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March 31, 2011

Boyd Martin Fancies A Feline

The Chronicle of the Horse 2010 Eventing Horseman of the Year Boyd Martin celebrated his 31st birthday with his favorite food, KFC, and favorite dinner companions, his housecats Manny Pacquiao and Kostya Tszyu. Photo by Silva Martin.

Cats: You either love them or hate them. Eventer Boyd Martin definitely falls into the former category.

When he describes his favorite two animals as “well bred, athletic and excellent movers,” Boyd Martin’s not talking about his newest upper-level prospects.

The duo in question, Manny Pacquiao and Kostya Tszyu, are Martin’s beloved housecats (named after his favorite boxers) whom he reluctantly left at home in Unionville, Pa., while spending the season training in Aiken, S.C. Martin, a self-described “avid cat lover,” isn’t shy about touting his preference for kitty cool over canine enthusiasm.

“When you’re riding and training young horses, there’s nothing worse than finally getting them quiet, then having a Jack Russell come racing around the corner and scare the daylights out of them,” he said. “Cats are a relaxed addition to the barn. I admire that they know how to sit back and let everyone else do the hard work. I love that you can’t bribe a cat for your affection with a piece of food like you can a dog.”

Martin’s wife Silva adopted the family felines from the LaMancha Animal Rescue in Unionville. Despite their humble roots Boyd insists his cats are show quality, and he hopes to find time to enter them in a cat show to have his opinion validated by an expert.

“They’re very sleek animals and talented in many ways—particularly the art of sleeping,” he said. “Lately they’ve been getting about 21 or 22 hours of rest a day.”

Nominally Silva got the cats for Boyd for his 30th birthday, but they also served as a peace offering to patch up a longstanding bone of contention in their marriage. When the couple started dating, Boyd’s finicky feline Mickey took exception to his new girlfriend. After enduring months of sneak attacks, hissing and sleepless nights thanks to the yowling outside the door, Silva forced Boyd to choose between the two of them. While Silva got to stay, Mickey lives in Sydney, Australia, with Boyd’s father.

“He took awhile to think about it before he finally chose me,” recalled Silva. “The cat thing is a bit weird, but I knew if I picked them out they’d be nice animals. They are lovely individuals.”

Which isn’t to say the feline obsession hasn’t tried her patience. A few days after Boyd’s birthday, a horrified Silva discovered Boyd on the floor assembling the biggest cat gymnasium on the market for their bedroom. And she’s had to learn to be very careful how she climbs into bed so she isn’t chided for disturbing the cats once they get comfortable.

While Boyd describes the cats as “gallant sportsmen,” Silva demurs.

“Boyd’s very conscious of weight and keeping his horses very fit—he thinks that all horses are fat and need to be skinnier—but he’s obsessed with making his cats obese. They can barely walk,” she said.

Cat fanciers take note: Boyd plans to turn the new farm he’s moving into next week in Cochranville, Pa., into a dog-free cat haven where students and owners may bring their cats along to the barn.

“I’m making a bid to get a big bronze statute of a cat at the entrance at the farm,” said Boyd. “This may or may not get in with my wife.”

Probably not.

“We’re going to get a dog soon once we get to the new farm,” said Silva. “He’s not happy about it, but he’ll love it eventually.

If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. "Boyd Martin Fancies A Feline" ran in the April 4, 2011 issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.

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