Taylor Griffiths-Madden Captures Memorable 2020 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final Victory

Tryon, NC – Oct. 11, 2020 – With 2020 presenting challenges for almost every equestrian, nothing stopped Taylor Griffiths-Madden on her march to victory in the 2020 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final. A worldwide pandemic forced many changes as the Pennsylvania National Horse Show looked for a new venue to host more than 200 junior athletes that qualified for the year-end championship. The Tryon International Equestrian Center set the stage for Griffiths-Madden’s victory, as she climbed from second place position following the first round on Saturday to take the lead before the testing phase, where she then executed textbook form and style to garner the championship title. 

Taylor Griffiths-Madden and Mac One III

While the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final is usually completed in one day, due to the change in venue the competition changed format with the first round being held on Saturday. There were 205 qualified athletes that competed over the first track designed by judges Ralph Caristo and Rachel Kennedy with course designer Steve Stephens. An early test for riders in phase one was a challenging long four-stride line that encouraged horses to lengthen their stride, followed by a tight rollback turn. Many competitors struggled to adjust their horses to the demanding question, quickly setting apart the top athletes from the rest. 

Taylor Griffiths-Madden and Mac One III

The top 25 were invited to return for the second round of competition, which kicked off on Sunday morning with a new course. It featured a bold five-stride line going towards the gate, as well as a combination followed by a bending line to an off-set vertical, which proved to be the most difficult test of the morning. Griffiths-Madden was second heading into Sunday with Grace Debney leading the pack. Griffiths-Madden executed a flawless round, while Debney had one error that would result in her being called back in the sixth position while Griffiths-Madden moved into the lead.

Six athletes in all were asked to return for the lengthy test, each strategizing their rounds in the ring without the assistance of the trainers. Riders were asked to canter the first line in a double add seven strides, followed by cantering fences 3ab, hand gallop fence 4, counter canter fence 5, halt, drop their irons, trot fence 8, counter canter fence 9, and conclude by jumping fence 7 backwards before returning to the lineup.

Sam Walker and Waldo

Elli Yeager was called back fourth in the order and laid down the trip to beat with Copperfield 39, executing each of the counter canters and forward gallop with style. Griffiths-Madden had the opportunity to watch Yeager though, and with the lead already in hand she was able to once again guide Mac One III through each question, including flawless riding without her stirrups that left no question for the judges of who the weekend’s champion should be. 

Elli Yeager and Copperfield 39

The win for Griffiths-Madden comes as she wraps up her last junior year, and with COVID-19 causing horse show cancellations across the country, the opportunity to compete at a finals this year was that much sweeter. She was aboard her own Mac One III, who she purchased from North Run’s Missy Clark three years ago, and has built a beautiful partnership with. It’s a family affair for Griffiths-Madden, who trains with her stepfather Frank Madden and mother Jennifer Griffiths, who were both overwhelmed with happiness at seeing Taylor’s name etched into history. 


Taylor Griffiths-Madden – Dover Saddlery / USEF Hunter Seat Medal Finals winner

On her win:
“This is my last [USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final], and I drove here from Ohio with my horse Mac One III. I was just hoping to have a solid last Medal Finals, and of course hoped to win. I am just really happy that it turned out the way it did!”

On the test:
“I was a little nervous because it was very long, and then dropping our stirrups, which is not always that fun. I watched all my friends go and we were all talking to each other and helping each other out. It’s hard to go into the test knowing you are on top because you know you have to stick to it. It was a little nerve wracking.” 

On Mac One III:
“Mac started in the 1.45m jumpers with Lauren Hough. Then she brought him to Missy Clark and she started him in the equitation. Sam Walker showed him and Ava Sterns did too a little bit. I didn’t have a horse, so Missy let me ride him. After just getting along with him so well I decided to buy him. I’ve had him for about three years now and he’s got the biggest personality. He’s the sweetest and I love him so much!” 

On what’s next:
“Next week, Mac and I will be doing USET Finals. The following week I will do [Washington Equitation Finals], not with Mac, so he’ll have a break. Then we’ll head to Kentucky for Maclay Finals.”

Elli Yeager and Copperfield 39 

Frank Madden – trainer of Taylor Griffiths-Madden

On the Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final:
“I give everybody – the Federation and Harrisburg the folks here at Tryon a huge applause in making sure this event happened. I was really nervous in march, especially with Taylor in her last year and the industry with the thought that maybe it wasn’g going to happen with COVID. I said early on to Missy Clark, I said we have to start thinking about how we are going to make this happen. Once it was reality that it was going to be here, that we were going to have a medal finals, I think Taylor through knowing her horse really well and the past disappointments really sharpened her game and really pulled it off yesterday and today.”

On the first course:
“I really loved the fact that so much was done on an open stride. Her horse has a huge stride. Of all of the people I’ve trained throughout my career, her strength is her brain. She’s a very sharp thinker – she’s able to do the math when she’s riding. She’s very good at staying ahead of the moment. We had the horse dialed in just right for her so she could really execute what she wanted. In the courses, there weren’t many options so you really were able to put a nice smooth round together. I think just the championship itself is a huge test.”

On the work-off:
“I thought it was a very thorough test, it had a lot to it. Taylor’s brain really came into play there. She goes into a test like that very clear-headed, knowing exactly how the jumps are numbered. She’s not dealing with a lot  of anxiety. Last year was a big disappointment, at Harrisburg she was right in the thick of things and they had some counter cantering  questions with very difficult turns and her horse stepped off the lead for a stride. Last year’s failure turned into this year’s success. When I heard the test I knew exactly how she was going to think and she executed the test exactly how I would have wanted her to do it.”

On training his stepdaughter:
“It’s a dream come true. Back in 2007, I made some big changes.  I was lucky enough to meet someone that loves me to death and I love her to death and Taylor was part of that. She ended up falling in love with horses and we got her on her first pony. On her own she took my name, Taylor Griffiths-Madden, and to have another win to my resume is unbelievable, but to have a win on my resume with my name attached to it is a dream come true.”

Sam Walker and Waldo

Judge Rachel Kennedy

On the first round course:
“We didn’t know where we were creating a course for until kind of the last minute and neither of us had seen the Blue Ridge Arena. Mostly, the two of us agreed we liked to see forward riding. We made it so they had to ride forward.”

On Taylor Giffiths-Madden:
“She came into the second round she was standing second behind Grace. She nailed it. The kid was prepared, confident and I really think she nailed it.”

On the work-off:
“Again, we asked them to go backwards first and then forward. I think we were just looking for control and rideability.”

On Elli Yeager and Taylor Griffiths-Madden:
“Elli’s test was great. She gallops, I love that about her. My favorite thing is watching her gallop with that horse. Again, Taylor, we both looked at each other and said ‘There’s our winner.’ She was very smooth. She didn’t have to struggle to fit seven strides in the five. She landed, did the change, she galloped, did the lead change to the counter canter. Her no-stirrup work was really superior.”

Judge Ralph Caristo

On Taylor’s performance:
“She answered all the questions that we asked in a winning fashion. She was on it from day one. Every one of the kids in that test was terrific. This whole class shows you what great riding kids that we have. The future is amazing based on what we are seeing in the equitation.”

On the courses:
“I have to give a lot of credit to Steve Stephens whose input in helping create these courses was instrumental. With the courses, we tried to have a course that wouldn’t embarrass anybody, but you had to answer the questions that the course asked. Some kids obviously did quite nicely and others struggled, but not enough to embarrass them. I think overall we were very pleased with how the courses worked and how each section from round one, two and especially I really liked the last work-off. I was really proud of that. It was a great test.”


2020 Dover Saddlery/USEF Hunter Seat Medal Final:
Place / Rider / Horse
1. Taylor Giffiths-Madden / Mac One III
2. Elli Yeager / Copperfield 39
3. Sam Walker / Waldo
4. Dominic Gibbs / Clover
5. Grace Debney / Quimby
6. Zayna Rizvi / Finnick
7. Skyler Fields / Quite Cassini
8. Mimi Gochman / Kaskade
9. Augusta Iwasaki / Vanderpump
10. Celia Cram / Ivano S
11. Ashleigh Scully / Acido 7
12. Annalise Manoog / Carollo

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