EN’s Got Talent: Santos Shows Promise as a Future Star

We hear all the time about horses at the top of the sport, but what about the next generation of equine talent? EN’s Got Talent introduces the future superstars of the sport, interviewing riders about how they’re tackling training with these youngsters. Have you spotted a spectacular young horse at an event you think should be highlighted in this column? Tip me at [email protected].

Boyd Martin and Santos schooling at Stable View Farm in Aiken earlier this month. Photo by Jenni Autry. Boyd Martin and Santos schooling at Stable View Farm in Aiken earlier this month. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Last week on EN’s Got Talent, we got to know a little more about Santos, the newest upper-level prospect in Boyd Martin’s barn. Bearing a striking resemblance to Neville Bardos in both looks and demeanor, Boyd is thrilled to have the opportunity to build a partnership with the 6-year-old Thoroughbred gelding.

Boyd and Santos’ first competition together was at Full Gallop in Aiken, South Carolina, at the end of January. “Our first event was nearly disastrous,” Boyd said. “He did very well in the dressage and show jumping, but on cross country, I was a bit on cruise control and didn’t give him the best line into the water, so he had a bit of a peek there. So it wasn’t great, but we went and schooled a few times before our next event at Paradise Farm, and he was spot on.”

Indeed, the young gelding found his rhythm with Boyd in his next outing at Paradise, winning his Open Training division on his dressage score of 24.8. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves,” Boyd said. “We’re not setting the world on fire yet, but we’re improving each day.”

Boyd’s general training philosophy is to spend a year at each level to ensure his horses don’t have gaps in their education as they progress. Many riders designate a level to spend more time on, and for Boyd, it’s Intermediate.

“I used to do a year at each (level) and then take them Advanced,” he explained. “But I’m finding myself spending more time at Intermediate and two-star level now. You see basically the same questions as an Advanced course in that you’ll have a corner to a corner or a one stride into the water to a narrow out. The difference is that instead of two strides corner to corner, you’ve got six strides corner to corner, and so on. So the horse can be a bit greener and you have more time to show them where to go and educate them.”

What about the potential for Santos to go up to the Advanced level? Boyd would like to think that his newest charge has the makings to be a four-star horse. “Four-star horses have that look about them, that championship look. I’m not sure that’s very technical, but you can tell when you see it.”

“You have to ask, honestly, if this horse has the ability to gallop for 12 minutes,” he continued. “That’s a big question. Not many people in the world know the feeling of galloping a tired horse coming to the last fence, and I’ll tell you it’s an awful feeling and one that I sincerely try to avoid at all costs.”

Boyd’s got high hopes for Santos, and his full Thoroughbred pedigree will certainly give him a leg up in the question of stamina. For now, he’ll continue fine tuning the skills the horse will need to be successful in the future. “His dressage is world class, and cross country will come very easily to him because of his style,” Boyd said. “I’ll be gently chipping away at the show jumping;I’m pretty confident in this guy.”

Santos also adds some personality to the barn, always hanging his head over his stall door to observe the happenings around him. “He’s always happy to be there,” Boyd said. “When you hop on, he’s a character. If it’s cold and windy, he’ll jump around a bit — he doesn’t mind jumping up in the air! He’s definitely a bit quirky.”

We can’t wait to see more from Santos as his education continues to progress, and Boyd is thrilled to have the support of Gloria Callen and Ron and Densey Juvonen in his quest to develop his next upper-level partner.