Mill Spring, N.C.—Oct. 11
The top twelve riders stood together in the ring while announcer Peter Doubleday read the results of the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final, starting from 12th. The pressure was on when it came down to the final two riders, with just Elli Yeager and Taylor Griffiths-Madden lined up together. When the announcer called out Yeager’s name a huge smile broke out on Griffiths-Madden’s face, and with good reason, she had just beat out 204 other riders to take the title back to Wellington, Florida.
“This is my last Medal Final,” said Griffiths-Madden, 18. “I drove here from Ohio with my horse Mac One III. I was just hoping to have a solid last Medal Finals, and of course, I was hoping to win. I’m really happy it turned out the way it did.”
Yeager took second aboard Copperfield 39, and Sam Walker claimed third on Waldo.
After yesterday’s preliminary round 25 riders returned for today’s second round, with Griffiths-Madden second behind Grace Debney. Griffiths-Madden nailed the trip, starting out with plenty of pace to get up the first forward five-stride line easily.
Judges Ralph Caristo and Rachel Kennedy called back six riders to test in reverse order of preference: Walker, Debney, Dominic Gibbs, Yeager, Zayna Rizvi and Griffiths-Madden.
Riders had to canter fences 1 to 2, which had been the first line in the previous course, demonstrating seven strides, a double add. They then went around a turn and jumped 3AB, an in-and-out, and picked up a hand gallop to jump 4, an oxer. Riders had counter-canter fence 5 off a tight turn, then halt and drop their stirrups. Riders then cantered fence 8, and had to counter-canter fence 9 off a tight turn, and continue on to jump fence 7 backward, before returning to the line.
Griffiths-Madden demonstrated a flying change to the counter lead in the first counter-canter, then landed the counter lead and held it the second time. The rest of her test was flawless.
“I was a little nervous because it was very long and [had a no stirrups portion] which is not always that fun,” said Griffiths-Madden. “I watched all my friends go, and we were all talking to each other and helping each other out so that was really helpful. It’s hard to go into the test knowing you’re on top because you know you have to kind of stick to it so it was a little nerve-wracking.”
Griffiths-Madden tacked up Mac One III for the weekend.
“ ‘Mac’ started in the 1.45-meter [jumpers] with Lauren Hough,” Griffiths-Madden recalled. “She brought him to Missy Clark, and [Clark] started him in the equitation. Sam Walker showed him, and Ava Stearns did a little bit. When I didn’t have a horse Missy let me ride him, and after getting along with him so well I decided to buy him. I’ve had him for I think three years now. He has the biggest personality and is the sweetest horse, and I love him so much.”
Griffiths-Madden is taught by her mother, Jen Madden, her stepfather, Frank Madden, and gets additional help from Clark and the North Run team. This is her third ribbon at a major national equitation final, having placed third at the Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search Medal Final—East (New Jersey) in 2017 and eighth in the same class last year.
She’ll be competing Mac in that class again this year, then she’ll be making appearances at the Washington International Equitation Championship (North Carolina) and ASPCA Maclay Finals (Kentucky).
Get a full analysis of the Dover Saddlery/USEF Medal Final in the Nov. 9 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine.