She may have blue eyes and blonde hair, but she’s no Barbie. With a personality almost as big as the magnificent animals she rides, Maddie Illcken isn’t afraid to get her hands a little dirty.
Most people have to find their passion in life, but for Maddie it seems to have found her. Growing up in a house that could easily double as a zoo, she realized, at a young age, her inexhaustible love for animals. Although she might be stuck in the suburbs of Tampa – she’s a country girl at heart. In addition to her two biological siblings, Maddie has had quite a few furry, and not so furry, brothers and sisters to share the last 18 years. Currently causing chaos at the “Ilcken zoo” are just three dogs, three cats, and what could be considered a small aquarium. Reserving a special place in Maddie’s heart from this entourage, is her pup, Izzy, rescued about a year ago from Puerto Rico. But, it doesn’t stop there. This ever-growing Ilcken family extends their heart far beyond the walls of their house.
Maddie’s first love, a gentle giant by the name of Madison Avenue, sits in a stable at RLM Equestrian. A passion inherited, Maddie’s mother and grandmother both share the same fire for these miraculous creatures and the privilege of riding them. In Maddie’s own words, “There’s something about being on the back of a thirteen hundred pound animal, with a mind of its own, that made me fall in love with the sport.”
Moreover, some things just can’t quite be put into words; this is a story best understood by a snapshot of a girl, her horse, and a spunky Izzy begging to tag along. This passion for riding, a seed first planted in young Maddie on occasional visits to Grandma’s farm, quickly and zealously grew into a calling, and today is the very catalyst commanding her devotion and driving her ambition. After all, it’s in her blood.