New horse, same tricks for US' 'Beezie' Madden

Equestrian explains her sport ahead of 2012 London Games


If one word could define Olympic equestrian Elizabeth "Beezie" Madden's show jumping career so far, it's "Authentic." But it's also the one thing she'll be missing when she represents the U.S. in London.

Authentic was the name of Beezie's horse in the last two Olympic games that helped her bring home two gold medals.


"He was not a real explosive power jumper like some horses, but he was a winner," Beezie said in an interview with ESPN. "We never felt like he was at his limit -- he just kept doing more and more and more."

In 2009 a tendon injury forced Authentic into retirement, taking away Beezie's long-time teammate in a sport where chemistry is everything and forcing her to find a new partner for 2012.

"It's kind of the age-old question: How much of it is the horse and how much is the rider?" Beezie told ESPN. "I'd like to say it's almost 50/50 as far as being a successful winner at the top."

She's been working with her current horse, Coral Reef Via Volo, for a little over two years now. When picking a horse, Beezie said she looks for more than just strength and agility. "The hard part is knowing if the horse is going to have the right temperament for it," she told BuzzFeed Shift.

"Our training goes on for years. They (horses) become a part of the family."

Olympic equestrian show jumping is a sport of perfection. Horses and their riders move around a course of fences that are various heights and distances apart that the horse and rider never have ridden before. Instead of earning points, the rider and horse start with a perfect score and points are deducted for mistakes.  

"We have two ways of getting fouls," Beezie said. "One is knocking a fence down and the other is a refusal, which means a horse is supposed to jump and he doesn't."


Beezie's husband, horseman John Madden, told ESPN the race was like running blind through a maze. Since the horse sees the course for the first time during its event, it is the rider's job to direct it every step of the way as horses typically can't see up to eight feet in front of them.

Even if she couldn't ride in the Olympics, Beezie says she would still be working with horses. "I love working with them," she said. "Maybe it would just be working with young horses if I wasn't good enough to work at the Olympic level, maybe it would be teaching."