When one of America’s most admired and successful riders for more than three decades announced in 2020 that she was stepping back from international team competition, the equestrian world at large wanted to know why.
Anyone who had seen Beezie Madden, 58, ride Breitling LS to the FEI Jumping World Cup Championship title just two years prior could have no doubt that she was as good as she ever was. But just this week, following the publication of an article by Canadian Horse Journal, John Madden Sales released a social media statement expanding upon the reasons behind Madden’s semi-retirement from the championship level. (You can read the full post here.):
As this statement has spread in the last few days, we wanted to take a moment to reassure our concerned supporters, who have been sending their best wishes and prayers. Beezie was diagnosed with a Vestibular Schwannoma, which is a benign tumor. Beezie is under the care of excellent doctors and physical therapists, and this is not cancerous or life threatening. Riding is even recommended as part of the physical therapy plan.@johnmaddensales
Beezie is still riding and competing at all levels, developing young horses, and training our students. The reality is that some days her balance is affected slightly, but our more flexible schedule allows us to work around those days without the deadlines of riding for our country on a team at Championships.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Vestibular Schwannoma is a noncancerous and usually slow-growing tumor that develops on the main (vestibular) nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain. Because branches of this nerve directly influence a person’s balance and hearing, pressure from the tumor can have a number of secondary effects, including vertigo, hearing loss, ringing in the ears, dizziness, or unsteadiness.
Though treatment depends on the size and growth of the tumor, and surgery and/or radiation are sometimes indicated, less-invasive supportive treatments can often help a person cope with the secondary symptoms associated with Vestibular Schwannoma.
Thus far, Madden has not spoken publicly about her treatment or prognosis, but she did comment briefly on the impact of her condition to Canadian Horse Journal. “Some days I’m a hundred percent and other days I’m a little foggy.
“So I don’t want to say I can ride on a team and produce for the team when I may not be a hundred percent. It’s just a little factor.”
Though Team USA will undoubtedly miss Madden’s experience, skill, and ice-woman-under-pressure mentality, the young horses of America may be the unexpected beneficiaries of her change in competition focus.
Earlier this month, two of the Madden’s young horses—Kickstart II and Hummer Z—each finished second in the 7- and 8-year-old Young Jumper Championships, respectively, with Madden in the irons. Just a few days later, Madden and Hummer Z parlayed that experience into a fourth-place finish in the 1.45m CSI5* Lakemore Resort Speed Stake.
And, if the flood of global well-wishers leaving likes and comments on the John Madden Sales social pages are any indication, the world is fully behind Beezie and her next chapter, whatever that may look like.
“Beezie you are an inspiration and a warrior,” commented California-based show jumper Joie Gaitlin, speaking for absolutely everyone. “Take care and stay strong.”