Young rider Madison Rafacz and her now-8-year-old gelding Whizenboonsmal took home the 2019 NRHA Limited Non Pro World Championship.
By Kaycie Timm
Most riders would consider themselves lucky to own a once-in-a-lifetime horse at some point in their career. Madison Rafacz has owned two—and she’s only 12.
“I didn’t think I’d ever be able to replace my old horse, Dunit For The Money,” Madison shared. “When I got [Whizenboonsmal], our first two shows were not the best, and after that he was just perfect—from then until today. I love him, and I think he’s super-special.”
Although they didn’t originally set out to win a world title, the young rider and Whizenboonsmal (Peptoleap x She Whiz A Star), fondly called “Peter,” had an incredible 2019 season. The pair racked up win after win, culminating in the 2019 NRHA Limited Non Pro World Championship.
“I don’t know that we had a bad show all year,” Madison remarked. “I just kept showing, and he kept being good.”
Their winning streak lasted through the duration of 2019, allowing Madison to achieve several milestones as she earned major titles with her 2012 gelding. At the Bill Bradley Reining Classic in July, Madison marked her all-time high score—a 222—winning the non pro maturity and three levels of the ancillary non pro. Another highlight was the 2019 Adequan® North American Affiliate Championship Show, where Madison and Peter brought home two coveted Adequan® NAAC titles.
Experiencing that level of success at such a young age came with a cost, though—Madison finished the season with more than $49,000 LTE to her name, making her ineligible for the lower levels of non pro competition.
“We were well aware that she was going to finish the year as an upper-level non pro. We explained that to Madison, and she said ‘OK,’” revealed Madison’s mother, NRHA Professional Shannon Rafacz. “I normally wouldn’t accelerate any rider through all the levels the way she did, but she’s just naturally born to do it. We knew she had the horsepower to play, and she wanted to do it. We didn’t want to hold her back. Who knows when a fairy-tale year like this could happen again?”
After capping off her dream-come-true season with an NRHA World title, Madison is even more grateful for the support of both her blood and barn families who’ve backed her throughout her journey.
“I want to thank my parents, my grandma—she’s always calling and congratulating me—and the entire Rafacz barn,” Madison said. “Everyone is so supportive. I love being in the barn and being around everybody.”
As for Shannon, she and her husband, NRHA Professional Mark Rafacz, remain proud of their protégé as she continues to grow in and out of the saddle.
“There’s nothing better than watching your kid find something they’re great at and excel,” Shannon shared. “There’s nothing I can compare that to—nothing I’ve done personally comes even close to watching her win her first Lawson bronze this year, and then, just a few months later, win eight in one run. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of. It’s amazing, for all of us.”