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‘We needed to win enough prize money to get home to USA — no pressure!’

USA rider Beezie Madden, 56, has enjoyed a hugely successful international showjumping career spanning well over 30 years and she is currently ranked number seven in the world, making her the leading female rider.

But according to Beezie (Elizabeth), her first overseas show wasn’t all plain sailing.

“When we took our first trip to Europe to compete, we had enough money to get there but we had to win enough money to get to the other shows and to get home — no pressure!” says Beezie, who came with her husband John, who has a sales business. “Luckily, we were able to help our team win the Nations Cup in Rome and went on to win some classes at other shows. I think we went home with money to spare.”

So how has she enjoyed such longevity in the sport?

“I’m very lucky that I have a great team behind me,” she explains. “From my husband, to the owners and the sponsors — they make my life so much easier. I’m able to work with some very good horses so it’s always exciting and inspiring for me. Obviously, a little financial backing helps as well. Some members of our staff have been with us for over 20 years, so we have an amazing team and that’s a constant support for me.”

The sport of showjumping has changed considerably during Beezie’s career — from the breeding, the types of courses to the universality of the sport.

“So many riders from all over the world are now riding with similar styles, the horses are lighter going than in the past, and the courses are more careful and technical,” she says. “Because of the technicality of the sport, it takes longer to develop a top grand prix horse. Many years ago, you might see a six-year-old in a grand prix, but those days are over. Also, the prize-money has skyrocketed which makes the sport even more competitive and more commercial.

“The ability to fly horses all around the world has also made it possible for many more countries to have top sport,” she adds. “When riders and horses were more confined to staying within their country or continent, they weren’t able to compete against each other. Now many more riders are exposed to top sport and able to raise their level of riding to compete at the top. When we are able to easily ship horses in and out of places like India and China, our sport will grow rapidly.”

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The 56-year-old rode the 11-year-old gelding Darry Lou to victory in possibly the toughest grand prix in the world, the CP International presented by Rolex at the CSIO Spruce Meadows Masters tournament in September (pictured), making her the live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping. The next leg is in Geneva in December.

“Darry Lou is such a consistent horse and I felt he deserved a really big win, so it was exciting and certainly a moment I really remember for years to come,” says Beezie, who describes Darry Lou as a “professional roller” — “I don’t know if he likes the rolling or just like to be dirty… he just loves to do it!”

“The Grand Slam is a great concept that certainly creates further excitement within our sport. It also has brought incredible prize money to the sport and encouraged other competitions to increase their prize money.”

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