Riding Youngsters Gave Mike Pendleton A Leg Up On La Biosthetique Sam

Jan 14, 2019 - 8:53 PM

How many riders get to say they’ve taken a lesson with three-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Jung? Add in that the lesson was on Jung’s most famous horse, and the number gets infinitely smaller.

But young professional Mike Pendleton added his name to that exclusive group in December when he took a break from his regular job riding young horses for U.S. eventer Boyd Martin to spend a month working with Jung at his home stable in Horb, Germany. During that time he had the opportunity to ride Jung’s partner for those three Olympic golds, La Biosthetique Sam FBW.

“It was a really incredible experience, all of it,” said Pendleton, 24. “Even outside of lessons Michael was always around watching us ride and giving us advice.”

MIKE AND SAM
Mike Pendleton got the opportunity of a lifetime when he took a lesson on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW. Photo Courtesy Of Mike Pendleton

It was Martin’s idea to send Pendleton to Germany.

“I remember when I was young, I went to Germany to Paul Schockemöhle’s for a month, and it really inspired me to go to another country and see how big this industry is and how good the riders are out there,” Martin said. “I came up with the idea. I approached a number of my owners, and there was a group of six or seven of them that chucked in $500 each and paid for Mike’s airfare and accommodation and gave him some money to feed himself.”

Martin first met Pendleton seven years ago as a teenager looking for a working student gig.

“Someone in our barn was sold a horse they were told was a nice, calm 18-year-old Thoroughbred—but was actually a pretty fiery 8-year-old,” Pendleton said with a laugh. “I started riding him for her, and we both started learning to event together. A friend knew Boyd was looking for a working student and suggested I go. I had heard Boyd’s name, but I didn’t really know what a big deal it was. I just said, OK, and packed my bags and went.”

MikeSteadyEddieDSC_4670
Mike Pendleton moved up from working student to assistant rider for Boyd Martin. Lindsay Berreth Photo

Pendleton got his start in a dressage stable near his home in Virginia.

“My parents aren’t horsey at all, but we had to do a community service project for school,” Pendleton said. “You could either go to a barn and muck stalls or do something else, so I ended up at the barn because I always liked horses.”

Pendleton started coming regularly for lessons and progressed quickly. He was soon helping the farm owner start babies, and there were plenty to ride as they bred Knabstrupper sport horses.

“I would help a lot with the ground work at first,” Pendleton said. “And then when I was 16, I went and spent six months living on a ranch in Virginia to really learn how to start the young horses.”

Once Pendleton started jumping, he caught the eventing bug hard, and he moved to Martin’s farm to start learning the ins and outs of the sport.

“He showed up looking like a stowaway on a ship,” Martin said. “But he had natural feel and talent, and he just worked like a dog.”

Pendleton eventually graduated from working student to a full-time member of Martin’s staff at Windurra in Cochranville, Pennsylvania. Martin even let Pendleton take his 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games (Kentucky) mount and four-star horse, Neville Bardos, around a couple of lower-level events in 2015.

Mike Pendleton and Neville Bardos
Mike Pendleton got to take Boyd Martin’s 2010 WEG mount Neville Bardos around a couple lower-level events. WNC Photography Photo

“At this point you could call him my assistant rider,” Martin said. “Over the last 18 months he’s started competing the young horses and helping produce them. I’m proud to say he’s broken his collarbone and his cheekbone in the last 12 months on young horses, and that could have been me, so I’m very thankful for Mike riding all these young horses and breaking in young horses that I used to do.”

To date Pendleton has competed at the one-star level on a variety of mounts from Martin’s stable, and he hopes to one day find himself swinging a leg over his own upper-level horse.

“That’s the ultimate goal, but right now I’m pretty lucky that I get to compete a lot of young horses at the different levels,” Pendleton said. “It’s all good experience, and it was an amazing experience in Germany. It’s amazing to work with Boyd; I don’t think I would be where I am today without him.”

After Pendleton returned from Germany, Martin announced he would be handing over the reins of his four-star mount, Steady Eddie, for Pendleton to get mileage at intermediate.

“I take wonderful satisfaction in watching Mike become a top rider,” Martin said. “This is my way of chipping in and helping him become all he can be.”

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