We're honoring the deep bond between horse and rider in our series, A Letter to My Horse. Over the last weeks, readers have submitted their own letters, and in mid-July we'll be choosing the top 3 to publish (and win prizes!). Stay tuned for more.
To sit and think about the horses that have had a hand in shaping my career is to realize how truly lucky I am that you chose me as a partner. The things we accomplished together did not come easily, and I needed to learn a lot about you in order to allow you to flourish. With your help, we reached great heights and firsts in my career — and for that I will always be grateful.
You always hope that you’ll find the next big superstar on every horse shopping trip, and I had that same dream when I met you for the first time in 2011. You’d spent the early parts of your international career with Gregory Wathelet, where you showed your talents as you easily moved through the levels. When I first took you for a spin, I almost didn’t want to come back to try you again the second day — you were so lovely to ride, I was worried I’d find something wrong with you! But of course, I never did, and I loved the feeling you gave me the first time we jumped together. I think it is one of those things we as riders are always chasing: that perfect feeling over a fence.
I love to have a feeling that a horse is willing to try and learn when I am first getting to know them. Between the feeling of trainability that you gave me and the correctness in your way of going that my husband, John, saw from the ground, I knew that we might have another special horse on our hands.
Getting to know you, I wanted to do right by you, taking the time to cement our partnership and allow you to tell me who you wanted to be. There is no better feeling than a horse putting his faith in you. Moving through the levels felt easy, and I felt our potential growing with each step forward.
"I loved the feeling you gave me the first time we jumped together. I think it is one of those things we as riders are always chasing: that perfect feeling over a fence."
Of course, every horse needs individuality in their programs, and I learned that I needed to help you shorten your huge stride every now and then to make things easier for you. You really like to go around with your nose poked out, sometimes with your mouth open, and I let you. Forcing you to change your natural way of going might have held us back, and I wanted you to be successful.
One of the biggest examples of your true talent and determination to do well comes from 2014, just before the World Equestrian Games (WEG). I had broken my collarbone earlier in the year, but I knew that between our two wells of experience we would have enough mileage to not require a heavy campaign that spring. When we started showing again, you felt like you hadn’t missed a beat. The time off from my injury seemed not to faze you as you jumped double clear in the Nations Cup and won the Grand Prix at Hickstead, an event with plenty of pressure as an observation event for WEG. In Normandy, you were named Best Horse and won two bronze medals. Even after a less than ideal spring, you never faltered. I couldn’t have been more proud of you after that performance.
I wish we would have had more time in the ring together, but I’m all at once just grateful for the opportunities you gave me. You taught me that when you have a good horse, you need to allow that horse to be good. This means getting to know them and understanding what makes them tick.
I will fondly remember all of the career highlights we achieved, but what I value the most is the relationship we shared. With you, a 1.60 meter course felt like it was a 1.40 meter course. It just felt easy — you made my job easy. Success can only be achieved when both horse and rider can move as one, and I am so lucky to say that you gave me that chance.
Thank you for everything, Tiny.
As told to Sally Spickard.
Written by Beezie Madden
Elizabeth "Beezie" Madden is one of the most dominating figures in U.S. show jumping. Representing the team for nearly three decades, she's long been a pathfinder in the sport. Beezie was the first woman to win the King George Gold Cup at Hickstead with Cortes ’C’, the first woman to win over $1 million in prize money, and she was the first woman (and first American!) to break into the top-three in show jumping's world rankings. Beezie and her husband John operate a training and sales business out of Cazenovia, New York.