No one can deny that Beezie Madden is one of the top show jumpers in the world. But sometimes it’s the classes she doesn’t win that truly show her talent. John Madden, her husband, trainer, and partner in all things, well remembers one occasion years ago, when Beezie didn’t win.
“She was on a horse who was a little bit over his head in the class, and he had 8 faults. She came out of the ring, and I said that I wished he’d done a little better,” John recalled. “She just looked at me and said ‘Why? What did you expect?’
“She thought that 8 faults was good for that horse in that class, and she was right. That’s a gift that she has, that she can see things clearly that way and not get clouded by expectations. And it’s a gift to the horses she rides.”
That unique vision has enabled Beezie–along with John–to develop Authentic from a green 6-year-old into the formidable international competitor he is. And it’s helped her master the ride on Judgement (see p. 17), a horse who’s a much different ride. They’ve also patiently nurtured Desilvio, another talented young horse for the future, through injury to show successfully again.
For her remarkable successes this year on three different horses, her solid strengths as the U.S. team anchor, and her lifetime commitment to the sport and her horses, Beezie Madden is our Overall and Show Jumping Horseman of the Year.
“She can ride any horse, from the coldest stopper to the hottest Thoroughbred. I’ve always watched her with very keen interest because of her philosophy, her method, and her talent,” said George Morris, the U.S. team’s chef d’equipe.
“She has an unwavering ambition and desire that carried her right to the Olympics. There’s no question that she’s second to none in the world. There are others of her league–such as Rodrigo Pessoa, Ludger Beerbaum, and the Whitakers–but there aren’t any better. When she goes to the European horse shows, you can always tell by people’s body language and attitude that there’s total respect for her from the other riders. She’s a peer of very few equals, and they all see it,” added Morris.
“In my estimation, Beezie Madden is as good a rider and horsewoman as I have ever seen. And I’ve been doing this all my life,” said owner Elizabeth Busch Burke. “It’s not just about her talent. It’s every single thing about her–her discipline, and her determination.”
While 2004 was all about the U.S. effort at the Athens Olympics, 2005 was a different kind of year for Beezie. She didn’t qualify for the Budweiser FEI World Cup Finals (Nev.), so she focused on two major goals. “We wanted to use it more as a building year, since there weren’t international championships to worry about. So, we put the Spruce Meadows Masters [Alta.] as a huge goal this year. And we wanted to do the third Super League tour, to Aachen [Germany],” said Beezie.
The plan worked, with Judgement’s thrilling triumph in the $824,313 CN International at the Masters, and Beezie and Authentic putting in the clutch four-fault round at the Aachen Nations Cup, claiming victory there for the U.S. team and helping to ensure that the U.S. team claimed their first Samsung Super League Series title.
Just as she did in the 2004 Olympic Nations Cup, Beezie anchored the U.S. team efforts in almost every Samsung Super League Nations Cup in which she rode in 2005. And she competed in five of the seven events. “I often rode her last, because she has very good nerves and she’s very dependable to go last,” Morris said. And she did it on three different horses–Authentic, Judgement and Desilvio.
With her CN International win and topping the $200,000 Budweiser American Invitational (Fla.) on Authentic, she captured the two biggest prizes in North America. And she added the $75,000 New Albany Classic (Ohio) and the $166,528 Atco Power Queen Elizabeth Cup at the Spruce Meadows North American Tournament in July to her resume.
Beezie ranked in the top 10 of the FEI Gandini World Jumping Rankings for the majority of 2005, and she and Authentic finished 11th in the FEI’s calculation of the Best Horse and Rider, behind Europe’s top combinations.
Not only did Beezie relish her own victories, but she also took great joy in watching brother-in-law Frank Madden’s students do so well at the fall equitation finals. She and John help Frank and his team (see p. 93) train junior riders whenever they have a chance. Standing at the in-gate, watching Brianne Goutal accept her Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals (Pa.) trophy, Beezie had a bit of a tear in her eye. She’d been the one tuning up Goutal’s horse in the morning and had helped prepare her to compete.
“We like Frank and Stacia to do well too, and the equitation finals are like their World Cup Final and Olympics every year. It’s nice that we can do something to help them be successful at that. We get some attachment to the students, too. It’s fun to watch them,” Beezie said.
The Horse With Wings
But, as so often happens in horses, not everything in 2005 went according to plan. One hiccup happened during the summer, when an offer came to buy Authentic, who was owned by a syndicate. There were a few tense moments until Abigail Wexner, who owns Desilvio, decided to buy him for Beezie to ride.
“I was worried,” Beezie admitted. “I kept telling myself that I was in a pretty lucky position, because even if he did get sold, I still had Judgement and Desilvio. But it still would have been very bad to lose him.”
Authentic promptly rewarded Wexner’s faith by winning the $75,000 New Albany Classic Invitational at Wexner’s farm in Ohio.
When Beezie and John bought Authentic in 2001, they bought him in partnership with Burke, a loyal owner who kept him until they formed a syndicate to aim for the 2004 Olympics.
“Owning Authentic was the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me, with the exception of my three children. He’s the ‘horse with wings.’ It was a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me, and I loved every moment of owning him with John and later in the syndicate,” said Burke.
While Authentic’s team gold medal from Athens might make him seem like a veteran, Beezie and John still think of him as a work in progress. “I’m all the time trying to improve his flatwork. When he goes in the ring, he’s very rideable, but at home, you can’t imagine he’d be like that,” said Beezie.
“He’s getting much better. And I think that’s helped him be able to go a lot fresher. Last year, we longed him some before he went, and we tried to get him a little tired before he went. Sometimes now, we put him on the longe line to let him buck, because he does like to play! But this year, we did a lot less preparation, and he still performed well and jumped a lot better, so I think he’s matured a lot.
“Authentic and Desilvio were only 10 in 2005, so we needed to give them exposure to different things still,” Beezie added. “That’s a big reason why we chose to do the first Super League tour with Desilvio, and the other one with Authentic.”
Desilvio, who was standing in third place in the 2004 Olympic selection trials when he was injured before the last round, has been in Authentic’s shadow.
“Our other big goal was to get Desilvio and Authentic and Judgement through the year well. I didn’t want to be at the end of 2005 feeling like we didn’t have a lot of horsepower. That was a big part of our goal,” said John.
She’s carefully built a string of superstar horses, and an integral part of Beezie’s success is her technique.
“She’s been a great flag-bearer for the American method of riding–our interpretation of the forward seat,” Morris said.
“That’s why she’s so outstanding in Europe–people rarely see a round that could win the Medal finals over the Grand Prix of Aachen,” he added. “She doesn’t pivot on her knee, her leg doesn’t swing back; she doesn’t get too far behind a horse. She’s in balance, and she has beautiful upper body control, beautiful hands, and impeccable timing. She does it all, and with style. Many top riders get the job done, but very few do it with real style.”
But perhaps her most valuable asset is her mind. “I think that Beezie’s strongest point is her ability to focus and concentrate, and to communicate with the horse,” John said. “To me, that’s the crux of the whole thing–how well a rider can communicate with the horse–and I think Beezie has an exceptional talent for that. That communication is developed through consistency, and she’s unbelievably consistent with the horses. There’s always a progression of the use of aids, and there’s always the same use of aids. At every opportunity, she’s trying to teach the horse.”
And that teaching doesn’t end at the in-gate. Beezie takes every opportunity to educate her horses, even when they’re in the show ring. “It’s really interesting that Beezie wins no small classes in Florida, or anywhere else. It’s not that we don’t want to win those classes, but we never want to be successful at that and ignore an opportunity to teach the horse, just so we can win. If you take every opportunity to teach the horse, then sooner or later, winning becomes a byproduct, and that takes some time,” said John.
“Beezie’s not so good at catch-riding. She doesn’t really like it. I think she really enjoys getting on people’s horses and working with them to help them do better. But she’s not one to just jump on a horse and show and win.”
That methodical approach makes Beezie truly skilled at bringing along young horses. “She’s very clear. She’s a lot the way in riding that she
is in life–she doesn’t see a lot of gray. Things are right or they’re wrong. They’re good or they’re bad,” said John. “I think the big key to her success with the young horses is the clarity of her message to them. She has a lot of patience, and she’s able to say, ‘No, you’ll do it this way,’ over and over without losing her temper. That repetition and clarity are really important.”
The Perfect Partnership
It’s impossible to talk about Beezie’s career without talking about John. Theirs is a relationship that goes beyond husband and wife, beyond rider-trainer, and beyond business partners.
Morris has a great deal of respect for their interaction. “I just watch her and John and support them from a distance. They’re like a good horse–you don’t want to screw it up. I don’t want to interfere with them, because what they do works,” he said. “John’s a very good horseman. He has a perfect partnership with her riding abilities. They complement each other very well and aren’t competitive with each other at all.”
While John’s the talker and Beezie is the rider, there’s an interesting balance of power between the two. “It’s been a really natural progression. When we first started together, I had a little more experience at the grand prix level than Beezie did,” John said. “I was a bit older, and I’d worked with a bunch of good riders. It started out that I was her boss and the trainer, and then as Beezie got more experience, it’s gotten more and more balanced.
“Now, at the stage that Beezie’s at in her career, I’m getting less and less influential, and Beezie’s getting more and more. And I think that’s an integral part of her career; now I step back a little bit and defer to her way more than I used to. But it’s been a really natural progression for us. We certainly have our moments where we push each other, but those are just moments.”
Beezie and John first met in the early ’80s, when she came from her home in Wisconsin to attend Southern Seminary Junior College (Va.) and started riding with Katie Monahan Prudent at her Plain Bay Farm in Middleburg, Va. John worked for Prudent at the time.
Prudent offered Beezie a working student position after she graduated in 1984. Beezie had grown up showing hunters and in the equitation, dabbling in the junior and amateur jumpers. But “Katie got me launched into the jumpers and into the open division, and got me my first grand prix horse to ride,” said Beezie.
Prudent, and barn manager Pancho Lopez, had given Beezie a solid foundation in managing and riding top-level horses. But in 1987, Beezie sensed it was time to move on. John, then training on his own, offered her a job riding for him. They spent one year operating their business in Wisconsin, but then moved to Cazenovia in 1988. The northern location–just outside Syracuse, N.Y.–seems remote, but it’s afforded the Maddens the ability to operate as they do.
“When John bought the farm, obviously, we could have made better real estate investments other places, but then we wouldn’t have been able to afford to do this business based on my career,” Beezie noted. “We couldn’t have afforded the mortgage or the cash flow in a place like New Jersey or near New York City. I think because of our location, it’s evolved that we don’t have a lot of clients in the area. If we’d been in another location, for survival, we would have built our business around having clients and teaching. We wouldn’t have been able to focus on my career as much.”
The home base for Beezie’s horses is a sprawling farm, which boasts a grand prix field complete with all the natural obstacles. The main barn has 16 stalls, a small indoor ring, and a walker. It’s not the fanciest barn, but it’s neat, functional and elegant. And they’re building their dream home on top of one of the hills.
Beezie’s horses don’t go to Florida until just before the winter circuit. In the winter, they have two months at home in New York to relax, grow a coat, and frolic in the snow. “They let them be horses at home and turn out a lot, and it’s a very peaceful place to do that,” said Sue Schlegel, who–along with Clark Schipley and Amy DeVisser–has worked for the Maddens for more than a decade.
“Their program is great,” said Schipley. “They develop horses so well because they make a schedule and then they stick to it–they don’t get greedy. They do more with less–it’s a simple program. And they really appreciate their horses.”
It’s All In The Scheduling
It may look as if Beezie Madden merely jets off to exotic locales to show and win, but a lot of thought and strategy go into planning her horses’ showing.
“We try to have a schedule so that regardless of what happens with another horse, you don’t change what’s happening with Judgement, or change what Authentic’s doing because Desilvio isn’t there,” John Madden said. “You have to make some adjustments, but you don’t make big changes. I think that’s crucial, because each horse is an individual. If you have to miss a competition, you miss it. Beezie misses a lot of shows, but that’s because if there’s a hole in the string, we don’t try to switch things around to fill it.”
That thoughtful, long-range attitude carries over in bringing young horses up the ranks. “I remember with both Desilvio and Authentic that it was such a shocker that it worked so well at the 2004 Olympic Trials [where after the fourth round, they were both in the top four],” John said.
“We bought them both as 6-year-old horses, and from that time, we were aiming them for those trials and the Olympic Games. We never locked it in and said, ‘They’re going to the trials.’ But we tried to position ourselves so that if everything came together correctly, they could do it. And they both actually did it, and did it very well, and we were proud of that. There wasn’t a moment that we said, ‘We’re going to the trials with these horses.’ But we set them up in the years ahead of it so that if they improved the way we thought they should improve, it would be possible.”
A Typical Day
When they’re at home in Cazenovia, N.Y., John and Beezie Madden keep it simple. While John spends a lot of time on the phone, making deals and organizing everything, Beezie concentrates on the horses.
The barn staff almost all live on the farm, and they feed breakfast at 7 a.m. They then start turning out, putting horses in the walker, and mucking out. At about 8 a.m., Beezie tacks up and gets on her first horse, and they help her switch horses until they’ve all been worked. “It’s kind of a quiet routine, and we all do a little bit of everything,” said Clark Schipley.
There’s usually an assistant rider to help get all the horses out and to keep the young ones in work while Beezie’s on the road.
“That’s our biggest juggling act–coordinating the young horses with the older horses. But on the other hand, it’s good, because we don’t put too much pressure on the young ones too fast,” John said.
Junior rider Sloane Coles, who rides with John’s brother, Frank, has ridden for them.
Birthdate: Nov. 20, 1963.
Home: John Madden Sales, Cazenovia, N.Y.
Staff: Amy DeVisser, employed 12 years; Sue Schlegel, 11 years; Clark Schipley, 11 years. “All three of them are extraordinary horsepeople. We can send any of the three of them anywhere in the world with our horses, and it’s as good as having one of us there with them,” said John. Office manager: Kristin Barrett-Anderson.
Focus: “This is Beezie’s life. I don’t think people realize that 110 percent of what Beezie is is this–the horses and the business,” said DeVisser.
Strengths: “She’s so confident and supportive of her horses,” said George Morris. “She’s so positive that a horse with a weakness gets better. She never lies to a horse–she puts them to the perfect spot. She has a great sense of impulsion and is a very powerful leg rider, especially over big fences, and that helps every horse.”
Philosophy: “You always have times when you doubt yourself. It’s just a fact of the sport, that it’s very up and down from one day to the next,” Beezie said. “You have to appreciate the good times when you have them, and in the bad times you can’t let them get you down. When it’s happening to you, it feels like you’re the only one who’s gone through things like that, but everybody goes through things like that. We do it because we love the horses, so that keeps us going. We’re lucky that we get to do what we do as our life.”
2005 Competitive highlights
USEF Equestrian of the Year
1st–$824,313 CN International (Alta.), Judgement
1st–$200,000 Budweiser American Invitational (Fla.), Authentic
1st–$75,000 New Albany Classic Invitational (Ohio), Authentic
1st–$166,528 Atco Power Queen Elizabeth Cup (Alta.), Authentic
2nd–$40,000 Lexington CSI-W (Ky.), Authentic
2nd–$25,000 WEF Challenge Cup Series, round 8 (Fla.), Judgement
2nd–$25,000 WEF Challenge Sup Series, round 7, Judgement
6th–$311,558 Aachen Grand Prix (Germany), Authentic
1st–Aachen Samsung Super League Nations Cup, Authentic (0-4)
3rd–Dublin (Ireland) Samsung Super League Nations Cup, Authentic (0-4)
2nd–Hickstead (Great Britain) Samsung Super League Nations Cup, Authentic (4-0)
4th–St. Gallen (Switzerland) Samsung Super League Nations Cup, Desilvio (0-0)
2nd–Rome (Italy) Samsung Super League Nations Cup, Desilvio (8-4)
1st–La Baule (France) Samsung Super League Nations Cup, Judgement (8-4)