The stands in the indoor venue were packed as Madden strategically maneuvered 16-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Simon (Mr. Blue x Polydox) to the win in 37.33 seconds, over a second faster than Jack “Hardin” Towell’s 38.75-second round.
“I saw a couple of the earlier rounds, thanks to the TVs that Longines now provides in the schooling areas,” Madden said. “I planned to do seven strides up the first line, same as the others, but then to catch them on the turns later in the course.
“I actually didn’t see Hardin go, but I think my turns at least to the double combination and probably after the double combination - my horse is brilliant with that. He has a lot of practice trying to do short turns because running isn’t always his best thing. But I have to say, he and I together are figuring that part out a little better and doing seven up the first line wouldn’t always have been in our plan, but tonight and the way he’s been going lately, I’m very comfortable doing that with him. Indoors especially, he can be really fast with the short turns.”
Madden’s plan worked accordingly, and she and her veteran mount shaved additional time with tighter turns than the rest of the field. “Simon has been my World Cup Final horse for the last three years,” according to Madden. “He doesn’t really have any quirks except that he whinnies at the in gate every time before he goes into the ring. He’s a pleasure to deal with and to ride.”
Earlier in the year, Madden helped launch the inaugural Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League, but tonight’s event was the first of the series that she could attend, without conflicting with her international commitments. She recently returned to the United States after competing on the country’s all-female team at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona in September.
“I like that the North American League has reduced the number of qualifiers and number of scores that count toward qualifying for the Final,” said Madden. “It gives more opportunities for international competition. This is the first one I’ve done in the League, but I can still get enough in to get four good scores and not really over jump my horses.”
The next qualifying class for Madden will be aboard Breitling LS (Quintero x Acord II) in Lexington, Ky. on November 1, followed by the East Coast stops in Toronto, Palm Beach, and Ocala. Madden will also compete in the CSI-5* in Thermal on November 8.
“It feels great to be at my current rankings,” Madden said. “It’s the highest I’ve been in the world rankings. I’m just lucky to have a string of good horses that can let me be there and a fantastic owner in Abigail Wexner. It gives me a chance. I’m very lucky to have my whole team.”
Staying at the top is especially important this year as Madden hopes to be selected to represent the United States at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games next summer. “We’re trying to hit the grand prix classes that are high on the list,” said Madden. “We’re not trying not to run around to a bunch of shows but trying to pick the ones that are worth the effort and trying to do well at them.”
With such high stakes on the line, Madden’s ability to focus on the task at hand while competing is both an asset and a testament for one of the country’s most decorated riders. “Anybody who says that they never get nervous isn’t telling the truth,” according to Madden. “I get excited and anxious for sure and with some nerves. But luckily when I get on a horse, it all goes away.” By mid-November, Madden will have the opportunity to rest herself and her horses before returning to competitions at the beginning of January.
The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League class gave reason for many of the class’ 29 riders to schedule their first visits to the Del Mar International Horse Show in California. The solid, 13-obstacle track designed by Germany’s Heiko Wahlers presented multiple challenges to the horse-and-rider pairs that included optional striding and a very large triple combination. One of the biggest questions, according to the riders during the course walk, was the decision between six or seven strides from a double combination to a wide oxer over a liverpool. The decision to set a really big course stemmed from the many great riders featured in the class, Wahlers said.
When the evening’s first two riders, Richard Spooner (USA) and Kent Farrington (USA), both managed faultless rounds, it was clear to the full house of spectators that the riding level was elevated to an international caliber. Kirsten Coe (USA), Michelle Rodal (USA), Kevin Babington (IRL), and Christian Heineking (GER) joined Spooner, Farrington, Towell, and Madden in the jump off. All eight riders have extensive experience competing at international level, including multiple FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final and FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping appearances amongst them.
“I thought (before my jump-off round) that Kent had already gone and Spooner had already gone and had a rail and knew I had Beezie behind me, but with Lucifer this year, too many times I’ve gone too fast and had the last jump down in several grand prix in Europe that I could’ve easily taken one more,” Hardin said. “My turns on him are not great, and I knew from the beginning that Beezie was definitely going to be able to go faster. And going to the last jump, I saw one less and then I thought, you know what, I’m probably going to gallop down there, knock it down, and I would’ve still been slower than Beezie.
“So I decided to take one more, and Beezie beat me. But I’ve been the bridesmaid a lot in the past couple months, so it is what it is. But having Beezie behind me, you can only do so much, and I was thrilled with my horse. He’s really improved in the past two years, and even in the past year. This was his first World Cup last year, and I hope next year that he’ll have a bright future ahead of him.”
Heineking managed a clear first round despite his horse losing a shoe after the liverpool. The pair successfully completed the remaining eleven fences and had the shoe reattached ahead of the jump off, finishing in third overall.
1. Simon (Beezie Madden), USA, 0 faults/37.33 seconds (JO);
2. Lucifer V (Jack “Hardin” Towell), USA, 0/38.75 (JO);
3. Nikh Quanto (Christian Heineking), GER, 0/40.80 (JO);
4. Czardas (Kirsten Coe), USA, 0/41.83 (JO);
5. Cristallo (Richard Spooner) USA, 4/37.45 (JO);
6. Gazelle (Kent Farrington), USA, 4/38.85 (JO);
7. Darius de la Ferme Rose (Michelle Rodal), USA, 4/46.62 (JO);
8. Mark Q (Kevin Babington), IRL, 12/40.52 (JO).