Beezie Madden on Spruce Meadows

Photo © Evelyn Szczepanek / ES Equine Photography

By Julie Claire Ma

I caught up with Beezie Madden ringside at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Alberta, after she had finished working with a young student. “Get him active behind,” she told her student. 

Madden had students competing last month in the Founders’ Classic tournament, a CSI 3* show with classes ranging from 1.30m to 1.50m. Madden competed at the National CSI 5* tournament, which took place from June 16-19th. She brought four horses with her to Calgary. I spoke with her before the competition.

“I really only have one horse to do big classes with and that’s Breitling LS, who’s 16, so he’ll show probably two of the weeks here. He’s actually had a really light winter, I didn’t show much at all in Wellington until the very end, the three-star, just to get revved up for the summer, so he’s fresh. We’re hoping he’s not too rusty but we’ll see.”

“I have a really exciting eight-year-old named Hummer Z and he’s just doing 1.40m now, and I’m hoping the 1.45m by the end. I’m hoping he will be a real good grand prix horse, if not a championship horse.”

The Maddens have been traveling to Calgary from their homebase in New York every June for almost two decades. “It’s real jumping here, you know. Nice grass fields and good courses and all different fences. You go to some places in the States and probably more so in Europe now, you get the same fences everywhere. The horses really don’t get that much experience doing different things. It’s nice to come here and do that. And obviously, the prize money is very good here too.”

Madden should know—she is the second all-time prize money winner at Spruce Meadows, falling only behind Canadian Olympian Eric Lamaze. She has won over six million dollars. In a sport where men and women famously compete against each other at the same level, Madden is one of the most decorated female riders in the history of the sport. She emphasizes the importance of correct technique as a female rider.

“I think certain horses are better suited for a stronger guy and maybe some are better suited for a lighter touch from a woman, but I think that’s why the basics are so important, your position and everything. I think that gives you the leverage and the strength to ride a stronger horse, or any horse for that matter, to influence them in the right way. I think if your technique is really correct you can be almost as strong as a guy.”

Madden discussed how the sport of show jumping has evolved over the past few decades. “I think the horses have gotten better and better. The breeding, the training, whatever, they’re so many good horses out there now. You don’t see that many bad jumpers. Mostly you see good jumpers. There’s so many good ones and yet, not enough really good ones for all the top riders. The sport has grown exponentially and you need more and more horses all the time.” 

“In some way, I don’t like that (the shows) have got more and more the same everywhere you go, and that’s why we like coming here (to Spruce Meadows) – you get something different.”

Julie Claire Ma (BA, M.Sc) is an international show jumping journalist. She is also a writer of fiction, poetry, and memoir. Follow her on Instagram @byjulieclaire.

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