Canadian dressage rider Chris von Martels made his name known on the small tour circuit in 2015 at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (Fla.) and at the Pan American Games in Toronto with his 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Zilverstar (Rousseauâ€”Hutrica), winning the individual bronze medal and helping his team to silver.
Von Martels began his sales and training businessâ€”based in Ridgetown, Ont., and Wellington, Fla.â€”in 2003 and has been on Canada’s team short list since 2011. Now, he’s got two exciting new horses in his barnâ€”Swedish Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvenâ€™s Grand Prix partner Divertimento, whom he started leasing a few weeks ago, and Deborah Mullaneyâ€™s 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding Belissimo (Bernsteinâ€”Compeed, Solos Carex).
Divertimento, owned by LĂ¶vsta Stuteri, started competing at Grand Prix in 2011 with Vilhelmson-Silfven. Together theyâ€™ve racked up several wins at both AGDF and in Europe. Belissimo has competed twice at Intermediaire 1 with Karin Persson.
Von Martels, based at Halcyon Farm in Wellington, Fla., for the winter, has since competed both horses, winning a national Grand Prix on Divertimento with a 71.20 percent on Jan. 17, and winning a national Intermediaire II class with Belissimo on Jan. 9 with a 72.23 percent.
Von Martels, 33, says heâ€™d always admired Divertimento, so when the opportunity came up to lease him, he jumped at the chance. With the help of his longtime trainer Ashley Holzer, heâ€™s is excited to get to know his new partners.
The Chronicle caught up with him to find out more.
Chronicle: Congrats on the new rides! How did your first time down centerline with Divertimento go?
Von Martels: Heâ€™s a showman. You can tell that he enjoys his work very much and wants to give you 110 percent. I think with a little bit more time when I get to know him a bit more, it should be quite good, but heâ€™s a horse thatâ€™s want to please his rider.
Tell me about how you got the ride on Belissimo?
[His owner, Deborah Mullaney] been a training client for a little while now and has a couple of horses with me. Thatâ€™s a very exciting future horse that we have a lot of ambition and goals for. I think that itâ€™s a truly exceptional, world-class horse. I know it sounds like a general stump statement, but we really are going one day at a time. We have a lot of vision for him, and when heâ€™s ready, heâ€™s going to be exceptional.
How does he compare to Divertimento?
Every horse is different, and [Belissimo] has a little bit less show experience, but I think theyâ€™re both individuals and both have different characters. They both have the similar ambition to want to really do well.
What is it like taking over the ride on an established Grand Prix horse?
My other Grand Prix horses in the past, I have had a couple with experience and a couple that were green, but certainly nothing along the lines of [Divertimento.] Itâ€™s a great benefit for me because itâ€™s a horse thatâ€™s been beautifully trained, and itâ€™s just a matter of taking the time to know one another and find the click. Hopefully it works in a good way.
Whatâ€™s the plan for Divertimento this season?
We havenâ€™t made our schedule yet, but at some point when heâ€™s ready we will [make a plan for a CDI.] We havenâ€™t made a definite plan yet.
Would he be a possible Olympic mount?
[The Olympics] is a big question to answer.
Whatâ€™s it like working with Ashley Holzer?
Iâ€™ve been with her probably close to 10 years. She has an immense amount of experience and knowledge. The one thing that I find thatâ€™s always great with her is that she has so many different approaches to solve a difficult thing. Sheâ€™s always thinking outside the box, sheâ€™s always kind to the horses, sheâ€™s always patient with the riders, and always gets the job done with good results. Iâ€™m very fortunate to be able to work with her.
Whatâ€™s Zilverstar been up to?
We were in Europe and Holland for three or four months after the Pan Am Games. I trained with Sjef Janssen. The last three years or so Iâ€™ve spent time training with him in Europe. [Zilverstar is] doing very well. We plan to make a Grand Prix debut at some point this year.â€ť
Has life changed since your success at the Pan Ams?
Not really! [Laughs] The one thing I will say is the success from the Pan Ams has brought me even more inspiration to keep going and want to try again for another major games. It was a fantastic experience, and I think thatâ€™s something a lot of top riders probably feel once theyâ€™ve caught that bug of success at a major games. You get addicted to it and want to keep going.
As far as my day-to-day routine goes, no. Itâ€™s still everyday training hard and riding, but thatâ€™s fine because thatâ€™s what I love to do.â€ť