. Her other favorite topic is science.

Maddie filled out the paperwork for an FFA Equine Placement Proficiency award in her sophomore year, but as a junior, she said, she was much better able to explain what she had done and accomplished during the year.

“I really buckled down my junior year,” she said. When she went to the state FFA Convention, she had no idea she had placed first in the state in equine placement. That entitled her to go on to the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, held Oct.26-30, and compete there. She was beat out by a young lady from Texas who trains and sells ranch and roping horses. Maddie was one of four national finalists from around the nation.

But it isn’t all horses for Maddie.

She also has dogs, chickens and raised show a lamb this year. That lamb placed first in its class at the Baxter County (Ark.) Fair and third overall. It also placed first in its class at the district show in Harrison, Ark. She took it to the state fair, where it placed first in its class the first day.

“But not so well the second day. The judge tuned in to the really powerful lambs,” she said, while acknowledging she understood the reasoning behind the decision.

She had also raised a pen of meat birds, which placed eighth overall in the broiler division. In addition, Maddie participates in career development events through the FFA. Last year she was on the state-wining veterinary science team and has also been part of the horse-judging team, as well as the poultry team.

This year she is part of the agronomy team, where the members identify field crops, equipment, insects and diseases common to those crops.

Outside of school and FFA, Maddie is a busy young lady.

She has shadowed multiple veterinarians, and at one time considered a career as in veterinary medicine herself. “But the intensity of vet school just isn’t what I am looking for,” she admitted. She also volunteers at Good Samaritan Assisted Living and enjoys the opportunity there to help others.

In a time when it isn’t uncommon to hear of teenagers in trouble, Maddie credits her FFA advisers, Josh Baker and Brandon Lewis, with a helping her remember what is important.

“My ag teacher, Mr. Baker, pushed me to do what I didn’t think I could do. Everyone needs a great ag teacher in their life. If they’re lucky, they can have two of them, like me,” she said.

She also is grateful her older brother was there as a good influence.

“It’s all about the people you have around you,” she said.

With her brother as an example, Maddie also hunts – several of her trophies hang on the walls of her living room – fishes and loves to kayak.

“The rivers and creeks around here, I grew up on the waters. I know them like the back of my hand,” she said.

Maddie’s plans for the future include two years at Arkansas State University at Mountain Home. Her tuition there will be taken care of as part of the Promise Project, a scholarship program for Mountain Home High School students who attend ASUMH. With her foundation credits accomplished, she hopes to move on to College of the Ozarks near Branson, Mo.

Because any free time she has outside school, volunteering and caring for her livestock is spent outdoors, Maddie may pursue a career in wildlife biology and hasn’t ruled out becoming a game warden. But helping people is a strong pull, too. Becoming a mental health counselor is also on the short list for Maddie.

She said having Coyote to care for helped develop that side of her personality.

“It’s important for someone to have something to take care of. It teaches responsibility, taking care of another living being. It makes me better at school, and has taught me empathy and responsibility,” she added.


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