Kentucky Contenders: On Cue and Tsetserleg

An inside look at the lives of Boyd Martin's two Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L mounts, On Cue and Tsetserleg.

Olympian Boyd Martin has garnered some of his most recent accomplishments aboard to two of his top mounts—On Cue and Tsetserleg. In 2019, Martin and Tsetserleg claimed second place at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event and in 2021, they represented the United States at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Also in 2021, he and On Cue became the first American duo to win a five-star on U.S. soil in 13 years when they were crowned champions of the inaugural Maryland Five Star at Fair Hill. This week, Martin will be riding On Cue and Tsetserleg in the CCI5*-L at the 2022 Kentucky Three-Day Event with hopes of breaking the 10-year-long dry streak of an American winning Kentucky.

Get to know these two elite sport horses through the eyes of Martin and his stable manager and groom, Stephanie Simpson.

Boyd Martin
Boyd Martin with On Cue (left) and Tsetserleg (right).
© Amy K. Dragoo

On Cue

Nickname: Cue
Breed: Selle Francais
Age: 16
Sex: Mare
Owners: Christine, Thomas and Tommie Turner

Tsetserleg

Nickname: Thomas
Breed: Trakehner
Age: 15
Sex: Gelding
Owners: Christine, Thomas and Tommie Turner

What is Thomas’ personality like?

Boyd: He’s a real cuddly horse. All the girls that work at our farm dote over him and he loves being groomed and cared for. He’s a real smudgy horse. Sometimes I think he’s not really meant to be a five-star horse, but he’s meant to be some little girl’s Pony Club horse, because he’s laid back and just loves attention.

Stephanie: He’s perfect. When I first started, he was kind of reserved. He’s very shy, I would say. He doesn’t like you brush his face or anything like that—you have to use a towel. He’s just a bit sensitive, or particular, I would say, not sensitive. He’s very curious, very social always is happy to do whatever. He’s pretty straight forward, he’s not a super quirky or anything. He just has his people and that’s what he likes and he’s definitely going to tell you if you are annoying him or anything like that. He’s pretty expressive in that way.

He’s just a dude. I think everybody loves him that works for us and appreciates his weirdness a little bit. Like, when he trailer somewhere, he just kicks the whole time. He’s not even being naughty, it’s just him. But when he’s in the barn, he’s just easy to be around.

What is Cue’s personality like?

Boyd: She’s a little bit spooky and she’s a little bit wary and unsure of her surroundings. I think once you gain her trust and you get to know her, she’s quite a sweet animal. But you can’t just go up and give her a pet, she’ll be a bit standoffish and look at you out of the corner of her eye. She’s quirky.

Stephanie: She’s a little more reserved, I would say. She’s not super social, but she’s also not mare-ish at all. Like you would never know she’s a mare. She kind of just sticks to herself. She definitely has a routine that she likes. She loves to be outside. Sometimes she won’t let you catch her. But, I would say not quite as curious as Thomas, but definitely still social, very sweet and nice, easy to be around.

What was your first impression of Thomas?

Boyd: To be honest, when Thomas first turned up, I didn’t think much of him. It wasn’t for a couple months down the track when I first took him to a show that he actually really, really impressed me. It was an interesting start where it wasn’t love at first sight. He just looked like a bit of a normal horse at home and in the barn and training at home. And then, when I took him to his first competition I thought, “Holy moly, what have we got here?” It wasn’t until we competed that I realized that he was at a diamond in the rough.

Stephanie: I always like the under dog kind. I always loved those ones. [When he came] he had just done his first five-star at Kentucky in the spring of 2018. Obviously, he had kind of proven himself, but he’s kind of unassuming, small. He wasn’t one of these big time horses that was bought with the intention of being on a team or anything like that. Chris Turner saw and believed in him and through years and years climbed his way up. I love an underdog kind of horse anyway.

Boyd Martin and Tsetserleg at the 2019 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event where they claimed second.
© Amy K. Dragoo

What does their nutrition routine look like?

Boyd: We’ve had a lot of luck with Purina Amplify and Purina Ultium. Then it’s puffed up with a lot of the SmartPak supplements that help their coats, their feet, recovery and hindgut.

They get alfalfa and Timothy hay. These horses have to be so fit to do these five-stars, and you basically try to feed them as much as they’ll eat, so it’s important that they have a top-notch hay.

Stephanie: We’re sponsored by Purina. [Thomas] eats Purina Ultium Gastric Care, which is a sport horse type feed and [Purina] added the Outlast [supplement] to it, so it’s kind of a gastric buffer. He also gets Purina Enrich, which is a balancer fat supplement.

Him and Cue, well actually, all the upper level horses, get their own customized SmartPak, so we just in there what they need and what they’ll like. Cue is a little more picky. If she decides she doesn’t like something, we have to take it out of her SmartPak because she’ll just go on strike.

Thomas loves to be outside and is a big grazer. He’s not a huge hay eater, to be honest. He loves alfalfa, obviously, and will eat his hay, but he’s not a horse that every two seconds you’re going to have to throw him hay.

Do they get any kind of body work like chiropractic, acupuncture, massages, etc.?

Boyd: Thomas gets treated like a professional athlete. There’s no money spared on his care. He gets massaged, the vet goes over him once a week, we’ve got a special diet formulated by the scientists at Purina. He’s on the Theraplate every day, he has the BEMER blanket on. He lives like a rockstar and he’s treated like an Olympic athlete.

Basically, when they’re horses of this value and this quality and this level, we feel like it’s our duty to do everything possible to make their jobs easy. Sadly, it can be expensive and time consuming, but, we ask them to do so much that 1% makes a big difference.

Stephanie: We do a ton of different therapies and stuff. We have a Theraplate at Windurra. Boyd actually sent me to Joanne Wilson, who is the team’s physiotherapist. She does a course twice a year and I did that. I try to do that as often as I can. We have the BEMER, which they get. Basically, they have no desire that is unmet.

What is the turnout routine for Thomas?

Stephanie: All of our horses go out alone other than the babies. Thomas loves turnout. Depending on the riding schedule, he’ll go out for like eight hours a day.

And what about Cue?

Boyd: She’s very hard to catch in the field. She loves being out in the paddock. I have to ride her first thing in the morning, because otherwise, if you ride her after lunch or something and she’s been out in the field, it’ll be until seven or eight o’clock at night before we can catch her. She’s bit of an unusual character.

Stephanie: We actually try to ride her before she goes out, because a lot of time she does not want to get caught. Thomas will let you get to him any time, she is a little bit trickier, so we usually try to ride her and then turn her out.

What is Thomas like to ride?

Boyd: He doesn’t like too many horses in the ring. He’s a little bit nervous of horses coming straight at him. So, in dressage I try to ride him when the rings are a little quieter first thing in the morning. And then same with the competition, it’s always nice when you’re one of the last to go in the show jumping because he doesn’t appreciate other horses galloping around him. He loves his own personal space.

As far as schooling him and training, he’s very quiet horse, he’s very laid back. He’s lovely to gallop. He’s a bit of an old veteran, so he doesn’t get himself too wound up. And then he goes for a lot of hacking and he goes in our conditioning pond. Often now, Stephanie, my head girl, does a lot of that because she’s secretly in love with him. Anyone could ride him. He’s a very quiet, laid back animal.

Stephanie: He’s good, he’s so easy. I mean, obviously, every horse has different things they’re better at than others, but he’s super straight forward. He’s very aware, like if it’s cold, he hates wind, but he also doesn’t want to wear a quarter sheet. So, he’s a little bit sharp when it’s cold but he won’t do anything naughty, he’s just a little scooty.

We have all these paths in the woods behind our farm and that’s his favorite thing. If we’re on the track he just pulls you down there. There’s like a couple openings in the woods, so he just pulls you down there.

What is Cue like to ride?

Boyd: She’s spooky … little bit spooky and looky. In dressage, that actually makes her more flamboyant. In show jumping, to start with, that was a bit of a challenge. She was sort of looking at the potted plants and spooking at the fillers and stuff. She lost her concentration a bit. But, as time goes on and you get to know each other better, you come up with ways of using that to your advantage. She’s one of the best cross-country horses I’ve ever ridden. She has an amazing gallop, great speed, brave as hell and a real fighter.

Stephanie: She’s also very easy. She’s not going to buck you off or doing anything crazy. She is a little spooky. Like, if a deer jumps out she’s definitely gonna like react, whereas some of the others wouldn’t necessarily.

Boyd Martin and On Cue at the 2021 Maryland Five Star at Fair Hill where they claimed the win.
© Amy K. Dragoo

What are some of Thomas’ strengths?

Boyd: His biggest strength is his heart and his desire. He’s obviously a talented animal, but I’ve never, ever experienced the whole change so much when they’re in competition. A lot of horses go the other way, they perform better at home, then they get to the competition and they get nervous and spooky. Thomas grows. It feels like all of a sudden he’s 17hh. He’s difficult to show jump at home, but at the compensation he’s lovely. It’s something always to keep in mind whenever you’re preparing for the competitions he did definitely gives you his best work at the shows.

Stephanie: I think generally he’s just very trainable and he tries really hard to do what you’re asking. He’s very much always trying to figure out what you want and how he can do it. He’s very, very trainable, I would say, in all three phases. I think each thing is easy for him because he’s always working, he’s always on task. He’s never messing around or spooking at stupid stuff.

What are some of Cue’s strengths?

Boyd: She’s determined, she’s got speed, she’s got stamina and she’s brave as hell.

How many rides per week do they get?

Stephanie: All of our horses do six days a week. After every long [format], they have like a month off. So, they just come in at night, they go out during the day and they get groomed. But, during that break, it’s just a holiday, no riding or anything.

Normally, say like this week or last week, Monday would be a jog and flat. He might jump once a week, maybe like a cavaletti day.

They don’t really cross-country school that often to be honest. These upper level ones, they know their jobs, so they don’t need to be schooled that much.

Boyd has a pretty strict fitness schedule. So they’ll go to the hill across town and gallop like once every five days or four days leading out to a five-star.

What kind of exercises do you like to do to keep Thomas fit?

Boyd: Having Erik Duvander help me the last number of years he’s definitely got me thinking of more cross training. I feel like the horses are so experienced in dressage, show jumping and cross country, you’re always gently touching on that stuff.

Thomas does a lot of work in our conditioning pond, he does ate a lot of flat work out on the cross-country on the grass hills. I try to keep it interesting for him. He would do less work in the dressage ring versus other horses just because he’s so good at it I want to keep him sweet. I don’t want to make him sour or sick of it. A lot of trot poles and elevated trot poles just to keep working on his core strength and keep his mind good. He would just maybe once a week.

What is your relationship with Thomas like?

Stephanie: Personally, I think I’m his best friend, if I may. I’ve spent so much time with him, so I know him in and out. He and I spend pretty much every day together and anytime he travels, I’m the one that takes it. So, we have a pretty good relationship.

What is your relationship with Cue like?

Stephanie: She has a very small group. Luckily, I am in that. Anytime she travels anywhere I’m with her. I spend every waking second with her.

What is something about Cue that people might not know?

Stephanie: We have three of her foals through embryo transfers that we just named within ourselves—Cuecumber Barbecue and Rubix Cube. We’ve kind of just gone with the “Cue” theme. They’re so awesome and two of them look just like her.

Thanks to Kent Nutrition GroupMane ‘n Tail, and Cosequin® for our coverage during the countdown to the 2022 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, including lead-up competitions, rider interviews, horse reports, photos, videos and more!⁣

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