Delving into the minds of four-star riders: Boyd Martin (USA) – Sponsored by FLAIR® Equine Nasal Strips
There is a significant difference between an equestrian and an Eventer.
Equestrians push their minds and bodies of themselves and their horses to great lengths for sport, for fun, or perhaps to maintain their health. Eventers push their minds and abilities to the farthest possible limit with their equine partners while simultaneously taking calculated risks where a split second decision can be costly.
At the highest level of Eventing, four-star Eventers are in a class of their own. These extreme athletes are who we look to when trying to understand and measure what is possible for an equine partnership at the top. They serve as self-appointed test subjects, leaving most of the average population watching (and studying) in awe from afar.
Four-star riders continue to take on death-defying feats, again and again, chasing the adrenaline rush like drug addicts. They are truly a different breed.
It is fascinating to think what goes through the mind of a four-star Eventer. What makes them tick and how do they go about their lives out of the saddle? So we are introducing a new series allowing us to delve into the minds of four-star riders with some intriguing and fun questions to help figure out the mindset of these rare athletes.
Getting to know Boyd Martin
Boyd Martin came to America in 2007 aboard a cargo plane to compete at Rolex because it was easier to get to than Badminton. He based at Phillip Dutton’s and stayed with him leading up to Rolex. Australian by birth, this visit enticed his move to America and not only did he move there, he made the decision to switch nations and ride for the USA. He is one of the USA’s most successful four-star riders and since 2010 has been chosen to ride for the US on every team including the World Equestrian Games (2010, 2014), Olympics (2012, 2016) and the Pan Am Games (2015). Interestingly, on every one of those teams, he competed on a different horse demonstrating his ability to form successful partnerships with a variety of mounts. Boyd is no stranger to the risks involved with riding and has many broken bones to prove it but he is never deterred and is still at the top of his game.
What kind of person chooses this career? This is your chance to find out more….
If you had to change your first name what would you change it to?
Oh, gee. Danger. Danger Martin.
What question do you hate answering the most?
Horse wise during interviews, “Aren’t you a bit too big to be a jockey?”
What is something you would rather pay someone to do than do yourself, and why?
In another life, I would pay someone else to stand in the line while waiting to pay for groceries. I am unbelievably impatient, and I get very frustrated and agitated standing still waiting.
How difficult is it for you to be honest, even when your words might be hurtful or unpopular?
To be honest, I’d like to say that I am sometimes too honest. And especially when it comes to teaching my more professional students. I think that it is unfair to them if I am sugar coating reality.
How would Ryan Wood describe you as a friend?
Upstanding citizen, noble, gracious, well behaved and very conservative.
What has been the most defining moment in your life?
I suppose I have loads so far in my Eventing life. Probably, the biggest turning point in my life was the day after I finished high school when I was 17 moving into the bunkhouse at New South Wales Equestrian Centre to become a working pupil for Heath Ryan. From that moment on, I would say that the rest of my Eventing career unfolded.
If you had a chance for a do-over in life what would you do differently?
Horse wise I think that I had a wonderful horse early on in my career that I sold too early. In 2004, I sold True Blue Toozac a horse that I won the Adelaide CCI4* with in 2003, thinking he wasn’t sound enough to continue at the top levels. That horse went on competing for the next ten years of his life. It was by far probably the best four-star horse I have ever had and I only really touched on the beginning of his career. Had I had the knowledge that I do now on fitness and soundness and vets around me like Kevin Keane and coaches like Phillip Dutton, I think that I could’ve had a lot more brilliant results with that particular horse.
Who is the smartest person you know personally and why?
Without a doubt my wife, Silva. She is definitely the person who has been a game changer for me, and she is probably the polar opposite personality to me. Without having her keeping me in balance and check, I am sure years and years ago I would’ve gone completely off of the rails and fallen off of the grid.
What was the biggest you’ve risk taken and what did you learn from it?
The biggest risk I’ve ever taken was borrowing a sickening amount of money with Silva to buy a farm in Pennsylvania. At the time we had a number of experts tell us that it was a disastrous move and we had many, many sleepless nights wondering if it was the dumbest thing we’d ever done. In hindsight, it was a wonderful move, years later looking back on it.
I learned that you should take a deep breath and have the balls to borrow as much money as you can if you believe in what you are doing. Something is better than nothing. If you don’t have a crack, you end up with nothing.
What’s the worst thing about being a professional rider?
The worst thing about being a professional rider is horse injuries. By far that would be the hardest and most depressing thing that is part of this wonderful sport. To throw everything you’ve got at a horse, to put all of the years of hard work and training into it, all of the money, finding the owners to back the horse and then to one day find out that you cannot compete the horse for a long period of time. If there is one thing I could change about Eventing that would be it. Unfortunately, it is part of the game and it comes with the territory. If you are going to ride horses at high speeds at fixed obstacles, there will always be risk. But even though I have had many injuries over the years the heartbreak still stings as much as it did when I was a young kid.
And what’s the best thing about being a professional rider?
My opinion is if you are a professional sportsperson you have absolutely nothing to complain about. If you think about what the rest of the world has to endure day in and day out to put food on the table; I have a way of making a living by training horses to jump over fences. I find that sometimes I am pinching myself as a reminder that I am in a very fortunate position to have people pay me to do as simple object as the art of training a horse.
What is home to you?
I suppose home to me is probably my biggest hobby. I don’t take days off usually but I am lucky that home is where we work, so I work at home. If I ever get spare time, I am doing things around the farm, playing around on the cross-country course or improving bits and pieces on the farm or playing around with my young lad or you know enjoying building the property up. I am making things here bigger and better all of the time. I take great pride because my home is a pretty public place there are lots of people training here and coming in and out. I enjoy it like that and I suppose my relaxation is sitting on a tractor and pushing cross-country jumps around and mowing the grass.
How has becoming a dad changed you?
Two things. It gave me a big wakeup call that the world doesn’t actually revolve around me. Being a four-star and Olympic rider you sometimes get caught in this bubble that everything revolves around you and you’re the most important person in the world. For example, you’re telling your staff when their riding your horse and , I think it is good because some chums get very selfish and then they are not the most important things around, it is the young bloke. On top of that, maybe it has given me a little more motivation to work harder. There is that sense of responsibility that you’ve got another mouth to feed and another person to ride for. Deep down, in the back of my mind now when I am teaching a clinic or win some prize money, I think about how I am contributing to the family and not just to my personal bank account.