In the Ring with Stacia Klein Madden
Meet Stacia Klein Madden, owner and head trainer of Beacon Hill Show Stables. Many have seen Stacia with her riders in the winner circle at top equitation finals. Stacia herself won the coveted Maclay Finals at Madison Square Garden in 1987. As one of the best trainers in the country, she has a lot of knowledge and information within the equestrian world. Now, let's take a peek at Stacia’s life.
What did your career look like before you went pro and when did you decide you wanted to go pro?
My career started when I went professional. When I was at the end of my junior career, I thought I was going to go to college, however, I deferred college until after I finished finals. When Bill Cooney and Frank Madden offered me a job in 1986 to go to Florida as a trainer, I decided to take the opportunity until I started school. I was planning to apply to colleges where I could continue riding, but ultimately stayed out east and began teaching and riding. This job was sooner than I anticipated, but a great option for me as there weren’t opportunities of intercollegiate riding.
What was your most memorable moment with horses?
I think the most memorable moments with horses are when you connect with a horse or when you feel like the stars are aligning. Personally, it would be when I won Maclay Finals in 1987. This was when the Maclay Finals were at Madison Square Garden. What made it most memorable were the weird things that led up to the big win. It was 5 am in the morning and we were all warming up for Maclay and this girl walks in front of me and asks me if I was the winner. I said, “I sure hope I will be!” I was a huge Patrick Swayze fan. I walked back into the hotel to Dirty Dancing playing on the TVs. When I got in the elevator, I ran into Patrick Swayze! Then the next day, I won Maclay Finals.
What does a typical day-in-the-life look like for you?
Mondays: Day off. I try to plan to catch up on all errands. I always have a standing manicure appointment
Tuesday: Flat day. In the barn we usually have the blacksmith and vets come as well as formulate a schedule for the week
Wednesday: Flat day. If the riders are in town they will do it, if not the professionals will.
Thursday: Lesson day (if home)
Friday: Travel day to a one-day horse show or (if at home) a light flat day
Saturday and Sunday: We like to do lessons in the morning and then chores in the afternoon. We try to be done by 3
How do you build your courses at home for all 3 disciplines?
We have 3 different rings at home: a grass ring with all-natural jumps (water jump, liverpool, bank, etc.), an all-weather footing outdoor, and an indoor. I like to have courses set in each ring and depending on the show coming up, we plan accordingly with building our courses. We find that when we have seasoned horses, they can all jump similar courses as far as the structure. I like to always have an in and out that can easily be turned into gymnastics for jumpers. I find any course can be turned into a hunter course.
What are the top ways you train your kids in their everyday lessons to prepare for the finals in the fall?
As we get closer to the end of the year, we do more courses. Throughout the year, we work on more tedious work and exercises. Closer to finals, we set an actual course in the indoor that we like the kids to go from start to finish. We set jumps on the rail to give us more room. During lessons, we warmup in the outdoor and then come inside and give the kids one crack at the course. Afterwards, we will go back and fix little parts of the course, but otherwise, we try to stimulate what a show would feel like.
How do you stay organized while traveling to shows? I’m an organization freak so any special tools or hacks that you use to stay organized?
We have lots of different ways we stay organized. Our barn management software program is perfect so that any one of my assistants or myself can look up anything regarding our horses remotely. We can access complete vet records, shoeing records, etc. It’s also easy to print out discharge papers for horses who have been sold or leased. I like to have a work list to keep the horse’s schedule organized (we create a schedule on Tuesday). For horse shows, we type out everyone’s order of go in their specific class and ring. We email this out to all customers, so they have an idea of when they are showing. I love having a white board with our schedule as well as ensure the braiding and farrier list is always set to go. Finally, it’s important that all vaccination and vet records are up to date for all horse shows.
How do you make each horse look and ride its best in the show ring?
I think knowing the horse is very important. Some horses might need a light lunge to buck (even if they are not necessarily a fresh horse). Some of our horses prefer to lunge the day before the event rather than the day of. Others like a ride in the morning (some by professionals, some by their rider) instead of lunging. Finally, some horses prefer to hand walk, turn out, or hot walk the second day of the show rather than lunge again. It’s important to stick to their plan!
It’s the morning of a big horse show, what do you do to ensure a smooth-running day?
The biggest thing is having the orders of go emailed out to the whole team the night before. Obviously, we like to look up the orders the night before and know what game day is going to look like. I like to make an idea of which assistants are going to walk which courses and where everyone needs to be at different times. With that, I like to foresee any conflicts of anyone who might need to move up or down in the order. It’s important to keep in contact with the radio and our trainer group text called “Beacon Hill 2022.” We use our group text for important and simple things that might not make it long distance from the barn to the ring. For example, if someone is late from school or a horse sprung a shoe. These things are important to make sure everyone is aware of it and will catch it.
What is the last thing you say to a rider before they walk into the ring?
9 times out of 10 I will say good luck. A lot of times, if a rider is carrying anxiety, I will tell them to take a deep breath. Sometimes I will give my riders a visual and ask them to think of an exercise or part of their round that is relevant to the course that day.
What exercises or tips would you give for finding the “perfect” distance?
I don’t really discuss distance with my riders, instead, I talk more about how the horse is riding. I tell my kids to make sure their horse is in front of them and adjustable. We need to ensure they are going to a jump and able to answer the question. For example, making sure you are not working over the pace or alternatively, under the pace. Especially in turns it’s important to ensure you are paying attention to the pace and stride. Make sure you know your pace at all times and know the striding of each time (if they are long or short). I don’t find many of my exercises have to do with the distance itself.
What advice would you give someone who wants to become competitive in the big eq?
Be comfortable with the basics and have your goals organized and very clear! Make sure you know exactly what you’re striving for at the beginning of the year. This will help you find the right horse, which will then help you with your show selection, which in turn helps with class selection. Organization and a plan is key!
Top 3 things you always have at a horse show? Radio, Phone, Space Pen and Paper
Favorite thing to do outside of riding? Spending time with family
All-time favorite horse show? Washington when it was in the city
What is one food you have tried that you will never eat again? Squid
Top 3 grooming products? Curry Comb is number 1 as it is so good for horse’s coat, hoof pick as you can’t have a quality horse without quality feet, and fly scrims so they are not agitated by the bugs and not getting sun bleached