‘I made the Olympics my goal aged 10 – I have to do it now!’ Meet showjumping’s rising star

  • Teenage showjumper Madison Heath made the Olympic Games her goal at the age of 10 and she’s continuing to make huge strides on her way to making that dream a reality.

    Cheshire-based Madison, 19, enjoyed a glittering career on ponies, including claiming many of the country’s leading titles on brilliant ponies Red Alert III and Sonas Barney, and is now making big waves in the sport of showjumping since stepping up to horses.

    “Aged 10 I said I want to go to the Olympics – I set that goal, so I have to do it now!” Madison tells H&H. “It was a big step off saying that when I was on Red Alert, but I’ve set my goal now, I hope I can make it happen.”

    Madison was recently selected for the British Showjumping gold development programme, which will help her continue to progress in the sport.

    “I’ve been to one of the training camps and learnt a lot already,” she says. “We tell them all our aims and what we’d like to get out of the programme, then we have lessons with Matt Lanni. You go through your strength and conditioning, what’s going right, what’s going wrong. It’s brilliant.”

    Madison is currently enjoying a busy winter indoor showjumping season, recently finishing with just four faults in the Yeti Under 25 British Showjumping Championship at the London International Horse Show on her top horse Ivory, an 11-year-old daughter of Don VHP Z, who Madison has been riding for the past three years.

    “I couldn’t believe it – I was thinking, ‘I’m going to be clear!’ then I just panicked at the last fence,” she recalls. “I would have been clear otherwise. But it was a great experience. She was jumping amazing for me as well – she really did try, bless her.”

    Madison Heath: “I’ve always gone for razzy little horses”

    As well as Ivory, Madison has been producing great results with 12-year-old Bouncer and nine-year-old Soulful, with a new ride for 2024 Summer Rain and a handful of youngsters coming through, all of whom are looked after by “top groom” Clare Roberts.

    “Ivory does pick her good days – I always say she has to be in a good mood to do well,” explains Madison.

    “I’ve six or seven horses to ride a day – I’m lucky if someone lunges a few for me! Summer Rain is coming through – we haven’t taken her out anywhere yet, we’re just getting her settled but she will be a big jumper. We had half shares in her, so we’ve bought the rest and she’s jumped a few big classes with other riders. When she was eight, she just didn’t have the rideability so we thought we’d try to sort that out before we took her out.

    “Bouncer is a brave one and no matter how big the fence is he’ll jump it, but I feel unfair on him because he can’t actually jump huge! I did my first rankings class on him and I think he had five down, he was all up for it though!

    Rising star showjumper Madison Heath wins at Olympia aged 12 on Red Alert

    Madison Heath wins at Olympia aged 12 on Red Alert III

    “I’ve got three five-year-olds – one sassy little chestnut mare who is so brave and so careful but she likes to do things her way! Then another one is quite a big five-year-old – it’s funny, the good ones definitely come in all shapes and sizes!”

    Madison is trained by Adam Botham and she has been having plenty of dressage lessons which have helped in many ways, but particularly with the difficult step up from ponies to horses.

    “As I’ve got older, I’m not as brave, which is actually a good thing because I was pretty ruthless!” she says. “The dressage lessons have really helped as I was so used to ponies razzing round, I’ve had to calm myself down a bit. I had two 14.2hhs, a ‘horsey’ one and a ‘pony’ one, and I loved the pony one but I’d always dread getting on the horsey one! But I’ve always gone for the little razzy horses, too – like Ivory.”

    Madison is hoping to fulfil her dream to compete abroad this year, aiming for Oliva in Spain in the autumn.

    “Then I’d love to do young riders hopefully with Ivory, or even Summer Rain if she starts getting going,” she says.

    “When you’re scrolling through Instagram, you see Ben Maher competing in Paris in front of the Eiffel Tower and you think wow, I want to go there! So that’s the dream.”

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