TOPEKA (KSNT) – What does it mean to exemplify the “country” way of life?

Topeka resident and mustang tamer Madison Branham is looking to answer that question by coming out on top in the Ms. Stars & Stripes 2022 competition.

Sponsored by STAR Magazine, the Ms. Stars & Stripes competition seeks to identify one woman who represents all things country. The grand prize winner will be featured in a two-page spread of STAR Magazine, gain access to popular country events and take home $25,000, not to mention some serious bragging rights.

The competition requires that each candidate receive a certain number of votes from supporters to move on to the next group with those who receive too few votes being eliminated. The initial round of voting, which narrowed candidates down to the top 20 in their individual groups, ended with Branham in the number one spot when voting ended on Aug. 11.

The next voting period, which lasted from Aug. 11-18, ended on Thursday night with Madison still holding a strong lead and advancing to the top 15. Voting will continue until Oct. 6 when the winner will be decided. You can cast a vote for Madison as well by following this link.

Madison shared the story of how she got involved with the competition with 27 News. It turns out, she didn’t even know she was a contender until she entered the top 20 in her group.

“I didn’t even know about it until I got accepted by it,” Madison said. “My mom texted me one day and told me that she signed me up for a competition. After I did some research, I realized this could be a really good opportunity for me.”

For Cindy Branham, Madison’s mother, seeing her daughter succeed in the competition and find success is a well-deserved reward.

“I am super excited,” Cindy said. “I am really, really proud of her. She’s been doing this pretty much her whole life and its time that she got some recognition for it.”

Cindy said that part of the reason her daughter has become invested in the competition for first place now is that it will give her the funds to buy a new car after her old vehicle was totaled in a hit-and-run crash in 2022. Any cash left over will be used to help support Madison as she participates in equine world championships.

Madison has spent nearly her entire life around horses. Even from an early age, her family made sure that she spent time out on the ranch with their equines.

“I’ve actually been riding horses since I was born,” Madison said. “My mom had me on horses since before I could walk. Usually just sitting with somebody. When I was five or four was when I got my first pony. I’ve been competing since I was five.”

Some of her earliest childhood memories, those that she holds near and dear, are of interactions with horses.

“My earliest real memory was of when I met my pony,” Madison said. “I actually went on a trip with my mom and the people there had pony rides and little five-year-old me had to be on the pony. We convinced the lady there to let the pony out of the pen and ‘advertise’ for the pony rides with me on it. I ended up going home early because of school and I was heartbroken to have left behind the pony. When I got home from school that day my mom said she had a surprise for me. I remember peeking over the fence and there was the pony.”

Including her childhood pony, Madison has two mustangs under her care: Patriot and Seven. Both have been trained by Madison for competitions but only Patriot is considered trained enough to be able to compete.

When asked who her greatest role models were, Madison said that it had to be her brother and her mother.

“Probably my mom or my brother, and I say that because my brother passed away in 2015,” Madison said. “He was crazy about horses and loved God. I look up to him, I still do. He was a pretty big role model to me when I was younger and supported me with everything I wanted to do. Recently, it’s been my mom. She makes sure I have everything that I need. She’s busted her butt for me my whole life and I couldn’t be more thankful to her.”

Madison lives on the 20-acre Rockin RC Ranch east of Topeka with her mother. It’s also the home of Mustang Redemptions LLC, a 501 3c nonprofit, focusing on providing equine assisted mental health services. Additionally, people can take riding lessons and learn about how to adopt wild mustangs as well.

The ranch will also be the site of the Mustang Redemptions Inc. Benefit Clinic from Aug. 19-21. The event, held at the Rockin RC Ranch at 6248 SE 45th St., will feature cowboy racing, a food truck, a used tack sale and more. The event is being held to help raise funds for the ranch so that it can purchase a new gate to help keep its equines safe.

Madison will be participating in the cowboy race with Patriot and another mustang named Joshua on Aug. 20-21 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you want to see her in action, along with the 40 other competitors expected to show up, you are welcome to attend. For more information on the event this weekend, click here.