With the recent naming of the 2016 Eventing 25/18 Training Lists, there are a lot of talented young riders who are ready to take the eventing world by storm. This winter, we’ll be spotlighting the E25 and E18 riders as they prepare for their training sessions with Leslie Law.
It’s been a big year for Caroline Martin. Between spending a month overseas to compete with Quantum Solace and adding yet another CCI3* completion to her resume with Center Stage, it’s hard to believe 2016 could be any busier for this up-and-coming 21-year-old. But things are heating up quickly with Caroline’s sights set on tackling her first CCI4* at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in the spring, plus a return trip to England to once again compete in the Under 25 CCI3* at the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials. Competing overseas for the first time this season prepared her for the challenges ahead in many ways, Caroline said. “Going overseas was a huge eye-opener because I’ve competed pretty much everywhere in the States, but competing in a place where I don’t know the people or the venue — it’s culture shock. It gave me the opportunity to learn to compete outside my comfort zone.” And that’s exactly what she did, finishing in 26th place in the Tattersalls CIC3* aboard Quantum Solace, and then going on to garner a 10th-place finish in a very talented field of young riders in the Under 25 CCI3* at Bramham. (Winners Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison went on to represent Great Britain at the 2015 FEI European Eventing Championships at Blair Castle.)
“I learned so many different things overseas. A major takeaway was focusing on one horse and getting ready for a three-day; you don’t want to over-stress or overwork the horse. You have to stay focused and treat it like any other show and not let the pressure get to you,” Caroline said. “Competing at Tattersalls first was a good way to get my feet wet before going to Bramham. I came back to the States a different rider. I came back with more confidence.” Now Caroline will channel that confidence into the 2016 season. While she qualified for Rolex last year with Quantum Solace, a 10-year-old Argentinian Thoroughbred gelding she owns with Sherrie Martin, Caroline and her longtime coach and mentor Buck Davidson agreed that another season spent gaining three-star experience would only benefit her going forward. After campaigning Quantum Solace, Pebbly Maximus, Spring Easy and Center Stage at the three-star level this season, Caroline is looking ahead to her four-star debut with Quantum Solace, her seasoned, trusted partner better known as “Nacho” around the barn. As Caroline puts it: “He’s my Lebron James of the team.”
(Nacho had us all cracking up after he was crowned the Reserve Champion in this year’s Adequan USEA Gold Cup at the American Eventing Championships. If you missed the hilarious play-by-play of his antics during the prize giving, you have to click here to see it.) Caroline is also eagerly anticipating taking another crack at the Under 25 CCI3* at Bramham, this time with Center Stage, a 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding she owns with Sherrie Martin. “Conner” finished 24th in his first CCI3* at the Dutta Corp Fair Hill International with relatively little Advanced experience under his belt. Caroline said his jump is one of the best she’s ever had: “He takes off like a rocket ship.” The USEF Eventing 25 and 18 programs will send a group of U.S. riders to Bramham this year to simulate a team experience as part of the Karen Stives European Developing Tour, which is funded through the late Karen Stives’ generous $1 million donation to the USET Foundation to create an endowment fund. Even if she isn’t chosen for the tour, Caroline is still planning to go on her own dime to compete. “It will be a great learning experience having teammates,” Caroline said. “Having us all together in an unknown environment and dealing with the stress of wanting to do well for your country will be a very important opportunity.” Next season will be Caroline’s first year training with USEF Developing Coach Leslie Law, as she was named to the USEF High Performance Training Lists for the 2015 season and rode with U.S. Coach David O’Connor in those training sessions instead.
“I’m looking forward to training with the Eventing 25 riders because it’s my own age group,” Caroline said. “We’re all at the same level, and we’re all going to be progressing up the levels together. It will give us a great opportunity to establish good team bonding now, and then we can build on that as we get older.” Caroline sits on the newly established USEA Youth Council with fellow Eventing 25 riders Jacob Fletcher, Jenny Caras and Lizzie Snow, and she said she’s also looking forward to working with them as they develop strategies to engage young riders in the sport. That’s similar to her work with the PRO Young Riders Advisory Board, which specifically works with young riders who want to become professional eventers. While Rolex and Bramham will undoubtedly be highlights of her 2016 season, Caroline said she’s also really excited about some of her younger horses that are just coming through the levels, like Danger Mouse, a 7-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding that just competed his first CCI* at Hagyard MidSouth. Petite Flower’s foal from an embryo transfer will also be old enough for her to start riding next summer. “You want to make a detailed plan for the next year now, but so many things can change. I plan on being in the sport for a long time, and I really enjoy producing the horses,” Caroline said. “I know how it goes, and things can change at any second. I want to focus on the whole season, not just one highlight of it. I want to enjoy the process.”