The United States Equestrian Team (USET) Foundation has named three-time eventing Olympian Boyd Martin of Cochranville, Pennsylvania, and his mount, Commando 3, a 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Connor 48 x R-Adelgunde) owned by Yankee Creek Ranch, the recipients of the 2024 Connaught Grant.
Each year, the USET Foundation administers up to $25,000 to a developing horse that is seen as a potential candidate to represent the United States eventing team at the international level. The grant was established and is funded by Caroline Moran in memory of her dear friend, the late R. Bruce Duchossois, who was dedicated to encouraging the development of eventing horses in the U.S., and is named after Connaught, a horse that was owned by Duchossois and ridden by Phillip Dutton at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games and 2008 Beijing Olympics.
As the recipient of the Connaught Grant, Martin, who is an athlete on the US Equestrian (USEF) Eventing Elite Program List with Commando 3 and Luke 140, will use the funds to support further competition and training with Commando 3 with the aim of riding for the U.S. at the highest levels on the international stage.
“It’s a huge honor and privilege to receive the Connaught Grant with Commando 3,” stated Martin. “In the last year, Commando 3 has burst onto the U.S. equestrian scene. We’ve worked very hard at building a partnership. I really feel like he is developing into one of the top horses in the nation.
“When I first arrived in the U.S., I got a job as a rider for Philip Dutton and was lucky enough to get to know Bruce Duchossois and Connaught,” continued Martin. “From the bottom of my heart, receiving this grant is a touching moment because I witnessed how much Bruce [Duchossois] changed his career and helped U.S. equestrian sport. I was also there to see Connaught in his finest moments, winning five-star events, and representing America. To be put in a category with a champion bloke like Bruce and a horse like Connaught is a huge accomplishment.”
Throughout 2023, Martin and Commando 3 have competed at the four-star level. Most recently, in October, the pair won the CCI4*-L at the Morven Park International, in Leesburg, Virginia. This win came on the heels of several top-five finishes in four-star competition, including winning the CCI4*-S in September at The Fork at Tryon International and placing third in the horse’s first CCI4*-L in May at the Tryon International Three-Day Event, both in Mill Spring, North Carolina.
Martin credits Commando 3’s character and is also quick to recognize the horse’s owners for their support.
“He’s an interesting character,” Martin said of Commando 3. “He’s a very good-looking horse and, sadly, he knows it. He struts around like a wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. He has an amazing presence, and even when I watch him walking in the field, he has a championship look. I feel like we have an exciting future on the horizon with him.
“I’m really grateful for Yankee Creek Ranch getting behind me and owning Commando 3,” he continued. “We’ve developed a great friendship and partnership and it’s a fantastic feeling to ride a horse for people that have the same beliefs, goals, and aspirations.”
Next year, Martin has his eyes on the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, France, with Commando 3 and other horses in his string. Whether or not Commando 3 is selected for the Games, Martin plans to enter the gelding in five-star competition.
While Martin will leverage the grant in a way that will help Commando 3 gain the experience necessary for him to be successful on the world stage, he also hopes that up-and-coming athletes will continue their hard work and look for opportunities for the USET Foundation and USEF to support their journeys up the ranks.
“The USET Foundation and USEF do an incredible job identifying and supporting the great horse-and-rider talent we have in America,” Martin concluded. “To anyone that wants a shot at greatness, my advice would be to put your head down and work as hard as you can. Strive for the pinnacle of the sport. I promise there will be many ups and downs, but if you can hang in there and you keep chipping away, this sport will eventually reward you.”
Previous Connaught Grant Recipients
2023 Caroline Pamukcu and HSH Blake
2022 Will Coleman and Chin Tonic
2021 Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way
2020 Liz Halliday and Cooley Moonshine
2019 Alexander O’Neal and Fury H
2018 Matt Brown and Big Berry
2017 Emilee Libby and Jakobi
2016 Jennie Brannigan and Stella Artois
2015 Heather Morris and Charlie Tango