The USEA is saddened to share the news that Madeline, a chestnut Thoroughbred mare by Mysterious Count, passed away on December 4, 2019 at the age of 19. Madeline, also known as “Baby”, was owned by Jill Gordon and campaigned at the four-star level by Holly Payne Caravella.
“Baby colicked due to a herniated diaphragm,” Gordon said yesterday in a statement on Facebook. “The veterinary team at Mid Atlantic Equine Hospital (under the watchful eye of her lifetime friend Dr. Greg Staller) did everything in their power to save this beautiful horse. They were amazing, compassionate and professional but sadly - her time had come. Baby gave it the good fight (as she always did) and her loss will be felt for a very long time.”
Marilyn Payne sourced Baby as a 4-year-old and brought her east where she told Gordon, “This is a good one – if you can ride her, you can ride anything.”
Gordon rode Baby at the Training level for a year before passing the reins to Payne Caravella, who over the next few years rode Baby steadily up the levels, rarely finishing outside the top 10. In 2008, Payne Caravella rode Baby to a fourth-place finish in their first Advanced as a pair. She completed her first CCI3* (now CCI4*-L) later that year at Fair Hill International in 12th place.
In 2009, Payne Caravella and Baby traveled to England to compete in the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI3*, where they placed 38th. In 2010, they competed in the Advanced Championship at the USEA American Eventing Championships (AEC), placing 6th. The following year they returned to the Fair Hill CCI3* where they placed 14th.
In 2012, Baby earned more top finishes at the Advanced level, including 7th at the AEC and a win at the Area II Championships at Morven Park. They were also 7th in the CIC3* at Richland Park. They closed out the year with a top 10 finish in the Fair Hill International CCI3*.
Following her retirement from the upper levels in 2014, Gordon, who had competed Baby periodically while Payne was campaigning her at the upper levels, took the reins and competed her at the Novice level for a season.
In her statement, Gordon paid tribute to the many people whose lives were touched by Madeline, including Payne Caravella. “Holly Payne, who made this horse what she was. Baby had the heart of a lion - but was never easy until Holly tamed and gentled her. I will forever be in Holly's debt for her years of work, partnership and love for our shared angel! Every ride on Baby was like flying on a cloud - Holly did that - thank you forever!”
“Thanks to all of the people who are reaching out to me as this sad news goes around our ‘little community’,” Gordon concluded. “My sense of loss is countered by my sense of privilege to have been friends with a horse like Baby.”
”Madeline was one-of-a-kind,” added Payne Caravella. “She will surely never be forgotten. I credit the start of my professional career to this fiery little redheaded chestnut mare. She taught me so many life lessons and took me to some amazing places!”
The USEA sends our condolences to Gordon and all of Baby’s connections.
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Regardless of the level at which a horse is competing, its veterinary team is at the forefront of most decisions regarding its career and well-being. Liz Arbittier, VMD, CVA, has been working with equine athletes for over two decades. Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) in 2001, she worked in private practice with a focus on sports medicine and pre-purchase exams until joining Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center Field Service team in 2013. Situated in the heart of Area II’s eventing scene, the team provides ambulatory services to the surrounding area, which is home to multiple Olympians.
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