Boyd Martin
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Boyd Martin

Achievements

About Boyd Martin

Australian born, US Olympic level rider based in Cochranville, Pa. For full bio please visit their website!!

Eventing Background

USEA Rider Profile Click to view profile
Area 2
Highest Level Competed Olympics
Farm Name Windurra USA

Latest Articles Written

‘You Weren’t Really On Him That Long’: The Boyd Martin Backstory

Riding For The Team, a new book from Trafalgar Square Books and the United States Equestrian Team Foundation, edited by Nancy Jaffer, shares the experiences of athletes from all eight FEI sports. Among them is this essay from Boyd Martin about his venturesome introduction to sport of eventing. Enjoy! 

Courtesy of Boyd Martin.

I went to Pony Club every Sunday. It was a long day, because I had to ride an hour to get there and an hour to get home. We’d spend the whole morning riding on the flat and jumping. I’d tie the pony to a tree when I ate lunch, then we’d barrel race in the afternoon.

My first pony was Willy; his show name was Willy Do It. I must have been about 14 when I entered my first horse trials at the St. Ives showground. I did a pretty ordinary dressage test, fell off twice in cross-country, and once more in show jumping. I think I finished on 380 penalties. While it wasn’t the best start for my eventing career, obviously, I could only improve from there.

But first, I needed a horse, since I was outgrowing Willy. There was a 12-year-old chestnut Thoroughbred for sale. His name was Flying Doctor, and he had never evented. When I tried him out, he came to the jump, stopped, and I fell over the top of him. My parents didn’t know that much about horses, but Dad said we should buy him, because unlike Willy, he didn’t run away when I came off.

When I competed, I wore my high school’s blue-and-white rugby jersey, and I still do today. My mum has to go to the high school I attended and buy another every time I need one. At school, I was a little wild and out of control. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be an accountant. Lucky for me, I loved sports. Not once did my parents say I should consider university. It’s such a big deal in America, but it never crossed my mind to think about that.

So when I finished high school at age 17, I packed my bags and moved into a bunkhouse at the New South Wales Equestrian Center with 14 other young riders, including Chris Burton, who went on to ride for Australia in the Olympics, and Jock Paget, who did the same for New Zealand. At the Center, where we worked seven days a week from 6:30 a.m. until midnight, I met a guy who really changed my life: Heath Ryan, an absolute lunatic, who I can remember screaming and yelling because he was so passionate about his sport and trying to get the best out of the riders. A dressage and eventing Olympian with two team gold medals to his credit, Heath was one of the hardest-working blokes I ever met.

At 19, I did my first four-star on Flying Doctor. He was probably 19, too. We went down to Adelaide, 22 hours away. Heath refused to let anyone else drive, even though he was rolling the window down trying to keep himself awake. I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing when we went to Adelaide. I didn’t even know about walking the distances between fences to try and figure out the striding.

The first guy who gave me a horse to ride had just gotten out of maximum-security prison for attempted murder. We always went to the farm via the police station because he had to sign in every day. But when you’re starting out, you grab whatever horse comes your way.

I got the ride on a Prix St. Georges dressage horse that was barking mad. The owner wanted me to take the horse to a show that was a six- or seven-hour drive through the Outback, because she thought if we got a good result there, she would be able to sell him. It was raining, he put his head down and bucked, and the reins slipped through my hands. I fell off underneath him and broke my knee in nine places. It took an hour for the ambulance to get there. There were no doctors; there was no pain medication. They took me to a hospital where I was put in a room with a prisoner who was handcuffed to a bed.

In those days, I charged $20 a ride, so I told the horse’s owner she owed me $620 for 31 rides. She didn’t think I should charge for the dressage show, telling me, “You weren’t really on him that long.”

This excerpt was adapted from Riding for the Team from the USET and edited by Nancy Jaffer, and reprinted with permission from Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks). The book is also available directly from USET here

Ah-ha! Moment of the Week from Attwood: Boyd Martin’s Horse of a Lifetime

Many eventers have encountered a special horse, had a breakthrough competition, or experienced a revelation during training that changed … well … everything. In a new weekly series presented by Attwood Equestrian Surfaces, eventers share their ah-ha! moments. In the premier edition Boyd Martin, whose Windurra USA in Cochranville, PA, features Pinnacle and Sand Blend arenas from Attwood, recollects the story of the eventer he calls his “horse of a lifetime.” 

Boyd Martin galloping SBS Cortez at home on his Attwood Equestrian Surfaces track at Windurra USA.  Photo by Lisa Thomas/Mid-Atlantic Equestrian.

When I was growing up in Australia my first 13.2-hand pony was called Will He Do It; later I moved up to 15.1-hand Lenny, but when I was about 15 years old and getting taller, I needed a bigger horse. We found an 11-year-old, 16.2-hand off-the-track Thoroughbred called Flying Doctor for $1,200. He’d had a bit of basic training but had never been to a show, and at the time my parents didn’t know much about horses. I decided to try him over a few fences and at the first oxer I pointed him at, he stopped dead in his tracks and I fell off. My dad said, “I think we should buy him because he didn’t run away!”

In hindsight Flying Doctor wasn’t actually that talented, but he had a heart of gold and the toughness of a gladiator. Being an off-the-track Australian Thoroughbred, he also had no “quit” in him. Neither of us knew too much but he took me to my first one-, two- and three-stars and eventually my first four-star in the year 2000.

At our first four-star at Adelaide, he did a great dressage, roared around cross country and had one rail down for a 5th place finish. At this point he was starting to get a bit old and a bit creaky in his joints so I planned to give him six months off after the event. I decided I’d like to take him to one more four-star before he retired, at the same event the following year.

Boyd Martin and Flying Doctor. Photo courtesy of Boyd Martin.

These days my horses receive lots of pampering to keep them at the top of their game, but things were a bit different back then. During our preparation for his final four-star I was riding around in Heath Ryan’s indoor, which had a mixture of wood chips and horse manure for footing. I didn’t realize he was limping a bit while I was doing dressage. Heath had a great old vet named Shanksy who I’d never seen without a cigarette in his mouth. He told me to wait right there and headed over to his truck. He came back with a big needle and syringe, still with the cigarette hanging out of his mouth, pulled off the boot and shoved the needle into the horse’s ankle. Then he put the boot back on and told me tomorrow the horse would feel like new. Old Shanksy was right, and Flying Doctor was sound as could be the next day.

I figured because he was such a seasoned campaigner I’d just give him one CIC3* in preparation for the four-star. I chose Golbourn CIC3*, which was about three weeks before Adelaide, and I couldn’t believe it when I got there and pulled him off the truck: he was three degrees lame with a foot abscess. He was in absolutely no condition to do his only preparation event for the big one. So off we went to our second four-star, having not competed at all since our previous four-star a year before.

Boyd Martin and Flying Doctor. Photo courtesy of Boyd Martin.

It was bit daunting not to have any lead-up events but to his credit, he was such a legend that he dug deep and gritted his teeth and went clear around the big, tough cross country track in the long-format CCI4* at Adelaide. I still remember the thrill that it gave me: He may not have been a world champion, but he was a good, tough old horse and really powered around the massive, solid course.

There was one particularly dramatic moment on the steeplechase course. It was a four and a half-minute steeplechase, and we were galloping as fast as we could at the big brush fences to make the time. I had the miss of all misses as we took off over one fence and Flying Doctor skidded through the jump. There was brush flying everywhere and I nearly got pitched off, but he somehow found his feet as he landed on his nose, picked himself up and kept on galloping. Unfortunately the fence was next to roads and tracks course, so a number of my friends were witness to that moment and were ribbing me before I headed out on cross country!

As a competitor Flying Doctor was heroic, achieving far more than I ever imagined, and he really inspired me by giving me a taste for the four-star level, an addiction I’ve never been able to kick. These days I would never consider buying an untried, 11-year-old horse off the track, but he really helped launch my career as an event rider.

After Adelaide I felt he was getting a bit too old to keep running him over big cross country tracks so I sold him to a kid for a couple grand and he did Pony Club for a few years. He was a legendary wind-sucker and towards the end of his time with me, his front teeth had almost worn away. After his stint in Pony Club, he retired to live out his days. Unfortunately he was bitten by a poisonous snake and died under a tree in his paddock. In a way it was a fitting and dramatic end for a horse that exceeded everyone’s expectations.