Boyd Martin is one of the world’s leading international event riders, and has had competitive success at every five-star across the globe. Boyd has represented the United States at two Olympic Games, three World Equestrian Games and two Pan American Games, including the 2019 Pan Ams where Boyd won double-gold with Tsetserleg. This significant win also guaranteed the US Team’s ticket to the 2020 Olympics. Earlier this year, he recorded his highest placing to date at the formidable Kentucky Three-Day Event, coming second with Tsetserleg. Boyd has consistently been in the top 10 world rankings since leaving Australia in 2007 and has been on every US Championship team since changing his citizenship from Australian to American in 2010.
Known for his wit, humor and charismatic personality, I always enjoy working on projects with Boyd. When I spoke to him at his farm—which is always flurrying with activity—in early October he was recovering from a fall the weekend before. It’s not uncommon for Boyd to be injured. He’s had countless broken bones, surgeries, tears, sprains and strains over his career—and he addresses how he deals with that in this episode.
Boyd also talks about what it was like growing with two Olympians as parents, how he met his wife, Silva, and why they decided to move their business from Australia to the United States, how he built his business in the U.S. and how its evolved over the years, training and teaching philosophies, how he juggles fatherhood with riding, how he overcomes adversity and much more.
You can listen to the full interview wherever you listen to podcasts, but in the meantime, below is a snippet of our conversation.
How did you first get involved with riding?
BM: I was very lucky growing up in Australia. I was from a very sporting family. Both my parents were Olympians. My dad was a cross-country skier for Australia and my mother was a speedskater for the United States. So I grew up in a very sporty family. It wasn’t just horses, it was all sorts of sports. I’d say sport was actually more important for our family than education, which I know sounds funny, but just thinking back to growing up in Australia our parents got us into every sport you could’ve ever imagined.
We actually grew up just north of Sydney, it’s about a 45-minute drive from the Harbour Bridge and it’s a little bit of a rural area where we had 3 ½ acres. It was a place called Terrey Hills where there were 5-acre lots and 3-acre lots and 2-acre lots and horses were a big part of that area. It bordered right on to a national park and there were fire trails through the national park.
My mom and sister got into eventing a bit before I started riding, so I went to a couple of the events to watch them and I’ll never forget, actually—there was a pony for sale. A horse called Willy and his show name was “Will He Do It.” He was a 13.2 hand Welsh mountain-cross pony for sale for $1200. We met the people and they brought the horse out to the show the next day and I hopped on him in track suit pants and just went straight to canter and galloped one lap around the field and came back and said, “We’ll take him!” We put the pony on the trailer and took him home and then I joined my sister and joined Forest Hills Pony Club.
Pony Club is huge in Australia. On Saturday morning, I would get up, get on the horse and ride an hour to the Pony Club and then spend all day at the Pony Club doing mounted games, jumping, sporting. You’d tie them up to a tree and have lunch with your friends and then all afternoon you’d be tent-pegging and popping balloons with spears on your horse and then about 4 o’clock, you’d hop back on the horse and ride him all the way home. You’d get home just before dark. It was great.
I definitely fell in love with horses once we started eventing. I was a very good runner at school and a pretty bad student to be honest. I was a bit hyperactive and I haven’t changed much—just going a million miles an hour. It was pretty obvious that I wasn’t going to be an accountant or a brain surgeon. It was just one of those things that toward mid-high school there was an understanding that this could actually be a career, not just a passion and I loved horses. So lucky for me as soon as I finished high school I moved up to a place called the New South Wales Equestrian Center which was a training center for all the legendary three-day event riders. I think there were 16 other riders there that moved into the bunkhouse there. So the day after high school I became a working student for Heath Ryan. He had a special course there and I was just lucky that I knew straight away what I wanted to do and enjoyed every second of it. I loved the hard work and I loved the camaraderie.
You’ve had some amazing horses throughout your career, who are some of your favorites?
BM: I’m so lucky, I’ve had some legendary horses. The one that got it started was Will He Do It. The next horse after that was Lenny’s Loss and he had no front tooth. He was a good horse—didn’t go on the bit but was a great jumper. After that was Flying Doctor. I was 17-years-old and I fell off him when I tried him and he didn’t run away so my dad said, “Let’s buy him.” He was $1200 and he took me around my first five-star.
Fast-forwarding, the horse that won the last long-format four-star in the world was a horse called True Blue Toozac. And that was a top, top horse. I wish I had that horse today. He was just an outstanding animal. He was brilliant in all three phases. He’s the one that got me to the top of the sport. I was sort of no one up until I won Adelaide and he cracked me into the big time. Ying Yang Yo was the horse I brought over from Australia.
The mighty Neville Bardos, who’s still alive—one of the girls that works for me rides him every day. He wasn’t a real talented horse, but he’s a trier and a real gutsy animal—just a legend. I bought him as a resale project in Australia and he did it all—WEG, Burghley, a couple Kentucky Three-Day Events. Then after Neville, I just really got the hang of it all and had great championship horses. After Neville was Otis Barbotoere (2012 London Olympics), two years later was Shamwari (2014 WEG) and then Pancho Villa (2015 Pan Ams), Blackfoot Mystery (2016 Rio Olympics) and then Tsetserleg (2018 WEG and 2019 Pan Ams). I’ve been blessed with a run of top, top horses. Funny enough the ones that I fall in love with aren’t the fanciest ones, but the ones that try the hardest, the real gutsy ones.
How do you deal with being injured and how do you bounce back?
I hate being injured but I’ve also accepted that this is just part. The last five or six years I’ve had to start looking after my body a bit better. I spend a lot of time and money on my body every week. On Monday morning at 6:30 a.m. I go to the chiropractor and she also has a Class IV laser and she lasers all over my hips and my back and it’s painful. Then I go straight from there to the personal trainer. I work out with Linda Brown, who used to be a jockey, and works on my core strength. Usually on Fridays we do yoga. When I’m injured I get acupuncture once a week. I do some exercises every morning down in the basement with young Nox. I do 20 minutes of warm-up exercises and stretching. I just put in an ultraviolet light so I can sit in that. I drink the Isagenix shakes for breakfast.
But I still get hurt and there’s no way around falling off and getting driven into the ground. I’ve got one or two younger riders that do the younger horses which I think they’re the ones you get hurt on a lot. They’re good horses but they’ll trip or spook or bump a leg or run off a jump so I’ve got a couple of fit lasses and lads that ride them and I’m on the ground shouting.
For a collarbone or arm injury—they’re easy—they don’t bother me too much. You have a surgery and then a week later you can ride well again. But anything in your ankles, leg, hip or back—they’re the worst because you can’t ride properly and then you’re desperate to keep riding. You just have to keep reminding yourself that eventually you get better.
Listen to Boyd’s full podcast interview here.
About the Practical Horseman Podcast
The Practical Horseman podcast, which runs every other Friday, features conversations with respected riders, industry leaders and horse-care experts to inform, educate and inspire. It is co-hosted by Practical Horseman editors Sandy Oliynyk and Jocelyn Pierce. Upcoming episodes are with show-jumping Olympian Laura Kraut, California hunter, jumper and equitation trainers Carleton and Traci Brooks and World Equestrian Games team gold medalist Adrienne Sternlicht. Find the podcast at iTunes, Stitcher and Soundcloud or wherever you get your podcasts.