Monday, Jun. 10, 2024

Boyd Martin ‘Rides For Annie’ All The Way To Olympics

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At the 2024 Defender Kentucky, in a press conference following his top four finishes on Fedarman B and Commando 3, Boyd Martin was asked to comment on which of his two horses seemed more suited to success at the Paris Olympics. 

“Like your children, you should never favor one more than the other,” the father of three replied. 

Luckily for Martin, that choice was left to the U.S. Equestrian Federation, who named the athlete with 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood Fedarman B, and set the 11-year-old Commando 3 as the rider’s direct reserve. 

“I just feel so blessed to have both horses in the stable because I’ve been in this racket for 30 years at this level now,” Martin said. “And these are two of the most amazingly talented horses that I’ve ever had the privilege of sitting on.”

With the upcoming Games, which will be Martin’s fourth, his partnership with Fedarman B, or “Bruno,” seems to have come full circle. The gelding was initially brought along to the four-star level by Annie Goodwin, an eventer who Boyd and his wife, Grand Prix dressage rider Silva Martin, helped coach. Goodwin died in a riding accident in 2021, and her parents and fiancé asked Boyd to take on her promising gelding.  

Boyd Martin partnered with Fedarman B after the gelding’s original rider and Martin’s former student, Annie Goodwin, died in a riding accident in 2021. Kimberly Loushin Photo

“Ironically, when we got the news [of Goodwin’s death] is when we were in the final hours of training camp in Germany getting ready for the Tokyo Olympics,” Boyd said. 

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Now approaching another Games, Boyd reflected on the progress he and Bruno have made since the tragic circumstances surrounding their initial partnership. 

“Moving forward from that, our partnership didn’t start well,” Boyd said. “We were very, very unsuccessful in our first few outings. I honestly really wondered if I could ride him.

“I truly just think he was a bit suspicious of who I was at the beginning,” he continued. “And you know, there wasn’t any sort of magical moment—it was just him slowly getting the hang of me, and me getting the hang of him. After about six months, we both decided we clicked with each other. From that moment on, we’ve been sensational.” 

Over the years, Boyd has come to appreciate the gelding’s quirks. He says that groom Stephanie Simpson has been key to understanding Bruno as a “very unique individual,” and her loving relationship with the gelding has positively impacted his training.   

The horse he once couldn’t mesh with is now Boyd’s unstoppable partner. Boyd said that while most relationships with horses have ups and downs, his trajectory with Bruno has been on a steady rise. He feels the gelding is well equipped for the unique challenges of the Olympics. 

“I do think that Bruno is just suited for this type of championship,” Boyd said. “It’s got two rounds to show jumping; I’ve only ever had one rail down in his whole career.”

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He’s especially eager to see how the gelding tackles the geometry of the cross-country course at Versailles.

“Cross-country-wise, he’s fast, he’s brave, he’s accurate, he adjusts well, and he fights for me,” Boyd said. “There’s been many occasions around these types of twisty-turny, accuracy-type courses where I’ve been a little bit off my line on a corner or a skinny that you’ve got about 3 feet to squeeze through, and Bruno’s pinned his ears back and felt like a slalom skier where he just somehow turns himself inside out to get his body through the red and white flags. It’s just an amazing feeling when you’ve got a horse that has got that sort of mentality and mindset.”

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B at the 2024 Defender Kentucky where the pair placed fourth. The USEF selected the pair for the Olympic Games in Paris. Kimberly Loushin Photo

In the six weeks leading up to Paris, Boyd’s plan with Bruno and Commando 3, or “Conner,” is to not overthink their preparation.

“I think it’s just the case of staying calm and trying to try to treat it like just another big-deal five star,” Boyd said. “I think I’ve screwed up a little bit in the past by pushing harder or drilling them more, because it’s this special event that only comes through every four years. I don’t know, I just feel like my horse is in a good place. It’s now just the finessing and polishing up the rough edges, and really trying to have a calculated plan on where we want to be each week in our training, and just be ready to fire when we get to Paris.”

Apart from Bruno’s athleticism and heart, Boyd is grateful for the wider community that the horse, owned by the Annie Goodwin Syndicate, has brought into his life. Along with Goodwin’s friends and students, Boyd will often tag his Bruno photos and videos with #rideforAnnie.

“It’s amazing what animals do to us as humans. Through Bruno there has just been this overwhelming support for Annie’s memory,” Boyd said of Goodwin’s friends, family and former students and clients. “It’s been a really cool thing of going to competitions, especially in the Aiken (South Carolina) area, where Bruno’s way more popular than I am. He’s a local celebrity; I’m just sort of guiding him around.”

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