Wellington, Fla., February 26, 2009 -- I arrived at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, home of the Winter Equestrian Festival at about 3 p.m. today. I called Frank when I pulled onto the grounds, and he directed me to the barn that houses Frank Madden Show Stable. Once I found him, he introduced me to several members of his staff, all of whom were working on the detailed lists of the horses showing tomorrow. After that, we went over to his practice ring where I watched him give a couple of lessons.
Frank was positive and encouraging during the lessons. The biggest point he made was that you need to give the horse tools to get things right. When we ride better, the horse goes better. Frank wanted problems solved through solid flatwork. When jumping, the rider has to pay attention to how the horse is carrying himself at the end of the ring and around turns. One of the horses was a youngster getting started in the equitation classes. On a broken line, when the striding didn't come easy to the horse, Frank suggested ways to adjust the track to make it work. The goal was always to make the horse better balanced and help him to be successful. He really likes the horses, making sure they get good pats at the end of rides. The horses went well, and things were wrapped up for the day.
Frank and I parted ways so I could go to the hotel where I'm staying and check in. Before I left the show grounds, I used the quiet time to get the lay of the land. I walked to the Grand Hunter Field and then to the International Arena (the one with the bridge over the in-gate). There, some children were practicing the parade of flags for tomorrow's Nations' Cup competition, while the jump crew was assembling tomorrow's course. The other rings were just as busy, with each getting some finishing touches for the next day.? The sun was setting, people were scarce--it was great to have the chance to see everything that way.
Here and there, riders were working horses in various schooling rings. Vendors were helping the late-day shoppers. I wandered among the stables, taking note of some friends' and acquaintances' locations so I can hopefully say "hi" over the weekend.
Tomorrow I'm meeting Frank early so I can see how he preps his riders before the flat phase of the USET Talent Search. He also suggested I make note of the other classes I'd like to see, so I'm going over the class list next.
Now it's off to dinner and then some rest so I can be up early for my first full day with Frank. I'll have news of the Nations' Cup and more experiences tomorrow!
Terri Young is Frank Madden's grand-prize winner of the 2008 Week with the Maddens Contest, sponsored by Bates Saddles, Practical Horseman and the Syracuse Invitational Sporthorse Tournament. Terri trains horses and teaches riders of all levels at her stable, Clairvaux LLC, in Leesburg, Va. She specializes in bridging the gap between the local Virginia show circuit and USEF-rated shows. Terri grew up competing in equitation and hunters in New Jersey before spending several years working for top dressage trainers, including Lendon Gray. After graduating with a degree in business management from Syracuse University, she moved to Germany where she trained and showed jumpers before returning stateside to open her own stable. She is a USEF "r" judge and a member of the USHJA Marketing and Communications Committee.