Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden is an icon in the world of equestrian sports. Her accomplishments include being an Olympic gold medalist, the first woman to cross the $1 million mark in earnings for show jumping and the only four-time USEF Equestrian of the Year.
Competitions take her and husband John Madden to horse shows around the world. During the winter season, that puts her here in Wellington. She welcomes the chance to spend time in the “Winter Equestrian Capital of the World.”
“I think we do travel so much, that the time we spend is Wellington is the most time we spend anywhere during the year,” Madden said. “While we don’t have a house there, it’s a little like being home. My parents live there year-round now, so I get to spend some time with them.”
After medaling in the 2004 (gold), 2008 (gold and bronze) and 2016 (silver) Olympic Games, Madden’s top goal for the upcoming season will be securing her spot on Team USA for the 2020 games in Tokyo.
“With it being an Olympic year, that’s our biggest goal,” she said. “We don’t know what the observation events are exactly yet, but I aim to have two or three horses that have the opportunity to compete in those events. I’m pretty close to qualifying for the World Cup Finals too, so I’d like to finish that off, so I have that option to compete.”
Each country has its own criteria for selecting Olympians to compete, and while Madden feels confident that she’ll be able to make the U.S. short list, she is careful not to make assumptions about her placement on the team. Just because she won medals in the past is no guarantee of future success. After all, America is home to many of the world’s top riders.
“We have a complicated system. The final short list of about 10 riders is based on their performance in observation events,” she said. “I have to prove myself in good form in the spring, but we don’t know which ones are observation events yet.”
She also enjoys participating in the Nations Cup events and thrives on the classical competitions even more so than special-themed events.
“Any Saturday night Grand Prix is always good to see,” she said. “I think spectators love the Great Charity Challenge and the Battle of the Sexes — they seem to pour in for that. However, I prefer the classical Nations Cup competitions.”
This year, Madden is competing with both seasoned horses and some that perhaps her fans have not seen compete yet.
“I have Garant this year. He is an eight-year-old just starting to do Grand Prix,” she said. “He’s already done two this year, but he hasn’t done one in Florida. Maybe he will make his first five-star debut in Wellington.”
Other horses Madden expects to bring down to Florida this year include her winning horse Breitling LS, who has seen great success in Wellington at the Winter Equestrian Festival, the Longines World Cup Qualifier and the Palm Beach Masters Series. She is also bringing seasoned horses Darry Lou, Coach and Chic Hin D Hyrencourt.
Reflecting on her career of accomplishments, winning team events remains a source of personal pride. Whether it is an Olympic team or the world championships, medaling with a team gives her a great feeling. Three of her four Olympic medals have been in team jumping.
That being said, her individual achievements are stunning, such as her performance in the 2018 World Cup Finals in Paris with Breitling.
“I didn’t go in there as a heavy favorite. It was one of those weeks where everything went really well. I won the first day. I won the second day. I had a rail to spare going into the final round,” she said. “I went in leading and went on to win the last day. Everything went so smoothly.”
The success Madden has seen comes only with dedication and hard work. Her days start early and often run long into the night during competitions.
“We’re morning people anyway, but the day starts at dawn. We’re getting on the first horse in the morning at 6:30 a.m., and it’s long hours, especially on show days,” Madden said. “On a non-show day, we try to get everything wrapped up by 2 p.m. or so, but it’s riding, teaching and sometimes meetings to organize for the next week or month.”
Training in Wellington is particularly nice, because Madden’s horse owner Abigail Wexner owns a farm in Grand Prix Village.
“We are lucky. Mrs. Wexner’s farm has 24 stalls — which is room for our horses — and it’s pretty close,” Madden said. “We can walk to the competition rings from there.”
Madden, with her many years of experience, shared some words of wisdom for young or new riders.
“In general, I think it’s really important to ride, but to also be able to teach — that is how I found my owners and sponsors,” she said. “Always remember this, we don’t really have a private world anymore. Anything you do or put out there, you are going to be judged by people. You always want to make a good impression on maybe future employers, future owners or future clients.”
While her fans already know about Madden’s 18 Nations Cup wins, eight World Cup Qualifier wins and being the first woman to win the prestigious King George Gold Cup at Hickstead, there may be some things they don’t know about Madden. Her favorite color, perhaps?
“My favorite color is blue,” she said. “The blue of a first-place ribbon.”
Visit www.johnmaddensales.com to learn more about show jumping star Elizabeth “Beezie” Madden.