Boyd Martin (USA) wasn’t sure what to expect from his 14-year-old Holsteiner mare, Contessa, at her first CCI5*. But at the end of the 2023 Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, Martin had himself a bonafide five-star mount. He walked away with a 14th place finish and a whole lot of confidence in Contessa’s future.
“I didn’t know what to expect coming in with Contessa,” admitted Martin. “Going home with a five-star horse is very rewarding.”
Martin piloted Contessa to a base score of 35.5 in dressage. On cross country, the duo added just 6.4 time penalties to make their score 41.9. And on the final day of the event in show jumping, Contessa had one rail down for 4 faults plus 0.8 time penalties. The five-star first-timer concluded the Kentucky Three-Day Event on a score of 46.7.
Take a look at what Martin had to say of Contessa’s efforts after each phase of the Kentucky Three-Day:
How was Contessa’s first CCI5* dressage test?
It was good. She’s very green and we’re just glad to be here. To be honest, she couldn’t have gone much better. She’s a brilliant horse. She’s a real trier. She’s a big, long horse that’s a bit strung out in the canter work. It’s been a huge mission thanks to Silva [Martin] and Betina [Hoy] the last six months and it’s nearly there. Hopefully, by the end of the year, [her score] be in the twenties.
With Kentucky being Contessa’s first five-star, looking at head to cross country, how do you plan to attack it?
She’s bold and brave and a great galloper, and she’s fit as a fiddle. I just have to read her a bit, too. If she’s feeling good, I’ll keep going. But if she’s starting to feel a bit shaky, I’ll slow it down a bit here and there.
What is she like to ride and train?
She’s a pretty quirky horse. She’s a real mare—you can’t really tell her what to do. It’s been a great education having her. We bought her as a five year old and her career has been up and down. She’s taught me a lot as a rider—there’s just different ways to get there. I love her. She’s smart, she’s sensitive and she’s a real trier.
How did Contessa feel on cross country?
It was good. She’s such a good girl. She’s very green to get to this event. I didn’t know how she’d cope with it, and she felt green, but God, she’s a trier. I had her very fit and she gave me a great round
Where on course did you feel she was green?
She’s only done eight Advanced runs in her life. So, I was sort of thinking, “God, I hope I’m doing the right thing.” The first part of the course was quite challenging, but once she got through the coffin well I thought, “All right, we’re in business here.” I never really got after her about the time. I didn’t quite know how she’d be towards the end, and she had plenty left. I was very, very pleased with her.
Were there any surprises on course?
She did it easier than I thought she would. That’s not me being complacent, but I was surprised how well she coped with the course. She got back to Pennsylvania (Windurra USA) earlier than everyone else, so she’s quite fit. I’ve been galloping up the hills and got her well prepared. She seems like she’s recovered well.
What are your thoughts on Contessa’s weekend?
She’s green in all three phases, but I’m very pleased with her. She gave me a great finish. I’m just happy to be here and enjoy the week.
How do you think this event has impacted your relationship with her?
We have a good relationship. We’ve known each other since she’s a five year old. It’s rewarding having years and years and years of training every day.
She’s had a few injuries and comebacks and good events and bad events. To finally get here is very rewarding. I’m just pleased. I think also it’s the beginning of a good five-star run with her. I’ll probably shape her up to [the Maryland Five-Star] at the end of the year.