Katherine Strauss is coming off a big win at the 2016 Capital Challenge Equitation Weekend, claiming victory in the Private Tutoring Services North American Junior Equitation Championships. And while the rider balances her equitation training with Stacia Madden, she’s honing her show jumping skills with John and Beezie Madden at John Madden Sales.

The senior in high school heads into her fourth year of equitation medal finals this fall, during the indoor circuit. But rest assured that once the winter circuit at the Wellington Equestrian Festival rolls around, she’ll apply the lessons learned in the American discipline to the international ring, alongside Beezie.

Read on to learn the important riding and training staples that Madden is passing on to Strauss.

  1. Integrity: Beezie stresses the importance of responsibility, primarily to your horse—but also to your team. This responsibility means always prioritizing your horse’s well being and taking no shortcuts to obtain results. She always reminds me that “excellence is not like a coat that you can put on one day and take off the next day,” implying that you must approach everything you do with your horses with a commitment to excellence and a high level of integrity.
  1. Let horses be horses: It can be easy to forget that our horses are animals in addition to serious athletes. Beezie’s program has a traditional approach that emphasizes horses being treated as such. For example, between the National Horse Show and WEF, we sometimes remove my horses’ shoes and turn them out in large pastures, sometimes with other horses.
  1. The importance of flatwork: On a daily basis, Beezie flats, rather than jumps, her horses. She emphasizes the role flatwork plays in developing a horse’s fitness and forming a close relationship with them. It is incredible to watch her raise a horse from one level in its career to the next through flatwork alone.
  1. Details, details, details: In such an unpredictable sport, immense attention to detail can enhance your ability to prevent problems. From barn chores to horse care and management to course execution, everything at JMS is very detail oriented. Beezie always stresses that “fundamentals are your life preserver,” so striving to perfect the details of your basics, such as your aids and position, can maximize your communication with your horse. Likewise, noticing a small tear in your equipment enables you to mend or replace it before it becomes dangerous; addressing a small bump on your horse can also be instrumental to prohibiting a larger soundness issue from arising.
  1. Less is more: In terms of management, we rarely jump our horses, leaving their jumps expressive and energetic for when we compete. Beezie’s equipment is also very simplistic.  For example, all of our horses flat in loose ring snaffles. Finally, Beezie’s tactic is minimalistic; she explains that I should “have high expectations but be quick to reward,” highlighting the importance of training my horse to react to as little pressure as possible.
  1. Strategy: We always devise both short term and long term plans for our horses. This helps us have them peak during the time of year when we need them most, and also avoid jumping when it is unnecessary to do so. We also have a strategy, schooling or competitive, for each class we do. Beezie reminds me that while it is necessary to have a plan, we must also be flexible when adversity strikes, as this sport is so unpredictable.
  1. Gratitude: Despite being one of the best riders in the world, Beezie always expresses gratitude for her horses, team, owner, and country. She inspires me to be more gracious for all the opportunities I have, which helps me push myself to find solutions to, rather than be stopped by, seemingly insurmountable challenges. In this way, my admiration for Beezie extends beyond the equestrian context, as this lesson can be applied to all aspects of life.
  1. Persistence: Beezie explains that when things do not go as planned, it is important to analyze your mistakes and not get too flustered. Instead, seek out new ways to improve. However, persistence is also critical in times of success. When things are going well, it is easier to become complacent, so it is important to continue trying to improve.
  1. Teamwork: A sense of “JMS pride” definitely circulates throughout the barn. We are truly all working together towards common goals, rooted in common morals. Beezie really fosters a sense of community in expressing gratitude for everyone who is a part of her success. It is never surprising to find her cleaning tack, or helping out in anyway whatsoever, even after a long day of showing.
  1. Have fun: Some of Beezie’s last words of advice before I enter the ring are always “have fun.” She explains that there is no one last tip that will change the outcome, as we have done all of our preparation. Thus, enjoy the moment and begin working on all the mistakes as soon as it is over.  This helps me keep things in perspective and get the most enjoyment out of what I love doing.

For more in the Master Class series, click here.