“Breitling has a super temperament—actually he’s so nice that a lot of people don’t seem to realize he’s a stallion. He’s careful and clever, and every time I call on him, he does everything I want—I couldn’t ask for any more.”—Beezie Madden
Occupation: Show jumper
Hometown: Cazenovia, New York
Breed: La Silla Studbook
Breeding: Quintero out of Armonia La Silla
Owner: Abigail Wexner
Major accomplishments: 2018 World Cup Final Champion in Paris, France; individual and team bronze medal at Lima 2019 Pan Am Games; first, 2018 $205,000 Grand Prix CSIO**** in Wellington, Florida
How did you come to ride Breitling? What did you see in him?
We’re always looking for top young horses—Johan Heins is who we deal with in Europe—and he spotted Breitling as a 7-year-old. [Dutch show-jumping Olympic individual gold medalist] Jeroen Dubbeldam had him and sent us some videos. We loved the videos and went to try him. When you see him in the cross-ties, he is such a classy looking horse. We loved him at first sight, basically. It sounds like a cliché, but we actually did.
What is his breeding?
Breitling was born in Mexico with Alfonso Romo [founder of Mexico’s La Silla studbook]. Breitling is a La Silla breed, but he grew up in Holland. Jeroen bought him when he was 2, I believe.
What is he like to ride?
He’s beautiful to ride. He’s very broke on the flat. He’s a light, Thoroughbred-y type horse and actually why I think why he’s good indoors. He’s quite rideable and handy. When the jumps come up quick, he’s good with that—he’s quick on the turns, very adjustable. And he can also work out of a big gallop for large outdoor arenas as well.
What is he like at the barn, his personality?
He’s quite easy in the stable. Most people don’t even know he’s a stallion. And he doesn’t even look like a stallion. He doesn’t have that big cresty neck or anything like that. Even though he doesn’t act a lot like a stallion, he’s a little aloof like a stallion. He’s kind of a funny, he’s a little bit finicky with treats. He likes his Fruities and carrots, but he doesn’t like peppermints, apples or if you try to feed him something you’re eating, he doesn’t like it.
What are his strengths?
We always look for a package in a horse. There are a lot of horses that are spectacular jumpers, but jumping isn’t everything. There are a lot of other qualities you need in a horse. When you look at all the qualities—soundness, carefulness, scope, temperament, rideability, trainability—he’s probably at least an 8 or a 9 (out of 10) in all of them, so he’s kind of the whole package.
Is there (or was there) any specific work you do with him to address any training challenges?
As a youngster, he had a little bit of a slow front end, particularly off the left lead which was kind of easy to manage in the first rounds, but in the jump offs, he had to learn to be a little quicker and a little handier off the left lead so we had to work on that.
He’s always been a little bit spooky about the water and liverpools. Never to the fact that he wouldn’t go to it, but he’s always kind of peeked down at them as he gets there. That’s also why he wears that shadow roll [a sheepskin cover that fits over the noseband], so he doesn’t peek down at those types of jumps, because he would do it all the way through the air.
Are there specific exercises you used to encourage him to be handier off the left lead?
We worked on left turns over rails on the ground, low jumps where he wouldn’t throw his shoulder into the left. Off the right, he doesn’t do it all. Horses that have a weakness kind of go into it—he would throw his shoulder in and rush off the left lead. So we did a lot of repetition of left turns. When you have a careful horse, they figure how to do it right because they don’t want to hit the fence. I’d like to take a lot of the credit, but when you have a good, careful horse, they learn how to do it with experience, too.
Is he collected?
He had some foals in Europe and we have a little frozen semen of his. But his owner Mrs. Wexner doesn’t have much interest in breeding right now.
What was it like to win the 2018 Longines World Cup Jumping Final with him?
It was pretty amazing. It’s always a fantastic feeling to win a World Cup Final. That was my second one, but I thought it was really fun to win it with a horse that we brought along. We bought him in the spring of his 7-year-old year. I think the horse also got the recognition he deserved. We believed in him as a young horse, but he wasn’t quite as fast to have the success as some young horses did. It was really nice that he could have the Word Cup win in his resume. Plus, it was kind of a fantastic week. I think he won the first phase and the second phase and he had just one rail down on the last day, so I think his performance over the week was quite exceptional.
What are your upcoming plans with him?
With the pandemic, it’s hard to plan, but we’re working on keeping him fit. We’re here in Tryon [Tryon International Equestrian Center in North Carolina] and have been competing Breitling in some 1.45 classes to help him stay in competition mode without taxing him. In September, we may do the HITS Saugerties CSI*****. We’re looking forward to a good show season next year when hopefully we can get back to a more normal routine.