Boyd Martin took Shamwari 4 out for a gallop at the Pine Top Winter Horse Trials (Ga.). The open intermediate divisions at Pine Top on Feb. 7-9 were jam-packed with impressive three- and four-star horses out to stretch their legs, and Martin joined them with his new ride, an Olympic and European Championship veteran for Sweden that he purchased last month.
Martin and Shamwari placed 17th in a division of open intermediate, with 24.4 time penalties on cross-country, a clean show jumping and a score of 35.9 in dressage. In addition, Martin had the reins on Sir Donovan, a horse Katie Ruppel developed to the four-star level and finished 15th with at Rolex Kentucky CCI**** in 2013. Canadian rider Peter Barry bought Sir Donovan after Rolex and competed him twice at the intermediate level.
We talked to Martin about his first event on Shamwari, his ride on Sir Donovan, and his plans for the year.
What are your impressions of your first outing with Shamwari at Pine Top? Walk me through the ups and downs of the day.
I’ve only had him for a very short time, but I thought open intermediate at Pine Top this weekend was a good, low-key, low-atmosphere event to see what he’s like away from home.
Basically, in the dressage, he’s got so much movement—more movement than I’ve ever ridden before—which makes it very extravagant and exciting. But to be honest, he’s a little bit hard to package. We had lots of little mistakes; it was quite an untidy test. We picked up the wrong lead in canter and got three steps of rein back. But I was using today as sort of a schooling day rather than a competition.
I thought he show jumped very well; I’ve only show jumped him twice since he’s been here in America, and I haven’t really tried to improve him, just tried more to get to know him. I thought he jumped very, very well.
I used the cross-country today as a cross-country schooling. I wasn’t quite sure how fit he was, and I’m a little bit unsure how much he did in November and December, so I took it very slow, but he was an absolute machine cross-country. He has a wonderful stride on him, looks for his fences, and he’s very brave and honest. So I think we came away from this knowing each other a little bit better, and we’ll do the advanced [at Pine Top] in a couple weeks.
As you’ve gotten to know Shamwari so far, have there been any challenges developing the partnership? Or changes you’ve had to make in your own riding style to suit him?
I don’t have to teach him anything; this horse has been to the biggest events in the world already. So I’ve just got to learn how to ride him. I think the cross-country was easy to click into because Ludwig and I ride in a similar style. The show jumping I think is my strongest phase, and on paper it’s his weakest phase. But I’m feeling very confident with show jumping especially after [Pine Top] because I think he’s a much better jumper than the horses I’ve had in the past, and I managed to get them jumping great.
In the dressage, he’s got world-class movement; it’s more making sure that unbelievable movement doesn’t spoil the particular questions in the dressage test. I have trouble staying with him a little bit, so I’ve got to work on correctness and detail.
Unlike a lot of the Thoroughbreds I’ve ridden, I don’t have to try to make this guy fancier, I’ve just got to get him accurate and obedient. I think he’s very competitive obviously.
What are your plans moving forward? Are the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games a goal?
Absolutely. There’s a wonderful team of supporters who have gotten behind this horse, and I think one of the intentions to joining this syndicate is potentially having a shot at being behind an American team horse at the WEG and at the Olympics. I think that was a huge selling point for some of the supporters to join the syndicate.
I’m not making any concrete plans at the moment; we’re training down here in Aiken [S.C.] to build a partnership and become a team, and then I think once that’s established, we can start to move toward those goals.
Has anything about Shamwari surprised you so far, or does he fit your original expectations?
I think I’m a little bit surprised at how his character is just so easy-going and quiet and normal. A lot of the really good four-star horses I’ve had in the past have had a screw loose, and Shamwari is definitely different. The girls at the barn can take him for a ride down the street when cars are passing, and he doesn’t run around; he’s not silly in the warm-up or in the paddock.
Another good thing that surprised me is I think that he’s better than what I was hoping for. Now that I’ve known him for three weeks, I can see he’s got more quality than I was hoping for.
What’s going on with Sir Donovan? How did you come upon that ride?
I’m really good mates with Peter Barry, who bought the horse after Rolex last year, and Peter has allowed me to ride him with no real concrete plan.
Sir Donovan and Peter struggled a little bit in the dressage, and Peter saw an opportunity, with me being married to [Grand Prix dressage rider Silva Martin], for some good schooling. So then I think if I get along well with Sir Donovan, there’s a chance we’ll go to Rolex and also hopefully be in contention for the American team alongside Trading Aces and Shamwari.
Peter placed him with me in December; we’ve sort of got an agreement where we’re going to see how it goes up until Rolex and then maybe Peter will take him back, maybe he’ll get sold, or maybe he’ll go to Normandy.