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Beezie Madden, U.S.’ most decorated female equestrian, to change focus after Tokyo Olympics

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Beezie Madden, the most decorated U.S. female equestrian in Olympic history, announced that she will be changing her competition focus after the Tokyo Games, increasing her efforts in developing young horses and riders.

Madden, one of four riders on U.S. Equestrian’s early Olympic team short list, will continue the selection process for Tokyo, which includes two observation events between May and June. The team is expected to be announced on June 23.

While Madden won’t be actively seeking any future Olympics or international competitions representing the U.S., she hasn’t ruled anything out in the future despite her change in focus.

“I don’t exclude any of that for sure,” she said. “If I happen to still have a horse of the quality, and it looks like we could be a combination to help the U.S. team in any way, in any competition, I’m certainly not going to turn it down. But I would say it’s unlikely that will happen because it’s hard enough to make the team when it is your main focus.”

After Tokyo, Madden will still compete, but she’ll play a bigger role with John Madden Sales, the training and sales business she and her husband, John Madden, run in Cazenovia, N.Y. and Wellington, Fla.

“My focus is just going to switch more from my part of the sport to a little more of the business part of the sport and also helping develop young horses and young riders to the championship level,” she said.

For John Madden Sales, developing a horse typically means jumping training that starts around 4 years old and giving them competition experience all over the world. Horses must be at least 9 years old to compete in show jumping at the Olympics.

In addition, Madden currently has a handful of students who compete in high-level competitions, but she is looking to increase that number and potentially teach clinics and open up opportunities for a working student.

“We look forward to helping a few talented young riders grow in their horsemanship and Grand Prix careers,” she said in a statement on Facebook. “If we can serve the US Team by being a small part of preparing the next generation of horses and horsemen, we suspect those victories will feel just as sweet as the ones we stood in the ring for.”

Madden, 56, is a four-time Olympian and four-time medalist. At the 2004 Athens Games, she took team gold aboard Authentic, one of her most successful horses, in her Olympic debut. Four years later, she and Authentic helped defend the U.S.’ team title in Beijing and also won individual bronze.

After a disappointing London Games in 2012 where the team finished sixth and she and Coral Reef Via Volo were eliminated in individual competition, she secured a team silver in Rio with Cortes ‘C.’ Madden became the oldest female U.S. Olympic medalist in any sport since 1904.

In 2018, she became the oldest rider to win the World Cup Final at age 54 aboard Breitling LS and was the traveling reserve at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C. She also won the World Cup Final in 2013 with her horse Simon.

The U.S. qualified for the Tokyo Olympic show jumping team event by winning the 2018 World Equestrian Games.

As the No. 1 ranked U.S. rider based on average points earned, Madden is one of the first four riders on the short list for Tokyo. By April 20, the short list will be expanded to 10 riders who will go on to compete in two observation events.

Madden is also a five-time Pan-Am medalist, most recently picking up team and individual bronze in 2019 with Breitling LS, and a four-time World Equestrian Games medalist (double silver in 2006 and double bronze in 2014). She was the first woman to pass the $1 million earnings mark in show jumping.

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Beezie, John and all of Team JMS want to first take a moment to thank all our friends, fans, and supporters whom have…

Posted by Beezie Madden / John Madden Sales, Inc on Saturday, February 15, 2020

Laura Graves retires Olympic bronze medal horse Verdades

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Less than seven months before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, U.S. dressage rider Laura Graves has retired her 2016 Rio bronze medal horse Verdades.

Graves made the announcement via Instagram, saying, “I’ve always promised that I would do my best to listen and make the right choice for him when this time came. It became clear in recent weeks that he was not going to be able to return to his usual top form in 2020.”

Verdades, an 18-year-old KWPN gelding also known as “Diddy,” has been with Graves since he was 6 months old. Horses can live well into their 30s, and while there is no maximum age for a horse competing in the Olympics, 18 is generally considered senior, or close to it.

Graves brought Diddy up through the ranks herself, which is uncommon at the Olympic level.

“This horse not only achieved every goal we ever set, but he fulfilled dreams that I never knew I had,” she wrote on Instagram. “Not always the easiest, it was his generous heart and incredible sense of loyalty that made him one of a kind.”

The duo took the U.S. dressage world by storm at the 2014 dressage national championships and made their World Equestrian Games debut later that year in Normandy. They finished fifth in the Grand Prix Freestyle and went on to take team gold and individual silver at the 2015 Pan Am Games.

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Graves and Diddy helped push the U.S. to team bronze, and they finished just out of the individual medals in fourth place.

Since their Cinderella Olympics, the pair have been a staple on the U.S. Dressage Team, picking up double silver at the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon, N.C., behind dominant German equestrian Isabell Werth. They peaked at No. 1 in the world dressage rankings in October of 2018.

The following spring, they were runners up to Werth yet again at the 2019 FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Gothenburg in what would become their last competition together.

Team USA earned a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with their silver medal at the last World Equestrian Games, but the U.S. will have to ride without one of their most successful pairs. Since Verdades is the only horse Graves has ever competed internationally, Graves’ Olympic future is unknown.

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It is with both a heavy heart and a grateful mind that today, I announce the retirement of my great friend, Diddy. I've always promised that I would do my best to listen and make the right choice for him when this time came. It became clear in recent weeks that he was not going to be able to return to his usual top form in 2020. While nothing makes me happier than watching him play in his field and take him for hacks, it is still a very new and very sad realization for me that this journey has reached its end. This horse not only achieved every goal we ever set, but he fulfilled dreams that I never knew I had. Not always the easiest, it was his generous heart and incredible sense of loyalty that made him one of a kind. Every time I sit in his saddle, I continue to feel honored and humble that he allowed me to be his person. We have travelled the world together, many times over and cut our teeth at some the world's greatest competitions. While it will not be the same loading up the trailer without him, I am very much looking forward to the next chapter of my career with a stable full of young horses. I would like to express a deep love and appreciation for so many people, without whom, this horse would never had made his way to the world stage. My family, especially my mom, who selected Diddy with her keen eye and supported us even when everyone said we were crazy. My soon to be husband, Curt who is always my biggest fan and never questions my need to care for our animals. Debbie McDonald who gave us time when no one else would and believed in our ability to be great. Betsy Juliano who has been by my side through the ups and downs of this rollercoaster and made so much possible for me. Emmalie Clapp my amazing groom who always cares for my horses like her own. Our talented and dedicated team of veterinarians and farriers who kept this boy in top shape for so many years. Robert Dover, Hallye Griffin, US Equestrian and the USET for giving us the opportunity to represent the USA. Lastly, the biggest thank you to Verdades, Diddy, Diddyman, Bugs, my buddy for the joy you have brought to so many.

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Isabell Werth, Olympics’ greatest equestrian, faces Tokyo question: which horse to take?

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Over 27 years after winning her first of six Olympic gold medals, German dressage rider Isabell Werth is beating herself in the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) world rankings.

Werth, 50, sits in second with her three-time World Cup winner and Olympic gold and silver medalist horse Weihegold Old, a 2005 Oldenburg mare. But it’s her self-described “dream horse” Bella Rose 2 who takes the FEI’s top spot.

Werth can only compete with one of the two horses at the Tokyo Games.

In less than a year span, she swept the 2018 Tryon World Equestrian Games, won her fifth World Cup title and took her 20th title at the European Championships. After a busy year, Werth has her sights set on a bigger goal: a sixth Olympics.

Already the winningest equestrian in Olympic history, at Tokyo, Werth could build on her collection of 10 Olympic medals and claim a gold medal from four different decades.

This would extend her era of winning Olympic titles from 24 years (tied for the women’s record) to 28, which would tie the overall record held by Hungarian fencer Aladar Gerevich.

Werth debuted at the 1992 Barcelona Games, picking up team gold and individual silver on Gigolo FRH. The pair swept both the team and individual titles in 1996, and Gigolo went out on a high note, picking up one more team gold and individual silver in 2000 before retiring a few months later.

Werth returned to the Olympics in 2008 with Satchmo 78, taking team gold and individual silver.

After passing the bar eight years post-Barcelona, Werth worked in law and marketing until beginning her own training stable in 2004.

She initially thought she would retire from riding around her 30s—until Madeleine Winter-Schulze, a prominent and longtime supporter of German equestrians, offered her sponsorship that remains active to this day.

At the Rio Olympics, Werth was relegated to individual silver after Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin defended her individual dressage title, but two years later, Werth flipped the script to take gold in Tryon.

Like many elite equestrians, Werth started riding at a young age. She show jumped and evented as a teen until Uwe Schulten-Baumer, a six-time European Champion, introduced her to dressage and his horse Gigolo.

Unlike many riders at such an elite level, Werth is known for bringing her own horses along from the beginning stages to the world stage.

Werth, known as the “Dressage Queen,” first laid eyes on Bella Rose when the horse was 3 years old. Werth, already a four-time gold medalist with six World Equestrian Games titles, saw something special in the Westfalen mare.

“I saw her, and I got goosebumps,” Werth said. “I said, ‘Wow, the charisma of the horse, the way she moves, the way she showed herself, she presents herself and her character’ — that was what touched me in the first second. And then of course later on, I was really happy that she also was very, very kind and really motivated every day.”

In 2014, Bella Rose was part of Germany’s team gold at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France.

Then a stretch of soundness issues kept the mare out for the next four years. She announced her return to competition with a roar in Tryon, and then followed it up less than a year later with team gold, special gold and freestyle gold at the European Championships last August.

“Most people know that my heart is so close to this horse,” Werth has said about Bella Rose. “She is a gift. I saw that when I first met her as a three-year-old and she has never lost it.”

Sitting just below Bella Rose on the FEI dressage world rankings is Weihegold Old, Werth’s Rio mount. Together, they captured team gold and individual silver at the Rio Games.

As Tokyo approaches, Werth must decide between her No. 1 “dream horse” Bella and her proven Olympian Weihegold.

Chief among her concerns is the potential for extreme heat and humidity in Japan during summertime. Training in Germany can’t prepare a horse for those conditions.

“Of course, I have a little plan for each horse in my mind, but most of the time you have to be flexible because the horse makes their own plan,” Werth said. “We will see what happens next spring.”

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