October 17, 2023
Each November, the top junior riders in the country congregate to the National Horse Show for the ASPCA Maclay National Championship. Originating in 1933, the "Maclay" was the first big Equitation medal final & aimed to encourage riders to develop their horsemanship skills alongside their riding technique.
Now, the Maclay is one of four major big Equitation finals: the ASPCA Maclay, the USEF Medal, the USEF Talent Search (East & West) & the WIHS Equitation Classic. Each of the finals asks competitors different questions & are seen as an important stepping stone in a rider's equestrian career.
If you look back on successful riders’ histories, you’ll see Equitation medal final wins as part of their trajectory. Looking at our Team EquiFit roster alone, you’ll see medal final wins for riders like Joie Gatlin, Stacia Klein Madden, McLain Ward, Kent Farrington, Michael Morrissey, Brianne Goutal, Maggie McAlary, Jessica Springsteen, Lillie Keenan, McKayla Langmeier, Hunter Holloway, Taylor St. Jacques, Sam Walker, Brian Moggre & Augusta Iwasaki.
McLain Ward with Sight Unseen, winners of the 1990 USEF Talent Search - East
Photo credit: James Parker, The Book LLC
So, what elements make these finals & the Equitation divisions a common denominator among successful professional riders today? We sat down with Stacia Klein Madden, owner & head trainer of Beacon Hill Show Stables, to discuss the value of Equitation & how these medal finals provide the groundwork for success.
“Foundation is so important, and I believe that the Equitation division gives a really strong foundation to the young riders today,” noted Madden. “You can learn a lot about the Jumper rules when you're doing the Washington Jumper Phase and the USET classes. You can learn a lot about Hunt Seat Equitation when you're doing your Medal and Maclay and you can learn a lot about Hunter rules and Hunter riding when you're doing the Hunter Phase of the Washington.
Stacia Klein Madden with Outrageous, winners of the 1987 ASPCA Maclay Finals
Photo credit: Pennington
Madden went on to explain how Equitation provides an opportunity to practice a wide array of riding styles within one subset of riding: “For a kid that can only ride one horse, they're getting to dip their toe into all different arenas of the Hunter Seat Equitation, the Jumper Seat Equitation, and really learning the riding technique that is needed with track, pace, and riding under pressure. All the facets that you need to be able to go forward if you're going to ride for your team or internationally. I think you can start developing that at a very early stage and then you just innately carry it along with you.”
To Stacia, it doesn’t matter what her students go on to achieve, she enjoys “being a big part of developing these kids with a solid foundation to go on, whether it's college, riding for a team, riding as an amateur, riding as professional, or even going on to ride for the United States of America.”
Alongside the skills learned through the Equitation division, Stacia & Beacon Hill pride themselves on developing a strong foundation of horsemanship & sportsmanship for their riders. “Even though we have very good results, it's never about putting ribbons on the tack room. A lot of times it's about the path, the journey, the development, and the relationship between the horse and rider at the end of the day. And I think that's why Joe’s finish at the USET Finals this weekend was so special to me and my team. Because it's the exact journey that we believe in of really, diving deep into the sport and then getting good results and that paid off for him.”
Joe Craver led each of the three phases (Flat, Gymnastics & Jumping) of the USEF Talent Search Finals – East aboard his own 2012 gelding, Franco. “Joe is a rider that has really exemplified what I want the sport to do for young riders,” reflected Stacia. “He's worked hard and has really studied riding. He kind of throws his all into it. He's at the barn helping the grooms, the vets, the farriers. He's diligent with keeping up with his schoolwork so that he can ride. He's the one that's at the ring at the night classes in Florida, stationed outside the schooling area so that he can learn.
“I just feel like what the sport has done for him, having this passion, it doesn't matter what he does with the rest of his life... he's going to make it.”