On Feb. 1, John Madden Sales announced their Breeder’s Bridge To High Performance Contest. With the contest, John Madden hopes to provide a pathway for U.S.-bred horses from their breeders to top riders. Madden is a supporter of horses bred in North America—he has four U.S.-bred Thoroughbreds in training as well.
Several lucky North American-bred jumper prospects will be selected to receive three months free training and board at John Madden Sales. The winning prospects will be ridden and brought along by up-and-coming grand prix rider, Callie Schott, who works as assistant rider to two-time Olympic team gold medalist Beezie Madden.
Schott has been the assistant rider for Beezie since 2009 and brought the mare Wrigley to the grand prix level under the direction of John and Beezie. “Beezie and I have incredible faith in Callie's talent. We see her becoming a real force in the grand prix ring in the years to come. The recipients of this contest will be given a great opportunity to progress with Callie in the saddle and Beezie and I overseeing the horse's schedule," said John.
“What I hear from breeders all the time is that they have no chance to connect with top riders. We have an established business and program, and it puts the eventual contest winners into that same program that produced Authentic and Judgement ISF and that horses like Simon and Cortes C are in now,” John continued. “I used the word 'bridge' in the contest name because I'm hoping it will help build a bridge between some breeders and riders that might not have otherwise existed.”
"I am especially excited that the focus will be on North American-bred horses,” said Beezie. “We have some spectacular breeders here in North America, and there's no reason the next top grand prix horse can't come from one of them. I was very fortunate to have the ride on Judgement ISF, who won over $1.5 million in his career and was bred [in Pennsylvania] at Iron Spring Farm. I think breeders in North America often have a difficult time getting a prospect hooked up with the right rider who can bring it along to its full potential. Hopefully this will bring a renewed focus on not forgetting to shop at home, as well as abroad.”
Owners of North American-bred Thoroughbreds, including ex-racehorses looking for new careers, are encouraged to apply. While only a few horses will be given the opportunity for free training in 2012, the Maddens and Schott are hopeful that this will serve to highlight several talented breeders to others who are searching for prospects.
Applications will be due by March 31 and will be narrowed down to five finalists by April 15. Schott will try the finalists, and the winners will be announced by June 1. Horses must be 5 years or older in 2012. Contest applicants will need to submit a video and application. Further information is available on the John Madden Sales website.
John encourages breeders and owners of young horses to invest in basic training before promoting their young stock to a top rider. “People call me and say they have a 3-year-old that's going to be great, and I should invest in it. But he's done nothing but live in a field. They have to get them to a point where we can at least make some assessment. If they invest a few thousand dollars to get them to a level where we can make a true assessment of them, they have the chance of benefiting from three months of training,” he said.
The contest winners won’t be the only North American-bred horses at John Madden Sales. In 2011, the Maddens purchased a son of Judgment ISF, Counselor. The bay Dutch Warmblood gelding (Judgment—Shannandoah, Farmer) got his start in eventing, competing to training level with Lucia Strini and Will Coleman, but is now being shown by Schott in the jumpers at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.).
The Maddens also have four Thoroughbreds at their farm in Cazenovia, N.Y. They have a Mzuri, a 5-year-old gelding (Street Cry—Kaskazi), who was bred by Gretchen and Roy Jackson’s Lael Stables in Kentucky for the track. When the chestnut gelding didn’t show promise as a racehorse, the Jacksons (the breeders and owners of the famous Barbaro) sent him to the Maddens for training as a jumper. Mzuri is jumping small fences.
John also bought three Thoroughbreds at the 2010 January Keeneland All Ages sale as yearlings. Eddie (Eddington—Stacy’s Squaw), Oscar (Van Nistelrooy—The Perfect Life) and Trooper (Officer—Charmant Forest) are all 3 this year and geldings.
“I wanted to get some European money back in the States, so I got my partner Johan Heins to buy half shares of them,” said John. “They've just been living in the field, but they're in the barn now, and in the next month they'll get broke under saddle. We've free-jumped them, and each one of them shows some talent. Michele Graves, a bloodstock agent I know, picked them out and bought them for us. We wanted to get horses that were good looking individuals.”