Two-time Olympic show-jumping team gold medalist Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden has been riding since her parents, Joseph and Kathleen Patton, who owned a farm near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, gave her a small gray pony named Flicka. She rode in junior equitation and hunter divisions, riding a borrowed horse in the AHSA Hunt Seat Medal Finals where she finished eighth. Interestingly, she didn’t ride a jumper until she was 17 when she moved her junior hunter to the junior jumper divisions.
Fast-forward 40 years: Beezie has represented the United States in four Olympics, two World Equestrian Games and three Pan-American Games. She also won two Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals. Most recently in 2019, she and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion Darry Lou won the AIG/HITS $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal and the $3 Million CP International Grand Prix at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ CSIO*****. In addition, Darry Lou was named 2019 U.S. Equestrian Federation International Horse of the Year and Beezie earned her fifth USEF Equestrian of the Year title as well. (Find out more about Beezie in this excerpt from the book, Riding for the Team.)
In our conversation, Beezie talks about a variety of subjects including what she learned from trainer Katie Monahan Prudent as a working student, some of the many special horses in her life, winning the 2013 World Cup Final, her training philosophy and favorite exercises, and the challenges of navigating the highs and lows of life with sporthorses.
You can listen to the full interview wherever you listen to podcasts, but in the meantime, here is a snippet of our conversation.
Check out Beezie’s “Jumping Clinic” critiques here.
What do you look for in a horse?
Obviously jumping talent is one thing, but sometimes the most talented one isn’t always the best one, either, so it makes it really difficult. You have to have a good feeling when you ride the horse. We look for a horse that … OK when we first look at it, we like it if it looks classy, if it has a good eye, nice head, nice face and it’s put together well. I don’t like horses that are kind of wide and heavy. I like the lighter, little narrower types. It’s hard for me to ride a real wide horse, I think. Maybe my legs just aren’t long enough. It’s difficult for me.
I like when they have a little blood. That makes my job easier. I think a good canter is important. A horse with a good temperament is awfully important with all the places we take them and all the things we do with them. They need to be pretty agreeable to all of that. And yet at the same time, you want a little spunk and a little fight in a horse. It comes down to a lot the feeling I have when trying the horse, jumping it.
Do you have a favorite exercise?
I like to use rails on the ground in really any configuration. You can do straight lines, you can do curves. Depending on how big your arena, you can do a curved line to a straight line to a curved line. A rail on the ground just helps simulate a fence and you can do different numbers of strides between the rails each time. Have the horse go forward between two of them and short between two of them. Just vary it up a lot so the horse doesn’t learn it by just a pattern. He learns to listen to what you’re asking him to do. (Learn more about Beezie’s training methods.)
What makes someone a strong competitor?
A strong competitor is someone who wants to win and at the same time, OK, talent is part of it, but I think the temperament—same as the horse—you need a temperament. I mean, the sport is humbling. You can be on the ground one day and win the next if you’re on top of your game. You can’t let the lows get you down too much—just try to learn from them—and you can’t let the highs get to you too much either. I mean, you know, it seems easy when it’s going well. When things start to go downhill, you have to kind of fight back and figure out how to do thing better.
More about Beezie Madden
Beezie, with her husband, John Madden, the former FEI 1 Vice President and chairman of the FEI Jumping Committee, is based out John Madden Sales in Cazenovia, New York. Over the last nearly two decades, she has won most of the top accolades in the history of show jumping:
• She’s represented the United States at four Olympic Games—in 2004, 2008, 2008 and 2016—winning two team gold medals (2004/2008), a team silver medal (2016) and an individual bronze (2008).
• She rode for the United States in the 2006 and 2014 World Equestrian Games, earning a pair of silver medals and a pair of bronze medals.
• Beezie has also appeared in three Pan American Games—in 2003, 2011 and 2019—winning two team gold medals (2003, 2011), a team bronze (2019), and individual silver and bronze medals (2011, 2019).
She won her first individual championship with Simon in 2013 at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final with Abigail Wexner’s Simon and the second in 2018 with Wexner’s Breitling LS.
Some notable grand prix wins include:
• the 2005 Million Dollar CN International at Spruce Meadows, Canada, with Judgement ISF
• the 2007 Grand Prix of Aachen with Authentic
• 2014 and 2015 King George Gold Cup in Hickstead, England
• $1 Million HITS Grand Prix in Ocala and Saugerties
She’s also a three-time winner of the American Invitational in Tampa, 2005 and 2007 with Authentic in 2005 and 2007 and with Coral Reef Via Volo in 2014.
Listen to the full interview here.
About the Practical Horseman Podcast
The Practical Horseman podcast, which runs every other Friday, features conversations with respected riders, industry leaders and horse-care experts to inform, educate and inspire. It is co-hosted by Practical Horseman editors Sandy Oliynyk and Jocelyn Pierce. Upcoming episodes are with riding star Brian Moggre, Olympian and Prac columnist Beezie Madden and international show jumper Andrew Welles. Find the podcast at iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud or wherever you get your podcasts.