Arena Eventing Rocks the House at Devon With Martin Win

The three-time Olympian and eventing legend talks about his win and what it takes of both horse and rider to succeed in this challenging event.

Boyd Martin didn’t disappoint thousands of cheering fans on Sunday night during the $50,000 Devon Arena Eventing at the 2024 Devon Horse Show in Devon, Pennsylvania. After Martin and 11-year-old Hanoverian mare Miss Lulu Herself posted the fastest double-clear round, they came back to outride second-place finishers—Sara Kozumplik and Rubens D’Ysieux—in the final jump-off.

“I’ve got an unbelievable horse in Miss Lulu Herself. She was very spooky here last year and actually had a runout,” he said. “It’s amazing what one year’s training can do.”

Devon Arena Eventing 2024: Three-time Olympian Boyd Martin piloted 11-year-old Hanoverian mare Miss Lulu Herself, owned by Bonnie Stedt, to victory on Sunday night. © Alana Harrison/Practical Horseman

During the jump-off, Martin briefly considered puttering around the course and going for second place since Kozumplik was the only other rider to go double-clear over the short course.

“Then, I thought, ‘Screw that,’ and I went for broke. Lulu is just a fantastic, careful jumper, and she’s lightning fast,” he said. “My little mare was unbelievable. She just ripped around the course, and I couldn’t be more pleased with her. She’s really come into herself, and I’m very, very happy with her.”

Martin, who owns and operates Windurra USA farm in nearby Cochranville, Pennsylvania, with his wife and Grand-Prix dressage rider, Silva Martin, is considered a hometown hero at the renowned Devon Horse Show.

“Devon is such a unique event for me and my family. Whenever we get to do eventing in front of such a spectacular crowd, it’s a real honor and privilege,” he said. “This place has so much awe about it. It feels like you’re riding on sacred ground with all the history here.”

Arena Eventing 101

Only offered at four other horse shows in the world, arena eventing is a unique class that combines cross-country obstacles with show jumps. It’s especially challenging because horse-and-rider teams must constantly adjust their stride, technique and strategy to effectively clear the different types of jumps.

Sara Kozumplik and Rubens D’Ysieux almost clinched a third win the Devon Arena Eventing after a stellar round in the jump-off, but ended up in second place. © Alana Harrison/Practical Horseman

“It’s a tricky event. They’re not big, big jumps, but with the bright lights and short turns you’ve got to be very cautious,” Martin said. “If you bring a horse who’s a bit green and inexperienced here, they can get a real fright.”

This year’s course was designed by Olympic gold medalist and former coach of the U.S. Eventing Team Mark Phillips of the U.K. It spanned across the venue’s Dixon and Wheeler arenas and included a combination of 25 cross-country and show-jumping fences.

Adjustability is crucial to success in arena eventing. In cross country, horses jump off a longer stride at the gallop. While show jumpers need a more careful, collected stride to jump up and over the fences without knocking down any rails.

“You need a careful jumper for arena eventing. After asking the horse to be super brave and courageous for you over the cross-country fences, it must revert to being a careful, sharp show jumper in a split second,” Martin noted. “And on that last fence the rail felt like it was just balancing on the edge of the cups.”

Piloting the Hot & Spicy Lulu

Martin and Lulu, who’s owned by Bonnie Stedt, one of Martin’s longtime supporters, first partnered when the mare was only 4 years old. He was thrilled to be able to deliver the win to Stedt and grateful she was willing to take a chance on buying the chestnut mare sight unseen.

“She’s a hot and spicy horse, especially in the dressage. She was probably born and bred to be a show jumper where she came from in Germany,” Martin said. “She’s got a little bit of short stride which is sometimes tough in the big four-stars with longer distances. So, she is a unique ride for me.”

Martin noted that careful jumpers like Miss Lulu Herself excel in arena eventing because horses are required to shift gears so often between cross-country and show-jumping fences. © Alana Harrison/Practical Horseman

Martin said Lulu likes to analyze the jumps more than other horses. This can present challenges in arena eventing because riders must come off short turns to approach the fences. To prepare for this, he spent time schooling the tricky turns right before the class started.

“She’s also a sensitive horse. You can’t just run in there,” Martin added. “You have to place her well. There’s a moment where she studies the jump and then she just flies over it. Bonnie was the only crazy person who would buy a 4-year-old chestnut mare sight unseen. So, I was very proud to get a great victory for her—and Lulu.”

The Competition

A total of 14 horse-and-rider teams competed at the event on Sunday night. The competition field featured an impressive roster of Pan American winners, Olympic medalists and accomplished five-star eventers including Phillip Dutton, Buck Davidson, Jennie Brannigan, Hannah Sue Hollberg and Tamie Smith to name a few. Eleven pairs were called back for the jump-off round.

Defending champions of last year’s Devon Arena Eventing Buck Davidson and Erroll Gobey vied for another win, but unfortunately didn’t have a successful ride in the jump-off. © Alana Harrison/Practical Horseman

Dutton, Davidson and Kirsten Schuitema took unfortunate spills in which they parted company with their mounts. But all horse-and-rider teams left the arena without injury. Julia Ennis Batters and Cooley O clinched third place. Hannah Sue Hollberg and Capitol H I M placed fourth, and Jennie Brannigan and Pascal took fifth.

Martin also competed in the event aboard another favorite horse, 17-year-old One Cue, who he noted is getting toward the end of her jumping career. He and the Anglo-European mare came out in eighth after taking a rail down at the final fence in the jump-off.

Read More

  • For complete results of Thursday at Devon’s Junior Weekend, click here.
  • Read more on our coverage of the WIHS Equitation Classic and Platinum Performance/USEF Show Jumping Talent Search here.
  • To read about the Dover Saddlery US Equestrian Medal winners, click here.
  • Find more on Friday’s ASPCA Maclay Horsemanship Class here.

Thanks to Mane ‘n Tail Equine for our coverage of the 2024 Devon Horse Show. 

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