Friday, May. 24, 2024

Ringside Chat: Boyd Martin Talks First Five-Stars And Fatherhood

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Boyd Martin is a busy man. He’s up at the crack of dawn to work out before riding 10 horses a day, and then he shuttles his sons to their afternoon activities. In the evenings, he fits in work around the farm. Martin, 43, doesn’t get many days off. But it doesn’t sound like he’d have it any other way.

“I’m immensely hyperactive,” Martin said from his home in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, where he and his wife, Silva Martin, a Grand Prix dressage rider and trainer, operate their farm, Windurra USA. “The most torturous thing you can tell me to do is to take a day off. I can’t sit still. I’ll drink 10 cups of coffee and then end up feeling awful.”

Boyd channels his seemingly boundless energy into a rigorous schedule that sees him competing at the highest levels of equestrian sport, including last weekend in the $50,000 Devon Arena Eventing class at the Devon Horse Show (Pennsylvania). He piloted Miss Lulu Herself, a 10-year-old Hanoverian mare owned by Bonnie Stedt, over a mixed track of eventing and show jumping obstacles ranging in height from 1.15 meters to 1.20 meters. “Lulu” finished out of the ribbons, which Boyd attributed to “gazing off into the crowd” watching the show’s popular night class and then spooking at a narrow fence, but he thought it was a fun outing nonetheless.

Boyd Martin and Miss Lulu Herself in the $50,000 Devon Arena Eventing on May 28 in Devon, Pa. Mollie Bailey Photo

“It’s a new form of the sport, and it’s very, very exciting,” he said. “There was a huge crowd there on Sunday night, and it’s exciting to bring the sport of eventing to such a big crowd. When we’re competing in three-day events, it’s a real test of stamina and endurance, but this is like a jump-off round of cross-country combined with stadium. It rides a lot different, with short turns and narrow approaches.”

Boyd, no stranger to being on top of leaderboards at countless international three-day events over the last two decades, recently had six horses in the ribbons at the Tryon International Three-Day Event (North Carolina), held May 11-14. He’s next headed to the Bromont Horse Trials (Quebec) June 8-11, where he’ll focus primarily on a group of younger up-and-comers contesting the two- and three-star levels, but he’ll also bring along his 2021 Maryland 5 Star winner On Cue, who is on the comeback trail from an injury, to run the CCI4*-S. 

Right after he finishes his show jumping rounds at Bromont, he’ll hop on a plane to the Longines Luhmühlen Horse Trials CCI5*-L (Germany), held June 15-18. There, he’ll be piloting Fedarman B, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by the Annie Goodwin Syndicate, and Luke 140, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding owned by the Luke 140 Syndicate, in their five-star debuts. He’s also re-routing his longtime partner Tsetserleg TSF, the Turner family’s 16-year-old Trakehner gelding, to Luhmühlen after they had a runout and retired early on course at the Land Rover Kentucky CCI5*-L a month ago. The horses will travel to Europe with head groom Stephanie Simpson, who’ll get them settled in Luhmühlen while Boyd is at Bromont. 

All three did their last prep run for Luhmühlen at Tryon, with strong results, nearly finishing 1-2-3. Instead, Boyd was first on Fedarman B, second on Tsetserleg and fourth on “Luke” in the CCI4*-S division. For Luke, the run wasn’t just a strong showing, it was the last result he needed to qualify for his first five-star, and he got it just in time to punch his overseas ticket.

Maybe even more impressive than Boyd’s equestrian creds, however, is that before he left for Tryon, he made sure he had Mother’s Day covered for Silva, who is mom to the couple’s sons Nox, 7, and Leo, 4. Mother’s Day was on Sunday, May 14, when Boyd knew he would be busy with final rounds on the six horses he rode at Tryon. 

“I took both boys up to the Dollar General before I left, and we got a bunch of stuff for Silva … a coffee cup and a toothbrush and other stuff. Then we sat down, us three lads, and made sure we carefully wrapped everything in the yellow bags,” he said with his trademark humor. 

The couple are expecting their third child in the fall.

“We’d decided that two was perfect, so this was a bit of an unexpected surprise,” Boyd said with a chuckle, adding that Silva is letting him pick out the name for their third son. That led him to post a social media poll on his leading contenders. Martin said he’s leaning toward “Neville” after Neville Bardos, the Australian Thoroughbred who helped him make his name in the U.S. Possibly-Neville will make his debut in mid-October, as Silva has a planned C-section scheduled for early in the week of the Morven Park International & Fall Horse Trials (Virginia).

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“We’re extracting him Tuesday, and then I’ll be there for the first jog-up,” Boyd said. 

Boyd took time out of his packed schedule to answer a few questions about upcoming competitions and his busy life.

What’s it like to compete six horses at a time, like you did at Tryon? Are you having to rest between rounds, and eat and hydrate, or do you just get on with it?

In my day-to-day life, it’s not unusual for me to (ride) 10 horses a day. It was hard at Tryon because it’s a major four-star, so I had to try and stay sharp. You have to think about the horse you’re on and what jumps might be tricky [for that individual]. I’m very fit and healthy at the moment. The preparation is sometimes harder than the competition. Getting six horses ready to do a dressage test is a lot of work. 

With cross-country, there’s so much adrenaline, you don’t even realize you’re tired until you take a break when you’re all done—and then you feel like you’ve been hit by a bus. But my day-to-day life at the farm is often as punishing as a competition.

You’ve got two boys. How do you juggle the work-life balance?

Life is complicated now, trying to be a good parent, managing a big group of horses, and paying off the farm. They’re both into sports, so I’m either taking Nox to hockey or football practice, or Leo to gymnastics. I like to hang out and watch them train, and I try to force myself not to make calls during that time. I just try to be present and involved. We get home from that and grab dinner, and then at night, I’ll get on my tractor and turn on music or a podcast and move all of my cross-country jumps around.

Parenting, fitness and day job intersect at an event like the Tough Mudder, held on the grounds of Boyd’s home event, Plantation Field (Pennsylvania):

What podcasts do you like, and what’s on your playlist?

I love listening to Joe Rogan (The Joe Rogan Experience podcast) and Sean O’Malley (The BrOMalley Show). Music-wise, I love Placebo and Black Mill. It all depends on what we’re into at the moment.

What’s your fitness routine? You obviously ride a lot of horses each day, but do you add in other conditioning?

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I wake up about 5 a.m. every day, and I do between an hour and an hour-and-a-half of exercising and stretching. I have a physiotherapist that comes twice a week, and then I do yoga twice a week. The other days, I do stretching. And then I have a cold plunge before I head out to ride about 7 a.m. By the time I’m at the stable, my body has already done a fair bit of work. [Read our Day In The Life with Boyd for more details.]

The Luhmühlen organizers announced that they’re turning the cross-country course around this year. Is that a big change or just another day at the office? 

I’ve been there a few times and gone both directions. It’s a really flat course, a bit of a twisty-turny course, and very technical. I’ve been working hard on narrows and corners. The show jumping is always massive, so I’ve been training a lot with [Olympic show jumping gold medalist] Peter Wylde. I’m going to go jump around at 1.40-meters at [HITS] Saugerties with him before we leave.

Luhmühlen will be the first five-star for both “Bruno” (Fedarman B) and Luke, and you just debuted Contessa at that level at Kentucky, where she finished 14th overall. How do you know a horse is ready for a five-star? Do you have some sort of formula that you use to determine that, or is it just a feeling?

Back in my more gung-ho days, I’d do one four-star long with a horse and then move them up to five-star. Most of them would get around, but a few would lack experience to do it. Nowadays, I make them do two four-star longs, usually the year before I move them to five-star. Four-star longs in North America, like Bromont and Morven Park, are much the same as a five-star except for a minute shorter and a bit smaller. 

What’s up after Luhmühlen? Will you stay in Europe and compete, or head back to the States? 

I’ll head home the day after stadium. In the summer, I don’t event too much. The ground gets pretty hard, and it’s really hot. But I do a fair bit of dressage shows and show jumping. I’ve got a few loan sharks chasing me at the moment, so I’ll do some teaching and clinics, and see if I can rebalance the bank account.

Boyd Martin and Fedarman B galloping home to a win in the Tryon CCI4*-S, May 11-14 in Mill Spring, N.C. Shannon Brinkman Photo

Fedarman B was Annie Goodwin’s horse. What’s it been like to take over with him?

To start with, personally, it was really tough. Her parents are part owners of him, so part of me felt guilty riding around on their horse, as I’m sure in the back of their mind, they were thinking it should be their daughter on him. But it’s brought all of Annie’s friends and supporters together. It’s like a living memento for all of Annie’s hard work with Bruno. Me and Bruno have really gelled and become good friends, and we’ve been really successful together. It was a really hard, tough thing to do at the beginning but now, as time goes on, it gives me a good feeling of remembering Annie and all of her hard work.

Annie’s mom, Tina, died May 22. You said you’d become close to her and Annie’s dad as you took over with Bruno, and that you feel a lot of responsibility to them to uphold Annie’s legacy with Bruno. How does Tina’s passing affect that?

It was heartbreaking news. Over the last two years, I’ve gotten to know Tina so well, especially at horse shows, where she’d come to cheer Bruno on. Over the last year, I feel like we’d built a great friendship and connection, so it was devastating to hear she’d passed away. But I think when Annie passed away, a part of Tina died with her. I think that, somewhere, Annie and Tina are happy together again.

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