They are accomplished equestrians, two local favorites who have brought their grace and power to events at Old Salem Farm in North Salem.
But as the Spring Horse Shows there approach in an Olympic year, Beezie Madden and Georgina Bloomberg find themselves on different tracks.
Madden — part of the gold medal-winning U.S. Equestrian Team in Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) and a bronze medalist in Beijing — has already been short-listed to the team, along with Kent Farrington, Laura Kraut and McLain Ward, who was also part of the Athens and Beijing teams. (The four were selected based on their high placement on the Dec. 4, 2015 Rolex/USEF Show Jumping Average Ranking List.)
“It’s what you dream of as a little girl — to go (to the Olympics) and represent your country,” Madden says.
Bloomberg has had the same patriotic dream. It’s why she’s so passionate about competing in the FEI Nations Cup series.
“I enjoy riding for the U.S. team and being able to represent my country,” she says.
For her, though, the timing for the Olympics may be off. The United States Equestrian Federation and chef d’équipe (team manager) Robert Ridland will be adding at least six other teams of riders/horses — none of the horses have yet been selected — to the short list by April 13. (That selection is based on performance in observation events or a top 10 finish at the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, which took place at the end of last month.)
“It’s something I’m not thinking about,” Bloomberg says of the short list. “If it happens, it would be amazing. But you have to have the right horse. My mare, Jubina, has been injured for over a year. It’s part of the sport. The timing is not in our favor.”
It’s a reminder that for those who enjoy the beauty of the hunter competitions and the speed and energy of the jumper events — both of which they’ll see in the Spring Shows at Old Salem Farm in May — the horse is as much a part of the athletic team as the rider, even more so.
“The horse has to be a fantastic jumper,” says Madden, who rode Authentic, a Dutch-bred gelding, to victory in Athens and Beijing. “He has to want to work with you, travel, ride on airplanes, go into big cities and compete in big arenas and stay healthy. It’s a hard thing, because you have to peak at the right time.”
For Madden — who with her husband, John, runs John Madden Sales farm in Cazenovia, N.Y. — the Spring Shows are a kind of equine spring training, a tune-up. “It’s a step forward, about bringing the horses up to speed.”
That step could be one of many that will take her to Rio de Janiero, where the Zika virus has American athletes like soccer star Hope Solo raising a red flag.
“You have to be concerned,” Madden says. “But (the virus has) been around quite a while and I’m leaving it in the hands of the experts.”
Plus, when the Olympics start there Aug. 5, it will be winter, she says, when the mosquitoes are less active.
For Bloomberg, who grew up watching her equestrian heroes at Old Salem, “it’s a good environment to bring around young horses” — which is just what she’ll do in the first week of the shows.
Whether she makes the Olympic short list or not, Bloomberg wants to compete as much as possible in the next couple of years until her son, Jasper, is school age. That will be the time for settling down.
“If he chooses to ride, that will be his decision,” she says. “I’m not going to make him do it for my career.”
Besides being a mother, Bloomberg enjoys reading about athletes and has co-authored a series of young adult equestrian novels. Her philanthropic work has included The Rider’s Closet, for therapeutic riding schools and riders in need of appropriate apparel; and the Equestrian Aid Foundation to help with medical expenses.
“While I still love riding,” she says, “I can see that there are other things in life.”
The Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Shows return for their 34th year May 10-15 and 17-22. The farm has added another competition date, May 8, Welcome Horse Show Day. The shows feature more than 130 hunter and jumper classes each week. In addition to the Olympic-caliber Grand Prix events, there are competitions for children, juniors, adults and amateurs in more than 50 divisions.
Old Salem Farm is at 190 June Road in North Salem. For more, call 914-669-5610 or visit oldsalemfarm.net.