There’s no doubt that Beezie Madden is one of the best jumper riders in the world, but she showed the spectators at the Washington International Horse Show that she’s truly multi-faceted after clinching the leading rider title in the first $15,000 American Hunter Jumper Foundation Nations Cup Hunter Challenge.
With her partner, equitation star Maggie McAlary, the duo topped a stellar field of junior and grand prix riders in a team catch-riding competition aboard show hunters.
Held Oct. 28 in the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., the competition/exhibition was the brainchild of American Hunter Jumper Foundation’s Louise Serio and Geoff Teall and Washington International Show Manager Hugh Kincannon.
Originally, the competition was slated to include foreign grand prix riders, but since just a few were attending the show–including participants Nick Skelton and Michael Whitaker of Great Britain–Serio opened the door to U.S. riders too.
“When we were in Harrisburg [the Pennsylvania National], McLain [Ward] said he’d like to ride in it too,” said Serio. “Georgina [Bloomberg] came to us and asked if she could do it too. Then she went and took hunter lessons. And when she discovered which horse she was riding, she went and watched the videotape of it showing here earlier. It was great that people really got into it.” Five teams of two riders–comprised of a junior equitation rider and an international-level grand prix rider–faced off in a three-round hunter competition.
“It was lots of fun,” said Madden smiling. “I hope it was just as exciting for [the spec-tators] because I enjoyed doing it.”
Colorful commentary from Teall and trainer Don Stewart Jr. added to the class ambiance and provided the spectators with educational and sometimes entertaining insider information.
The junior riders were selected from the rankings of the hunter phase of the Tad Coffin/Washington International Equitation Classic Finals on Friday. A draw then determined their grand prix partners and the horses the 10 riders would show on Saturday afternoon, which were all loaned for the class. The riders had one practice session on Friday to become accustomed to their mounts.
For the first round, all 10 riders competed over a 3’6″ hunter course. Then, each team’s best-scoring rider returned for the final, handy hunter round. The course included several options for tight roll-back turns, gallops and a gymnastic combination that included one-stride and bounce options.
In the first round, Haylie Jayne’s beautiful ride aboard Saving Grace (91.00) topped the junior trips, while Madden scored an 88.24 with Once In A Lifetime for the leading professional ride.
In the second round, the standings shuffled as riders took chances over the handy course. Jayne and Michael Whitaker led the way after the first round, but when Jayne had a rail in the gymnastic and scored 81.08, they dropped to fourth.
Sloane Coles, who had scored an impressive 87.66 in the first round aboard Guns N Roses, left long to an oxer in the handy hunter trip to drop her team down to fifth.
The team of Megan Massaro, riding Stiletto, and Bloomberg with Matilda, had polished performances for second place overall.
After Hardin Towell with New Manhattan dropped a rail in the first round, his partner, Nick Skelton, returned for the handy hunter round. Skelton’s rides aboard Lifetime were smooth and consistent, moving the pair up to finish third.
Madden, aboard Once In A Lifetime, earned the leading rider jacket for her performances after her handy hunter round earned scores of 90, 95 and 90 (average 91.66) to clinch the win.
Madden, a double silver medalist from the FEI World Equestrian Games, couldn’t remember the last time she’d shown a hunter. “I’ve done a little in Palm Beach [Fla.] with Elizabeth Busch Burke’s horses, but not for three or four years,” she said.
“I like it, but I just don’t have the time to do it.”
McAlary, who won the Pessoa/USEF Medal Finals two weeks earlier, enjoyed the challenge of the class too. “You just go in and do the best you can. It was a really fun class,” she said.
“It was a unique class,” added McAlary, who rode True Grit. “Everyone felt the pressure. The grand prix riders are so good, and we’ve all seen them ride. We look up to them; you don’t want to let down the team.”
Following Madden and McAlary, the team placings included: second–Stiletto/Megan Massaro and Matilda/Georgina Bloomberg; third–New Manhattan/Hardin Towell and Lifetime/Nick Skelton; fourth–Saving Grace/Haylie Jayne and In Sync/Michael Whitaker; fifth–Guns N Roses/Sloane Coles and Jimmy Choo/McLain Ward.
Serio expressed her thanks to the generous owners who donated their horses. They included: Chelsea Samuels’ Stiletto; Veronica Tracey’s Guns N Roses; Lilla Ward’s New Manhattan; Ashley Hotz’ True Grit; Grace Stuntz’ Saving Grace; Leslie Coolidge’s Matilda; Laura Wasserman’s Jimmy Choo; Stephanie Danhakl’s Lifetime; CZ Farms’ and Carly Hunt’s Once In A Lifetime; and Danhakl’s In Sync.