Martha and R.E. Josey have built a legacy in the form of a sprawling East Texas ranch that brings in 2,000+ students, many of them alumni, from all across the nation every year.
Their ranch, the Josey Ranch, has become a place that many hold dear to their heart. Top-notch barrel racing and calf roping instruction, taught by world champions, is what draws students in. But the students continue coming back for much more personal reasons.
Madison Hamilton and her parents, Jason and Waydean Hamilton, consider the Josey Ranch to be family. So much so, that less than a year after first visiting the ranch for a barrel racing clinic, they picked up their lives and moved from Alabama to Jefferson.
When asked why they uprooted their lives, mom and daughter both said the ranch gives them a clarity in their sport, but more importantly in their lives, and they needed to be as close to that source as possible.
“Every time we come to the Josey Ranch, we remember our purpose,” Madison said.
Thankfully Jason Hamilton’s job as a NetJet Pilot provided the flexibility needed for the family to move closer to the ranch. When he is not flying celebrities like Bill Gates or Tom Hanks around, he can be found beside his daughter in the arena. Madison has even taken to the skies in her family’s plane, logging over 150 hours of flying time.
Madison’s barrel racing story started when she was 7 years old.
After falling in love with horses and riding, Madison began researching how to become the best barrel racer she could be. The answer that she found was to be trained by Martha Josey and her incredible team of instructors.
The Hamiltons decided to go to the very next clinic offered at the ranch. The only problem was the clinic was already booked. Madison’s mom called the Josey Ranch every day to check on openings.
When a spot became available, the Hamiltons loaded up and made their way to the place they would soon be calling home.
After spending a few days at the weeklong clinic, Madison was hooked.
The horse that Madison was riding, Cheyenne, came to the clinic with issues. Other instructors had told Madison that Cheyenne would never overcome her nervous and “hot” tendencies.
But after working with the Josey Ranch team of instructors, Madison and Cheyenne became a winning team and took home the 2018 Josey Ranch Reunion Barrel Race 4D Reserve Championship.
However, winning in the arena isn’t what Madison says is the greatest achievement.
“Walking away with the knowledge is the real win,” she said.
Beyond the expert instruction, Madison also attributes Josey Ranch equipment to her growth and success. When Madison first began her barrel racing journey, she was 7 years old and using a velcro “Magic Seat” to stay in the saddle.
But after purchasing the Josey Ranch “Avenger” saddle, Madison’s riding ability drastically improved, or in her words “changed overnight.”
Since that first clinic, Madison and her parents have attended multiple clinics per year. Every time they roll through the front gates, they feel like they are coming home.
“The team at the Josey Ranch welcomes us like family,” Waydean Hamilton said.
Students and families learn way more than just barrel racing at the ranch. Instructors teach responsibility, sportsmanship and family values. There are testimonies shared about hardships being overcome and of what really matters in life.
The consistent diet of superior instruction has paid off for Madison.
She has continued to rise up the barrel racing ranks qualifying for the 2017 Little Britches Rodeo Finals and winning the 2019 Josey Ranch Summer 1 Clinic 3D Championship.
This fall, Madison plans to compete in the Pineywoods Youth Rodeo Association, and of course attend the Back-To-School, Thanksgiving and Christmas barrel racing clinics at the Josey Ranch.