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.
With summers in Pennsylvania and winters in Aiken, how do you handle training and competing year-round without getting burned out?
I’ve been in the States now for more than 10 years and there are more and more events from January all the way through December. This shows that the sport is healthy, which is good for people like me who rely on the sport for our livelihoods, and it shows more people are getting involved in the sport. But riders and trainers must remind ourselves that our horses are not motorcycles, but living, breathing athletes that need down time for rest and recovery.
As a trainer, you have to look at each horse as an individual and decide what they need to stay happy and healthy. My basic rule is that the horses need three to four weeks of rest in the middle of the year. I usually try to give them time off in July and August, when it’s hot and the ground is hard, and I also like to give them five or six weeks off after the last three-day event of the season at the end of October.
Our sport is physically demanding and we’ve really got to allow our horses to rest and recuperate. But again, you’ve got to take each horse as an individual. Some of the older horses get stiff if they have too long a holiday, so I might shorten their time off and give them light hacking or something just to keep them moving.
Other horses get absolutely wild and furious if they don’t get worked, so you have to keep an eye on them in case they start charging around their paddock. Some horses, when you bring them back into work, need to come back slowly. I like to walk them for a week or two, then do some light trotting and trail riding and slowly school them back up into work.
At the end of the day, you have to remember that a healthy, happy horse will always give us their best. The more enthusiastic you become about the sport of eventing, you’ll start feeling a sense of horsemanship and developing a feel for what your horse needs.
A family vacation now and again is also good for a human athlete’s mind and body. Eventing is hard work; we want to keep ourselves fresh so that when we jump out of bed in the morning, we’re looking forward to the day ahead.
What’s one of the most important life lessons you’ve learned from your coach and mentor, Phillip Dutton?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned from Phillip is concentrated focus. You can always see Phillip evaluating whether a horse is capable of a four-star, and if it isn’t, he will relocate that horse to a more suitable situation and encourage the owners to go after the next opportunity. Everything is focused on the goal of finding the best horse possible and then giving it consistent, focused training every day so that it can reach its greatest potential. It’s impossible to get a thorough understanding of this by just trailering in for a couple of lessons every week; you really have to immerse yourself in someone’s program, and I’ve spent years now watching Phillip develop horses again and again to the highest level of the sport.
What ever happened to Neville Bardos?
My old mate Neville is 19 years old now, and lives a life of semi-retirement. He still gets out and about, and is teaching the next generation the ropes. My assistant Mike Pendleton gained valuable experience riding Neville, and my working student Joe Bowersox has also learned a great deal from the old warhorse. Neville made history and has more than earned a comfortable and relaxed retirement!