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July 30, 2012

A Little Ping-Pong Gets The Show Jumpers Sharp

Beezie Madden (right) prepped for the London Olympic Games with a little honing of the competitive edge in a ping-pong battle with groom Clark Shipley.

Beezie Madden has two team gold medals from the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games to her credit, along with individual bronze from the 2008 Olympic Games and team and individual silver from the 2006 World Equestrian Games. She's ready to represent the United States again as a member of the U.S. show jumping team for the London Olympic Games. Beezie gives us a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes happenings of Olympic preparation.

Anyone who’s been to John Madden Sales or has met my husband John would probably quickly realize that there is not a lot of down time at John Madden Sales. I have to schedule vacations and days off for John and myself or else we would be in the barn 365 days a year. On vacations, I have had to enforce a “no phone calls unless the barn is on fire or a horse is sick” rule or else we would just keep working straight through.

Clearly dedication to the sport and the horses has gotten us far, but I think to an outsider of the sport, they might be surprised to learn what it takes to excel in equestrian sports. A great example of that is last weekend, just days before Coral Reef Via Volo and I head to London with the rest of the United States team. I was competing at De Wolden, a two-star competition just down the road from Stal Johan Heins in the Netherlands, where we are training for the Olympics, with another horse. Even though we’re headed to the Olympic Games, we have to keep working with the other horses and keep thinking about each of their futures.

To be fair, it was pretty simple to school Via and Simon in the morning with the team and then drive over to De Wolden and compete with Vanilla. It is a fun show where many of our friends in Holland were competing, so it turned into a really enjoyable last competition before Via ships Tuesday.

Vanilla, who is the daughter of Coral Reef Via Volo, competed on Friday in the big tour class at 1.40 meters and finished third out of nearly 90 starters. She went double-clear. This trip to Europe has really served to help develop Vanilla. She has her mother’s talent and they both look really similar, but Vanilla still has some experience to gain. Vanilla, although 10, also had two foals early in life and is therefore still somewhat green to the bigger classes. That means my Olympic horse, Via, is actually a “grandmother.”

Vanilla had a green moment in Sunday’s class and pulled two rails, but John and I are still very pleased with her. Only four out of the 50 horses in the class went clear, so it was a tough class. Although the Olympics have our full attention at the moment, we are already planning where we will head after the Olympics and next up we are thinking that Vanilla and Simon will compete at Valkenswaard (the Netherlands).

Two other Olympic riders, Marc Houtzager & Jur Vrieling, were also competing at De Wolden and they held a nice ceremony as a send off to London for us during the Tuigpaarden Masters Class (Harness Horse Masters Class). John got a good picture of me being driven in for the ceremony.

Via and I did our last jump school on Sunday and I think we’re as ready as we can be. In between schooling and showing, Team USA got some ping-pong in to get in a good competitive spirit. Clark Shipley (Via’s groom in London) and I had a few close matches; I won’t say who won those…. The rest of the team also got into the action with some good games in spare moments over the weekend.

John left for London Sunday night, as he has official duties as the chairman of the FEI Jumping Committee. Via and the rest of the team horses ship Tuesday and will go straight to the staging area to go into the venue.  They will arrive late Wednesday morning. All the U.S. riders will fly into London together with chef d’equipe George Morris on Tuesday.

 

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