Tag Archives: Madeline Backus

Rolex Rookies Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna Grew Up Together

Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna (Shannon Brinkman Photo)

Madeline Backus and P.S. Arianna are first-time competitors this year at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover, but their partnership goes back years.

“My mom’s farrier, Dennis Ackerman at Pendragon Stud in Colorado, actually bred her,” Backus said of the Anglo-Trakehner mare. “So I’ve known her for her whole life. It’s been quite an adventure.”

Backus, whose mother Laura co-owns Pendragon in Larkspur, Colo., first heard P.S. Arianna’s name when she was about seven or eight, right around the time she had attended her first Rolex event as a spectator and knew that that was where she wanted to ride someday. Little did anyone know that P.S. Arianna was the horse that would take Backus there.

“Back then, she was just a young horse at our barn,” Backus said recently of P.S. Arianna, who was foaled in 2001. “As the years went on, my mom started riding her as a young horse, and then she gave me the ride. I was really grateful for that. I was probably about nine or 10, and Ari would have been five or six years old. I was so young! She was my next horse after my first pony, and it has been incredible growing up with her. She’s answered every question we’ve given her, and it’s been great.”

Over the last decade, Backus and Ari have climbed the levels from beginner novice to CCI3*, and now they’re poised to fulfill Backus’s lifelong dream of competing at Rolex. Along the way, Backus earned her “A” rating from Pony Club, and, riding Ari, was on the gold medal-winning team at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior and Young Rider Championships presented by Gotham North CICY2* last year. Together, she and Ari also were chosen for the US Equestrian Federation’s Emerging Athlete Eventing 25 program in 2016 and 2017.

“I think we’ve both changed over time,” Backus said. “There are the different phases of each level, and you hit a certain point and your horse gets a lot fitter. She definitely changed: she got fitter and more aware of everything. So I had to learn to ride that side of her, because as a young kid with a young horse, she had been so calm. I have pictures of me going around with a loopy rein. Now she’s a lot fitter and there’s a lot more horse there! She’s a fiery little one, but I love her.”

These days, Backus works for Missy Ransehousen in Florida and in Pennsylvania. And while she’s been preparing for her Rolex debut, she’s also been baking. That’s not just a hobby; it’s also been a fundraiser to help get her and Ari to Rolex.

“A lot of people do a GoFundMe, and I set one of those up, because people were asking me about that,” Backus said. “But I also wanted to give back a little, so the baking was kind of my way to do that. I much prefer getting to see the people who are supporting me. It was wonderful and very heartwarming, because people would come up and say such nice things.

“The first time, I did it for two days at Richard and Daisy Trayford’s Exmoor Horse Trials, and then Rocking Horse also let me do it at their Winter III competition. I pretty much sold out both times. I love bread, and the cheese garlic bread was everybody’s favorite. I also did a cinnamon bread that was pretty good. My mom’s group also helped me make an assortment of cookies, and I did horse treats and dog treats, too.”

Backus says she’s grateful to everyone who has helped get her to Kentucky – and to Ari.

“It’s very special,” Backus said of her long relationship with her Rolex mount. “We’re kind of like siblings; we know each other so well. I would be lucky to have anything like that ever again. Having that bond and connection over 10 or 11 years is pretty incredible. It’s a bit of a fairytale, isn’t it?”

By Glenye Oakford, US Equestrian Communications Department

Meet Four First-Timers at the 2017 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event

Jenny Caras with Fernhill Fortitude. (Libby Law Photography)

The USEF’s Eventing Emerging Athlete Program is an age-restricted program that identifies and cultivates talented young riders ages 18 and under and 25 and under with the potential to evolve into future United States team candidates. They’re coached by USEF Eventing Emerging Athlete Coach Leslie Law. This year, four of the program’s riders are among the entries for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event presented by Land Rover.

Madeline Backus

Horse: P.S. Arianna. “She’s a joy to be around and has so much personality. She’s so loving in the barn. She loves treats, and if you scratch her, she’ll groom you back. She licks you after treats. She’s super-sweet, but as soon as we need to get serious, she puts on her game face and takes on anything in front of her.”

Recent success together: 4th at 2017 Red Hills International CIC3*

Hometown: Larkspur, Co.

On Rolex: “I was a spectator when I was seven, and it’s always been a dream of mine. I’m definitely looking forward to cross-country. It will be challenging, but I can’t wait gallop up to Weldon’s Wall.”

On the Emerging Athlete Program: “It’s been really helpful not only to train with Leslie Law but to get to know the great riders that made the list. Being from Colorado, I hadn’t met the East Coast riders, so it’s great to spend training sessions with them.”

Jenny Caras

Horse: Fernhill Fortitude. “He’s an attention-seeker who wants to be the only one in the barn getting attention. Anybody could get on him and hack him around.”

Recent success together: 9th at 2016 Bramham Under 25 CCI3*, 6th at 2016 Fair Hill International CCI3*

Hometown: Marietta, Ga.

On Rolex: “I’m just looking forward to being there and doing my first 4*. The cross-country’s going to be a lot more technical than I’ve seen and a lot bigger, too.”

On the Emerging Athlete Program: “All the extra lessons and camaraderie between the riders – it all sets you up for good performances.”

Savannah “Woodge” Fulton

Horse: Captain Jack. “I know that if anything goes wrong, it’s my fault. He’s not going to let me down. He’s pretty much a pirate. He’s small and scrappy.”

Recent success together: 7th at Bromont CCI3*, double-clear cross-country at 2016 Fair Hill International CCI3*

Hometown: Finksburg, Md.

On Rolex: “My focus will be on trying to get the cross-country. It’s crazy to look at the fences… they look massive. I’m hoping when I’m there on Captain Jack they won’t look as monstrous! But I’ve prepared myself.”

On the Emerging Athlete Program: “Riding is a really easy sport to make it be about the individual and your horse, but the Emerging Athlete Program reminds you that the ultimate goal and the ultimate accomplishment is a team gold medal. It’s about what we have going forward as a potential team for the country.”

Caroline Martin

Horse: Spring Easy. “His nickname is ‘Child.’ He really is a kid, but he’s a good athlete and tries really hard. He definitely likes to joke around, but he’s a cool competitor.”

Recent success together: 2nd at 2016 Richland Park Horse Trials CIC3*; 8th at 2016 Jersey Fresh International CCI3*

Hometown: Springtown, Pa.

On Rolex: “Completion – that’s what I look forward to the most.”

On the Emerging Athlete Program: “If it wasn’t for the program, I wouldn’t be in the position I am today. It’s done more than just for my riding – it’s helped me on the business aspect, too. And to be able to build camaraderie with the other under-25 riders is great.”

The only place to catch all four days of the action-packed competition is the USEF Network live stream.

© 2017 US Equestrian Federation