Well known for both his fun-loving approach to life and his indefatigable work ethic, Boyd Martin has represented the U.S.A. in three-day eventing at two Olympic Games and two World Championships, and was on the gold-medal-winning Pan Am Games team in 2015. Boyd’s wife, Silva Martin, is a grand prix dressage rider and they have a son, Nox. Boyd and Silva train out of their own farm, Windurra USA in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, and spend winters at Stable View Farm in Aiken, South Carolina.
What is the ultimate goal of going to a clinic?
First and foremost, I admit I’m in the category of often going to one-off clinics with recognized coaches that I admire. I think it’s always a motivating and inspiring exercise and no matter how good you are, there’s always something else out there that someone other than your usual coach will pick up on. I enjoy one-off clinics with Joe Fargis and George Morris; both of these gentlemen obviously have admirable track records as well as reputations as top clinicians.
As a side note, my sole purpose at a clinic is to improve my personal riding and to come up with ideas for new exercises for my horses in training. I’d never take a problem horse to a group clinic, as I think it’s unreasonable to expect that any clinician can transform your horse in one or two sessions in a group lesson. It’s just not going to happen. I’d always try to have a horse that’s a good all-rounder and will cope in the group lesson scenario.
With your week-to-week coach, they know you and your horse inside out and can focus on your weaknesses. They know all the subtle details that can help you. The one setback is they often know you too well. With Silva teaching me at home, she’s almost too used to the way I ride. I love it when I go to a clinic and the clinician starts picking on one small detail, usually something obvious like my lower-leg position or upper body. They really pick on it and it becomes obvious that my usual coach has gotten used to me swinging my leg or looking down, while this fresh set of eyes is onto it and they make a big deal about it. It makes you go home and think about the ongoing issue that has been left unaddressed.
The most inspiring thing about a clinic from a training point of view is the clinician will come up with a unique set of exercises, different from your normal routine. I love to go home with this and try to compose that exercise or type of training with all my horses at home, and try to regurgitate some of these lessons to my students.
I think the most important thing is when you’re driving home from the clinic, throw out a couple things that you felt didn’t work for you, and also really remember a couple of the good things that did work for you. That’s really the goal of the clinic: to take bits and pieces that are worthy of your interest and add them into your system of riding.
Do you have any tips for choosing a horse at a sport horse auction?
When you go to a sport horse auction, you do have a degree of protection and the horses are fairly reputable. Over the years, I’ve bought many horses from auctions; I’m always impressed with the Irish auctions like Goresbridge and the Go For Gold Sale, and as a young man I worked in Germany preparing young horses for the PSI auction at Paul Schockemoehle’s.
There are pros and cons to buying horses at auction, in my opinion. One thing is, you can try a number of horses very easily, in close proximity, in a short period of time. This is very convenient as you can try five, six, seven horses that meet your criteria, and disregard the ones that aren’t suitable. On the contrary, flying around looking at one horse here and one there is time consuming and expensive and sometimes you buy a horse you shouldn’t just because you can’t be bothered making another trip.
Often horses are sold at auction because it could not be sold independently. You have to make sure they’re not using the auction as a dumping ground; a horse could be for sale for months or even years and the owner takes it to the auction just to get rid of it.
The third thing is something I’ve been guilty of: You get very excited and riled up at an auction and get to a point where you feel like you have to come home with a horse. Mix that with a couple of cold beers and you might make a regrettable purchase!
I advise taking someone for a second opinion, because it’s easy to fall in love at first sight and it’s good to have a voice of reason. I try to do a little background check on the horses for sale and with a few phone calls, find a couple old riders or someone who has worked with the horse and find out some of the gory details of its background.
What are your thoughts on footing maintenance?
I’ve now been in America for the past 10 years and it’s mind-boggling how the sport has evolved. The competitions have improved, training facilities have gotten better and generally speaking, everyone’s expectations are higher. If a facility or footing is mediocre at an event, I feel like the riders and owners have very high expectations and all hell can break loose!
At our farm in Pennsylvania, we have a cross-country schooling facility and we have a lot of people come to school, and I’ve found they’re coming not just for the jumps but for the footing. Longevity in our horses comes down to soundness, and footing is paramount. Luckily for me, I’ve become good friends with a few local farmers who have a passion for grass; they’ve started getting involved in the equestrian world — in some cases due to the fact they marry an eventing rider, like my good mate Jamie Hicks whose wife Kate rode around Burghley. Jamie is very keen on producing the best quality grass available. Many times a year he comes to our facility and aerates, fertilizes, mows, chain harrows and improves the footing for our horses. I really feel like the grass on which our horses train is getting better and better. I think it’s important for anyone with a training facility to link up with a footing specialist, whether it’s synthetic footing for the rings or turf on cross-country, because of the role of footing in preserving the longevity of the horse.