When George Morris began talking about finding a successor for Practical Horseman’s Jumping Clinic, a column he had overseen since it premiered in the September 1977 issue, he was adamant about naming someone who has a classic position, who is a disciple of the American forward-riding system and whose attention to detail is absolute.
One of his top suggestions was Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden, a two-time Olympic show-jumping team gold medalist, an Olympic individual bronze medalist and a two-time FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final champion. “She exemplifies the American style and she’s a brilliant teacher,” says Morris, who during his Jumping Clinic tenure critiqued 1,984 riders who submitted their photos.
“She is arguably the best woman in the history of show jumping. I would put her second to none,” he says. “I would have left you in a lurch if I had suggested somebody who would have lowered my standards. She won’t lower the standards an iota.”
Madden has been riding since she was 3 years old when her parents, Joseph and Kathleen Patton, who owned a farm near Milwaukee, Wisconsin, gave her a small gray pony named Flicka.
Morris recalls that his mentor, Gordon Wright, a proponent of the American forward-riding system, taught Mike Henaghan, who coached Madden during her early years. In addition, Katie Monahan Prudent also trained Madden and “reinforced her stamp on Beezie’s very much already Gordon–Bert [de Némethy] American style,” Morris says.
Madden, with her husband, John Madden, the former FEI 1st Vice President and chairman of the FEI Jumping Committee, is based out of John Madden Sales in Cazenovia, New York. She has won most of the top accolades in the history of show jumping (see “Career Highlights” below). “When I was chef, I always put her as the anchor on a team because she does not have physical fear, and she does not have mental fear,” Morris explains. “What I love about her is that she’s so humble. I’m not humble like that. She gets to the show early, early, early, and does her work with her horses. She keeps her head down, is nice to everyone. You can’t say anything bad about her.”
Madden is taking over the reins of Jumping Clinic beginning with the Spring 2019 issue of Practical Horseman with the classic American riding position in mind. “I’m a big believer in everything that everybody has heard from George about the classic forward seat,” she says. “The reason for good basics is for function. It’s not just for looks. It gives you the proper hip, knee and ankle angles. The ability to control the horse comes from the base of support and the classic position.”
The classic position, Madden says, starts with putting your weight in your heels. Then, in the sitting position, you should be able to draw a straight line from your shoulder to your hip to your heel or ankle. In the saddle, you can use your position for leverage. “You have the most strength when your shoulders are behind your hips when trying to slow the horse down. The more open your hip angle, the more leverage it gives you. Otherwise you’re just trying to use the strength in your arms, which is not going to work. The horse is always going to be stronger.”
In two-point, “your seat is slightly out of the saddle, your hip angle is slightly more closed than when you’re sitting,” Madden says. “The purpose is for a faster gait—galloping and jumping—so you’re with the motion of the horse.” In two-point, she says, “the balance is better. The better the balance, the better the jump.”
With Madden at the helm, Jumping Clinic will be getting a slight facelift. Madden will critique the photos of three riders and a video of one of those riders. We will include highlights of her video critique in the column and run the video on PracticalHorsemanMag.com with Madden’s commentary.
Check out Madden's first video critique here.
1984: Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association Cacchione Cup winner
1985: Competed in first grand prix
2003: Pan American Games team gold medal with Kathleen and Joseph
Patton’s Conquest II
2004: Olympic show-jumping team gold medal with Team Authentic’s Authentic
2005: Million Dollar CN International at Spruce Meadows, Canada, with Judgement ISF
2006: World Equestrian Games team and individual silver medals with Abigail Wexner’s Authentic
2007: Grand Prix of Aachen (Germany) winner with Authentic
2008: Olympic show-jumping team gold medal, individual Olympic bronze medal with Authentic
2011: Pan American Games team gold medal and individual silver medal with Coral Reef Ranch’s Coral Reef Via Volo
2012: Olympic show-jumping team member with Coral Reef Via Volo
2013: FEI World Cup™ Final Champion with Wexner’s Simon
2014: WEG team bronze and individual bronze with Wexner’s Cortes ’C’, who was voted Best Horse of the Games
2016: Olympic show-jumping silver medal team with Cortes 'C'
2018: FEI World Cup™ Final Champion with Wexner's Breitling LS
• The only four-time U.S. Equestrian Federation Equestrian of the Year
• Three-time winner of the American Invitational in Tampa, 2005 and 2007 with Authentic and 2014 with Coral Reef Via Volo.