It all started with a $25 donation from a para-equestrian. Or maybe it was the 17-year-old truck that set the wheels in motion. The whole thing might even go all the way back to the mare with a broken cannon bone.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and where Molly Martin began her journey with H Wrendition to the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix National Championship, but looking back on it now, it still seems a little surreal to the Redmond, Wash., trainer.
Martin, 45, hadn’t even expected to qualify for the Grand Prix championship, held Aug. 22-25 at Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Ill., let alone go. So when it became apparent that her 17-year-old truck was going to need to be replaced earlier this year, Martin went ahead and spent the “very small amount of money” she’d inherited from her late father’s estate and some of her savings to purchase “a less-old truck.”
So then when “Rossi,” her 9-year-old Hungarian Warmblood gelding, did get the call up to come to Illinois, Martin was left with a dilemma.
“I had the money to go, but it was going to be my entire savings account,” she said. “I was talking with Erin Alberda, a local para-equestrian, and she basically coaxed me into doing this GoFundMe.com thing, and I ended up getting more than $6,000 in donations.”
It paid for Martin’s entire trip. She found a deal on a shipper for the same amount it would cost to drive Rossi across the country herself, and Keli Covin, the owner of Five C Farms, where Martin’s business is based, donated her airline miles. Martin’s veterinarian even gave her a new Coggins and health certificate for free.
“A lot of the donations were just $10 or $25 from people in the area, but I got $500 dollars from somebody—I don’t even know who she is. I have never met her!” Martin exclaimed. “It was absolutely amazing. It was just huge.”
It was a welcome sense of freedom to know that even when her horse didn’t like his first bale of hay, she could afford to go ahead and buy another $8 bale, or that she could put one more bag of shavings in his stall without being worried it would break the bank.
“Normally I would pick every single flake out of the stall and not waste a single one,” she admitted. “And I still will always be frugal, but I was able to take a deep breath and say, ‘It’s OK. It’ll be all right.’ ”
Once at Lamplight, Martin got to spend some time comparing notes with riders from other regions, specifically about how tired Rossi turned out to be after his three-day haul.
“Somebody said, ‘Well why on earth did you truck him so far? You should just fly.’ And she told me how much it costs to fly,” Martin recalled. “I told her, ‘I don’t make that much money in five months.’ She just looked and me and said, ‘How do you do this job?’ ”
Martin, a USDF gold medalist, is lucky to have the support of her husband, Joe, who mostly covers their living expenses while she covers the horses’; a few young riders help her with chores in exchange for lessons.
“But you don’t really make a lot of money at this unless you’re doing a lot of sales or you have a lot of full training horses that you’re also campaigning,” she admitted. “Only three of my  horses in the barn show.”
But Rossi has shown a prodigious talent in Martin’s 4½ years with the gelding, who didn’t begin showing until his 5-year-old year. Three years later, to honor the retirement of his breeder, Charlene Summers, he performed his first Grand Prix at one of her last shows at Summervale Farm (Wash.).
“And not only is he a U.S. horse, both his parents are U.S.-bred,” said Martin. “His dam is a Thoroughbred race horse [Missy Will Do, by Petersburg] who broke her cannon bone and was rehabilitated, and then his sire is HS Wistar, who’s been all up and down the West Coast in the CDIs at Grand Prix.”
Rossi finished fifth in the Developing Grand Prix championship at Lamplight, and now that Martin’s discovered her gelding prefers an earlier departure for a transcontinental trip, she’s confident they’ll score even better next year.
“I’m the only one who came from Region 6 this year, so I kind of took the long journey on my own,” she said. “But it took a village!”
This story appears in the Sept. 9 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse, along with in-depth coverage of the Markel/USEF Developing and Young Horse National Championships. The Sept. 9 issue is also our Horse Care Issue, with stories on effective icing strategies, a revolutionary treatment for kissing spine, a glimpse into the life of some top grooms, and how to disguise medication in your horse's feed.