American Olympic medalist Beezie Madden normally gives her horses a lengthy vacation in the winter before heading to Wellington, FL for the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF).

But after the pandemic-truncated 2020 season, she’s switched gears this year, bringing her 2018 FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final winner Breitling LS back to work early.

“I’m going to pick and choose where I think he’s going to do well,” said Madden of her 2019 Pan American Games double bronze medal winner. “I think for his confidence right now starting out, he probably doesn’t need a five star right away. I’m going to pick some classes where he can get confident, and when he feels really good, I’ll slot him into a five star here and there.”

Her plan is off to a promising start. On Saturday, the veteran pair won the first international class of the 2021 WEF season, capturing the $137,000 Wellington Regional Medical Center Grand Prix CSI3*.

Of the 44 entries to contest the 13-fence track set by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA) and Andy Christiansen Jr. (ECU), just three posted clear rounds to advance the jump-off.

Sydney Shulman and J-Boston S.E. © Sportfot

Sydney Shulman (ISR) on J-Boston S.E., a 12-year-old BWP gelding, were first to return for the shortened course. The pair caught a rail in the double combination to finish on four faults in 48.86 seconds, taking third place.

“Tonight was actually his second night class ever. I’d only gotten to do him one time in Tryon this summer, and we went at 6:30 in the first ten in the class, so it wasn’t really under the lights. This was his first class here under the lights,” said Shulman.

“I wanted to make it a confident experience this time so it can carry us through the rest of the circuit. I was really happy with that result.”

Adrienne Sternlicht and Bennys Legacy © Sportfot

Next in the ring was World Equestrian Games team gold medalist Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) aboard the 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding Bennys Legacy. With a “conservative and confident ride,” they shaved three and half seconds off Shulman’s time to produce a clear trip in 45.17 seconds for second place.

“I knew there were places that I could open up his stride,” said Sternlicht, “but I thought about being a bit conservative on the turns tonight to give him a conservative and confident ride with so much to look forward to this season. He responded really well, so I’m happy to be second tonight and always happy to be second to Beezie.”

Then came Madden, three and half seconds faster still (41.87 seconds)—without really trying.

“I thought I’d just have to have a nice, confident round, and he really responded to it and jumped well anyway,” she said. “A lot of times it’s hard for them to concentrate when you’re riding them a little strong, but I thought he really rose to the occasion and did that well. I was really happy.”