Build­ing Part­ner­ships

Top rid­ers Boyd and Silva Martin prove the strength of work­ing to­gether.

Dressage Today - - Content - By Am­ber Heintzberger

Eques­trian power cou­ple Silva and Boyd Martin find syn­ergy to cre­ate a win­ning sys­tem that pre­vails in the face of ad­ver­sity.

From the high­way in Cochranville, Penn­syl­va­nia, Win­durra USA looks like an even­ter’s par­adise, with a world-class cross-coun­try course sweep­ing away from the road. But follow the drive past the mas­sive tree on the left, past the pas­tures and back to the barns and you’ll see the other side of the story: a tidy dres­sage arena, flanked by red roses, with a view­ing pavil­ion to the side. The sta­bles also tell a story: The dres­sage horses live in the orig­i­nal barn, also sur­rounded by roses, with a neatly swept aisle and per­fectly folded blan­kets. The even­ters live in shed rows, and the horses are equally well-cared for, but the struc­tures are more work­man­like and buzzing with ac­tion as one horse comes in from fit­ness work and another is prepped for a jump school.

This is the bal­ance that works for Grand Prix dres­sage rider Silva Martin and her three-day even­ter hus­band, Boyd. The syn­ergy be­tween the seem­ingly op­po­site styles is im­pres­sive: The young dres­sage horses learn to hack out and go up and down hills, even school smalls jumps and go through wa­ter, while the event horses ben­e­fit from top-class dres­sage train­ing.

Op­po­sites At­tract

The cou­ple met at the races in Boyd’s na­tive Aus­tralia, where Silva was el­e­gantly dressed for a day out and he was toss­ing back beers with his mates. Some­how he worked his charm and con­vinced the gor­geous blonde to go on a date. They were mar­ried in 2007 and shortly after that trav­eled to the United States; Boyd ar­rived a few months ahead of Silva since he has dual cit­i­zen­ship thanks to his Amer­i­can-born mother. Silva fol­lowed him over and they worked out of even­ter Phillip Dut­ton’s True Prospect Farm for a few years be­fore pur­chas­ing their own farm nearby. They have slowly and steadily built their business through suc­cess­ful part­ner­ships with each other, their coaches, their stu­dents and sup­port­ers.

“In our per­sonal lives Boyd and I couldn’t be more op­po­site, and I think that might be a good thing,” says Silva. “I’m very or­ga­nized and tidy and Boyd is not. In the be­gin­ning it drove us crazy, but we’ve fig­ured it out. It can still be an­noy­ing at times, but I’ve learned from him, too—I’m prob­a­bly a lit­tle more re­laxed and he’s more or­ga­nized now. I’ve also learned to look at things in a more pos­i­tive way. I’ve al­ways been pos­i­tive, but thanks to Boyd I think I gen­er­ally have a bet­ter out­look on life.”

While Silva and Boyd keep two dif­fer­ent barns, and the horses are very dif­fer­ent, con­sid­er­ing feed, fit­ness and so on, they use each other’s help all the time. “He breaks in my young horses and I help him with the dres­sage,” says Silva. “So we both ben­e­fit from both worlds.” (For tech­niques you can try, see the ex­er­cises on pp. 36–39.)

Con­sid­er­ing that it can be chal­leng­ing to ac­cept crit­i­cism from some­one to whom you are close, Boyd says that a re­spect for Silva’s tal­ents makes it easy for him to ac­cept her rid­ing ad­vice. “Silva’s def­i­nitely an ex­pert in her field and has way more ex­pe­ri­ence than I do. I think it would be harder to take ad­vice from each other if we were both event rid­ers, but her level of dres­sage ex­per­tise is far beyond what mine will ever be, which makes it eas­ier to ac­cept her ad­vice.”

Silva helps Boyd with his horses

lead­ing up to big com­pe­ti­tions, usu­ally in the morn­ing.

“From 7:30 to 11:00a.m. is when the big ac­tion takes place at Win­durra,” he says. “Silva will sched­ule me in dur­ing that time. Lead­ing up to a big four-star we’ll close the arena to one or two top horses so they’re not dis­tracted work­ing through their tests. In the af­ter­noons the young horses get done, so it’s a lit­tle more re­laxed.”

While it might seem that they see an aw­ful lot of each other, the di­vi­sion of dres­sage/event horses means that they mainly cross paths on horse­back in the dres­sage ring or when Silva is out in the field do­ing fit­ness work with her horses. The barns and turnout fields also are all very sep­a­rate.

“Ev­ery­one works hard, and I think we’re all a good team,” says Boyd. “We mu­tu­ally chip in with the up­keep and main­te­nance of gen­eral stuff.”

Both Boyd and Silva were in­jured in early 2014: Fol­low­ing her win at the

Gold Cup, Silva fell off a horse in a school­ing ses­sion and sus­tained a brain in­jury (which would have been worse had she not been wear­ing her hel­met at the time). A cou­ple weeks later, Boyd broke his leg when a horse ran out at a cross-coun­try fence dur­ing the Carolina In­ter­na­tional three-day event. Thanks to Phillip Dut­ton keep­ing his horses in train­ing and com­pet­ing, Boyd was able to fo­cus on phys­i­cal ther­apy and just man­aged to make the World Eques­trian Games Team with a strong fin­ish at the Luh­muehlen CCI**** in Ger­many, rid­ing Shamwari 4. After a suc­cess­ful spring sea­son to­gether, Phillip rode Boyd’s horse Trad­ing Aces at the World Eques­trian Games.

“I think time off re­cov­er­ing from in­juries counts as our va­ca­tion time,” says Boyd. “It’s hard to take time off after eight weeks out of the sad­dle. We both en­joy our time in the sad­dle and find sat­is­fac­tion im­prov­ing the farm and fa­cil­i­ties, so I think that counts as our leisure time.”

The Horse–Rider Bond

“I think a part­ner­ship with any an­i­mal or per­son takes a long time,” says Silva. “When I look at horses to buy, they have to be very hon­est, es­pe­cially for an am­a­teur. I’ve got to be able to do ev­ery­thing I want to do. What you have that day is what you’re go­ing to have. You have to spend time with them. It’s not that easy. It’s a hard thing to find a horse in the first place that works for you.”

Boyd agrees: “Build­ing a part­ner­ship with a new horse, the first in­gre­di­ent is time. It takes time to­gether, time for you to learn the quirks and sub­tle things about the horse. Once they get the hang of how you ride and train, as time goes on, a part­ner­ship does build. There’s no fast track for this. The more

ex­pe­ri­ences the bet­ter. Get­ting out in the real world of com­pe­ti­tion, with pres­sure and at­mos­phere, will help build a bond and cre­ate a team be­tween you and your horse.”

Silva says, “I think it’s very im­por­tant to spend a lot of time with the horse. I try to take them out of the ring, too. It’s im­por­tant to go out and hack and see how the horse feels and what he thinks. You can’t be im­pa­tient; you have to give it time. Pa­tience is the name of the game.”

Support Crew

The old say­ing, “It takes a vil­lage,” couldn’t ring more true than in the case of Boyd and Silva. When the barn at True Prospect Farm burned to the ground in 2011 and both Boyd’s and Silva’s fa­ther passed away that sum­mer, they dis­cov­ered how sup­port­ive the eques­trian com­mu­nity could be. This year was also off to a bumpy start, and they are quick to rec­og­nize once again how im­por­tant their support net­work has been.

“I’ve al­ways got a the­ory that ev­ery­one is just as im­por­tant as ev­ery­one else,” says Boyd. “The per­son feed­ing the horse is just as im­por­tant as the per­son tack­ing up, train­ing, etc. Ev­ery de­tail is im­por­tant. I feel like we’ve cre­ated won­der­ful rid­ers, so when we’re out of com­mis­sion the horses are bril­liantly trained and rid­den just as well.”

Silva agrees: “Of course, this hasn’t been a great year phys­i­cally since I had a head in­jury and Boyd broke his leg, but it’s still been a suc­cess with the horses. I couldn’t do it with­out Gra­cia Hueneberg, Scout Ford and Kimberly Pullen, who stood be­hind me 100 per­cent and kept the horses go­ing while I was sup­posed to rest. Maybe they can’t train the horses ex­actly as I do, but they can keep them fit and go­ing for me.

“It’s im­por­tant to treat them right. They’re good peo­ple and 100 per­cent be­hind us. Scout has been rid­ing Rosa for me while Scout and Kimberly have been show­ing the young ones. It’s so im­por­tant that they go out and see things and get ex­pe­ri­ence, and I couldn’t be hap­pier. They’ve all been bring­ing home blue rib­bons, too!”

The Owner–Rider Part­ner­ship

“We’ve got a num­ber of own­ers and each of them is a slightly dif­fer­ent part­ner­ship or con­nec­tion,” ex­plains Boyd. “A cou­ple of them don’t want to talk to us at all—they com­mu­ni­cate just by email. I to­tally get that. Some of them want to hear from us ev­ery day. Some have a con­nec­tion with you and want to help you out while some are in­fat­u­ated with their horse and want to be a part of that. Ev­ery­one’s in­volved for dif­fer­ent rea­sons and it’s im­por­tant to fig­ure out what makes ev­ery­one tick and over time pro­vide that ser­vice.”

The part­ner­ship be­tween rider and horse owner can ex­tend well beyond a

Grand Prix dres­sage rider Silva Martin and her three-day even­ter hus­band, Boyd, mainly cross paths on horse­back. But at the end of the day, Boyd can be found on the sofa in the rus­tic but el­e­gantly fur­nished farm­house, with his feet propped up and a cou­ple of cats curled up on his chest as he watches a box­ing match on TV. Nearby, Silva pe­ruses fash­ion mag­a­zines and thinks about start­ing her own line of eques­trian ap­parel.

LEFT: Silva and Boyd agree that it would be harder to take ad­vice from each other if they were both event rid­ers. But Boyd rec­og­nizes that Silva’s level of dres­sage ex­per­tise is far beyond his, and that makes it eas­ier to ac­cept her ad­vice.

BOT­TOM LEFT: The cou­ple en­joys travel, and Boyd is a se­ri­ous sports fan who avidly fol­lows his fa­vorite box­ing com­peti­tors and has trav­eled to a few big matches. But they are both so in­tensely into eques­trian sport that they rarely take time away from the farm, ex­cept to travel to com­pe­ti­tions and clin­ics.

RIGHT: Silva says pa­tience is the name of the game when it comes to build­ing a good part­ner­ship with any an­i­mal or per­son.

ABOVE: The part­ner­ship be­tween rider and horse owner can ex­tend well beyond a business agree­ment. Here Boyd is with syn­di­cate mem­bers Gretchen and George Win­ter­steen at Great Meadow in The Plains, Vir­ginia.

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