We all dream of an ideal, rose colored life. A gorgeous farm on hundreds of acres of lush green land. A barn full of elite, upper level horses. Access to the greatest coaching and competition opportunities money can buy.
This used to be Caroline Martin’s life.
But over the last few months, life’s looked a bit different for Caroline, 25. She’s the first to acknowledge the privileges she grew up with and the opportunity her parents’ successful business ventures afforded her.
Nothing lasts forever, though, and at the end of 2018 Caroline found herself with a decision to make: sell the horses and go to college, or strike out on her own dollar and see what she was made of. She chose option B.
Some riders are able to get a leg up — an earlier start, a nicer horse, a more flexible schedule — on their riding career, while others’ lot in life would leave them scraping for every penny, taking any opportunity cast their way. But it isn’t a competition — whatever the start you get, what you do with it and the end result is entirely on you.
Caroline knew her end result included horses and a career in the industry, so she put her head down and got right to work. “I knew I needed to find work, and quick, so I started making calls to everyone I had a connection with,” she recalled.
The opportunity that would start the next chapter of Caroline’s career came when she spoke with Emil Spadone and Paul Hendrix, who both source horses under the Redfield Farm and Stal Hendrix monikers. Emil and Paul were looking for help selling horses, and they gave the eager young rider a chance to move some of their horses as a test run.
“I started with a couple of four- and five-year-olds and brought them to my farm and got right to work,” she said. “I made sale videos, I called everyone I knew of who might be shopping, and showed them to interested riders. I had them sold within about 15 days.”
Caroline had found her new niche, and 2019 started in earnest with a whole slew of new names added to her entry forms for the early events of the year. To date, she’s sold just under 30 horses and has more in the pipelines. Any endeavor like this takes a village, and Caroline calls herself lucky to have a business partner in Casey McKissock who is closely involved in all of the workings of her business. It’s made for much busier days — I needed a nap after she regaled me with the tales of multiple trips to the airport for clients, showing horses, and casually showing in Welcome Stakes in the evenings — and a shifting of both priorities and perspective.
Balance Rules All
Much of Caroline’s time now is spent sourcing horses, training them up and competing them to be well-prepared for their next rider, marketing each listing, and handling the showing of each horse as much as she personally can.
It’s enough to keep anyone’s day planner full, but Caroline hasn’t lost sight of her original ongoing goal of representing the U.S. internationally at the top levels.
I asked Caroline how her priorities had shifted since her undertaking of this booming sales business she created.
“I was really lost,” she admitted. “It was sink or swim, and it was scary. I wanted to keep riding at the top level, but it was overwhelming. So I learned to just shut up and go to work. There is never a day off when you’re trying to make it in this sport. I am really grateful for the support my parents were able to give me, and I take pride in my work ethic.”
She’s become the queen of juggling, managing to run her sales business and compete her three remaining upper level horses who are members of a newly formed syndicate, Team Living the Dream LLC.
“I put my three top horses into the syndicate,” Caroline explained. “I wanted to create a special opportunity where some people could be involved with three horses at the top of the sport without having to spend the amount it would typically cost to buy and campaign them.”
Forming the syndicate, Caroline says, has been instrumental in helping her juggle the sales as well as the competition ends of her business. The three horses — Islandwood Captain Jack, Danger Mouse, and Cristano Z — are all already going at the 4* levels with plans in the works for 5*.
With the help of Athletux Equine, Caroline has also recently created a more forward thinking syndicate approach, with shares available at more accessible rates. Instead of the syndicate pricing of years past, Caroline is offering a limited number of opportunities for people to be involved with Team Living the Dream for as little as a $5,000 tax deductible annual membership. Never before has anything similar to this affordable and exciting opportunity been offered like this with three horses.
It’s a way in which Caroline hopes to add new people to her team, and with her recent nomination to the most recent US Equestrian eventing training list and success overseas, it’s certainly a prime time to get behind a next generation rider.
With the addition of so many younger sales horses in her barn, Caroline saw the opportunity to give her top horses a bit more flexibility in their competition schedules. “When it comes to competing, Emil and Paul are incredible,” she said. “I can really customize the competition schedule. I can pick and choose their events with the intent to keep them happy, sound, and competing for many years.”
Longevity and sustainability are the name of the game for Caroline. “I try to be smart about competing my horses,” she explained. “We see the Europeans out there year after year with their horses, and I think a lot of that comes from picking and choosing their schedule with their best interests in mind.”
A Life Well Curated
If you asked Caroline where she thought she’d be now this time last year, her answer would likely have been much different than what her life looks like now. But she wouldn’t trade it for anything. “I wasn’t sure how good I would be at the selling process, and I was worried it would be too hard to part with the sales horses,” she said. “I want to differentiate my program from other sales programs with quality and well-trained horses. I am very up front and I pride myself in making matches over making a quick sale. I do my best to train my horses so that when people take them home, they are the same horse that they tried before. I take a lot of pride in that part.”
As she prepares to tackle the Millstreet CCI4*-L this weekend with Islandwood Captain Jack, Caroline is proud of what she’s been able to build and looking forward to the next steps.
“This time last year, I never thought I would have been able to do this,” she said. “Emil and Paul as well as my business partner Casey McKissock are the reasons why I’m here doing this, and I owe them a lot. I wouldn’t say I’m the best rider out there, but I showed up every single day and I believe in every single horse that comes through my program. I’ve learned a lot and my biggest advice is to never turn down an opportunity, because you never know when you might need it later down the road.”