In honor of this weekend’s Longines Royal International Horse Show (Great Britain), we’re revisiting 2014, when Beezie Madden scored big victories at the competition, including becoming the first woman to win the Longines King George V Gold Cup. She did it with super horse Cortes ‘C’ who died earlier this month at age 21. They repeated the feat the following year to make Madden only the second rider to win back-to-back King George V Gold Cups.
If Beezie Madden wasn’t a believer in the “rest does the body good” mantra before jumping at the Longines Royal International Horse Show, she certainly is now.
Just 11 weeks after a fall at Old Salem Farm (New York) left her with a broken collarbone, Madden put in a remarkable performance on Aug. 1-3 in Hickstead, England, leading the U.S. team to victory in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup of Great Britain, as well as taking up her throne as the first woman to win the Longines King George V Gold Cup. According to Madden, a little time off was just what the doctor ordered.
“I have never felt this strong so late in the season,” said Madden. “I would normally already have months of showing behind me, but I feel like I’m just getting started, and the horses are fresh. Our time off may prove to be just what we needed.”
With the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (France) looming, Madden considered the setback a threat to a possible appearance on September’s team, but her outlook is beginning to shift. “It happened early enough in the season that I had plenty of time to get back in the saddle without taking big risks,” she said. “I had surgery two days after the fall, was rehabbing two weeks after that and jumping again in six weeks.”
Though she was placed on the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team short list in April, Madden still had to show in two Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup competitions as observation events. Given her injury, she chose the last two at Hickstead on Aug. 1 and Dublin on Aug. 8, hoping to prove she’s ready.
She made her statement in spades, riding Cortes ‘C’ to two clear efforts in the Nations Cup. Madden was joined in her double-clear performance by McLain Ward, who led off the team in both rounds with clear trips on Rothchild.
The only nation to finish Round 1 on a 0 score, the U.S. team of Madden, Ward, Reed Kessler (Cylana) and Margie Engle (Royce) led from the start. Engle, showing Royce in her first Nations Cup of the year, turned in a clean effort in Round 1 with just one rail in Round 2. Kessler had 8 faults in Round 1 and 4 in Round 2.
With the top three teams sitting on 4 faults in the final round, Madden had to go clear in Round 2 to win. “There’s pressure with any round in the Nations Cup, but my teammates set me up in a great position,” she said. “My patriotism always comes out when I’m in a situation like that—I want it so badly for my country and my teammates that the burden melts away.”
“This result was very significant, just as it was two weeks ago [when the United States placed second in the Nations Cup] at Aachen [Germany],” said U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland.
“I felt like we’d been knocking on the door the past few weeks. I never got to ride on a winning team so this is a first for me, and it’s very special to be a part of. It was great to get Beezie Madden back and stunning to do it with a double clean,” Ridland continued. “I always emphasized that this was more about preparation [for the World Games] than selection.”
After the Nations Cup, Ridland noted that the final team selection following the Dublin CSIO will be a close one. He joked that he wished he could take all 10 riders.
In The Record Books
While it’s difficult to eclipse such an impressive Nations Cup win, Madden carved herself a place in show jumping history just two days later. She and Cortes ‘C’ capped their week at Hickstead with a win in the Longines King George V Gold Cup, crowning herself the first female winner in the 108-year history of the class. Until 2008, women weren’t eligible to jump in it.
“I was surprised that a woman hadn’t won it yet, but it’s always nice to know you are going down in history for something,” joked Madden. “We girls were always kind of jealous we didn’t get to jump in this class, so it’s really great to win it.”
Madden wasn’t the only female on a mission, as fellow American pair Laura Kraut and Nouvelle joined the jump-off to finish sixth. Just behind Madden, Ireland’s 19-year-old Bertram Allen was second on Romanov and Marcus Ehning third with Plot Blue for Germany.
Watch their winning round in 2014:
And their history-making 2015 winning round, with commentary on Cortes ‘C’ during the prize-giving ceremony:
“Beezie’s win is icing on the cake as we close in on the 2014 World Equestrian Games,” said Ridland. “Her comeback is a tremendous boost for the team as we head down the final stretch.”
With two clear rounds already behind her horse that week, Madden admitted that Cortes ‘C’ felt tired in the first round of the grand prix, but he rallied for the jump-off. Madden might not have looked to be going that fast, but she stopped the timers more than a second ahead of Allen. “He has a huge stride with unbelievable scope. He makes these courses look small,” Madden said of Cortes ‘C’. “Bigger types of horses can tend to land heavy and then take their time to pick up on landing, but he picks up right away and goes—that’s what makes him so fast.”
The schedule Madden and her husband, John, planned for Cortes’ summer was interrupted by Beezie’s injury earlier in the year, but the gelding carried her to four clear rounds in total at Hickstead. “It’s amazing that he was able to come back from not showing and do that,” she said. “He’s getting to be a more seasoned horse and doesn’t need a lot of schooling—maybe in the end the time off will benefit us.”
Friends In High Places
After her success at Hickstead, Beezie was quick to give credit where credit was due. While rehabbing her broken collarbone, she had a team working diligently to not only keep her horses in top form, but also to return her to the pinnacle of her sport.
Two weeks after surgery, Beezie worked with physical therapist Ed Smith in Wellington, Florida. Smith rehabbed Beezie after rotator cuff surgery in 2009 and helped Ward recover from a broken leg in 2012.
“I knew he was good,” said Beezie. “He got me on a program that I could take with me to horse shows. I have resistance bands everywhere I go, and the results are remarkable.”
Five weeks after surgery, Beezie was back in the tack but not jumping yet. That job fell to the Maddens’ old friend Johan Heins of the Netherlands, who flew to the United States a few times to jump her horses because he had jumped them before. Assistant trainer Emily Gailis flatted the horses and kept them fit.
While grounded, Beezie had the luxury to focus more on her students. With 30 horses at Spruce Meadows this summer, she spent the majority of her time coaching. “Beezie’s accident gave some of our younger riders an opportunity to spend more time with her,” said John.
Six weeks after Beezie’s fall, she received the official nod from her doctors to start jumping again. “They told me to go back to my more normal routine, but don’t fall off!” said Beezie. “When I got back on Cortes ‘C’ and jumped for the first time, it was an amazing feeling. He hadn’t lost any fitness.”
She then showed at two smaller shows in Europe to prepare.
Beezie admits that her confidence level has skyrocketed, and she’s excited about the U.S. team’s prospects.
“All of a sudden we have the perfect combination of experience mixed with youth,” said Beezie. “Our young team members are riding well beyond their years and almost veterans themselves. We have created a group that not only has experience but rides well together—everybody contributes.”
This article appeared in the Aug. 18., 2014, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse. You can subscribe and get online access to a digital version and then enjoy a year of The Chronicle of the Horse and our lifestyle publication, Untacked. If you’re just following COTH online, you’re missing so much great unique content. Each print issue of the Chronicle is full of in-depth competition news, fascinating features, probing looks at issues within the sports of hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage, and stunning photography.