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.
It’s been raining nonstop and I don’t have an indoor. How can I keep my horse going?
If you only have grass to ride on and you don’t want to tear up the turf or risk slipping and falling in the mud, you’re going to need to find some firm ground, like a gravel or paved road, and do what you can to keep your horse in work. Walking and some trotting on the road will help keep your horse fit, but your jumping and dressage schooling will have to be put on hold until the ground dries out. With a very wet spring season in England, some of the British events were canceled, but Ollie Townend still managed to win the four-star in Kentucky, so it can be done! If you have the option of trailering to an indoor, or an outdoor ring with all-weather footing, it is worth paying a ring/day fee now and then to get in a good training session as your budget allows.
How do you cope with the stress of traveling to competitions all the time?
While sitting around airports is no admittedly not my idea of a good time, it’s a necessary evil in the modern lifestyle of a professional event rider and coach. I fly here and there to teach clinics and often have my groom drive my horses to faraway competitions, then fly to meet them so that I don’t lose too much time with the horses. Waiting in the airport lounge can be a productive time to catch up on messages or to unwind with a few videos or a good book, and if it’s a long enough flight I might take a nap so that I can hit the ground running when the plane lands.
With events spread across the countryside, I also spend a good deal of time behind the wheel of a car or truck, and with a hands-free speaker I can catch up on phone calls to owners and clients or do media interviews while I’m on the road.
While life on the road is not for everyone, I enjoy the opportunity to catch up with friends at events, and if Silva and Nox (and eventually our newborn son Leo) are able to join me, it’s fun to take a family swim in the hotel pool at the end of the day. Traveling to events is also a good way to catch up with our owners and supporters, either at the event’s competitors’ party or at smaller social functions. As a professional rider, the horses come first but it is always important to nurture your relationships with the people who support you.
How do you and your wife, Silva, help with each other’s horses, or influence each other’s training styles?
Both Silva and I have a number of high-level dressage and event horses as well as youngsters with promising careers ahead of them in both eventing and dressage. Once in a while, one of these horses turns out to be a better jumper than dressage horse and they switch barns — but all of the horses cross over between disciplines at some point.
While dressage means a lot of time in the “sandbox,” I’ve seen Silva’s training evolve over the years so that a lot of her 3-, 4- and 5-year-old horses now do trot sets around the cross-country course, and on our new all-weather gallops, jump small show jumps, do cavaletti and hack down the roads and out in the woods. All of the young dressage horses also trot through our water jump, which is a lot of fun for them. I think Silva is able to produce dressage horses with a much better mental state thanks to this background. Now when the young horses get to their first competition, they’ve seen a lot more of the real world thanks to her cross training, and it shows in the way they calmly handle new situations.
I also benefit because Silva frequently sits on my top event horses, schooling them on the flat for me — in fact, I must admit that over the years I’ve gotten a bit lazy because Silva is so good at putting the flying changes on all my horses to make sure they’re correctly started. I also believe all the event horses and riders that come from our farm have a slightly better feel for dressage because we’re surrounded by dressage riders, who come to the barn in their elegant clothing and sit up straight on their horses — they’re a good influence on us scruffy eventers who are striving to produce horses to a high level. On the flip side of this, eventers tend to be a bit wild, and we encourage the serious dressage riders to get out of the ring and have fun with their horses too.