In Stride Interviews

The Grit, Sacrifice, and Ambition Behind Boyd Martin, US Olympic event rider

Listen on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/episode/5n7vGgfO5dP6aepdLDeidA?si=dfa3b886b1364087


Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/boyd-martin-a-champions-mindset/id1602148957?i=1000577231366

Show Notes

Discover the secrets behind Boyd's meteoric rise, the untold stories from the barn, and the incredible sacrifices that fuel his passion. Uncover the fine line between ambition and obsession, and learn how Boyd's unwavering commitment has made him a legend in the sport. This conversation is not just about horses; it's about the indomitable human spirit.

About Boyd Martin

Boyd Martin is an Australian-born eventing professional who has achieved success as a three-time Olympian and three-time U.S. Eventing Team member. He moved to the U.S. in 2007 and started his own business after working as an assistant trainer to Olympian Phillip Dutton. Martin has won numerous accolades, including team and individual gold at the Pan American Games and being the first American to win a CCI5* since 2008. He and his wife, Silva Martin, own and operate Windurra USA farm in Pennsylvania and have two sons.

In today's episode, Sinead and Boyd discuss:

  • Boyd’s selection for the World Championships and the stress and anticipation leading up to the announcement.
  • Boyd Martin's upbringing in an athletic family and his journey from Australia to the United States.
  • Cultural differences and adjustments when Boyd moved to the United States.
  • Boyd's approach to coaching, training, and running his barn as a professional business.
  • The importance of hard work, self-belief, and finding the right balance in achieving success in eventing.
  • The atmosphere and team dynamics in Boyd's barn.
  • Boyd's focus on physical fitness, diet, and self-care for long-term success in the sport.
  • Boyd’s emphasis on the importance of patience and not rushing the process when working with horses
  • The inherent risks of eventing, including horse injuries, rider injuries, and fatalities. He emphasizes the need to accept these risks while taking safety precautions and striving to improve safety in the sport.

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Where to find Boyd Martin

• Instagram: www.instagram.com/boydmartineventing

• Facebook: www.facebook.com/BoydMartinEventing

• Website: www.boydmartin.net

Where to find Sinead Halpin Maynard

• Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/a.c.e.copperline/

• Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/A.C.E.Copperline

• Website: https://www.copperlineequestrian.com/

• Lessons with Sinead on the Ride iQ app: http://onelink.to/8mhb95

In this episode

(00:00) The Road to World Championships

(06:32) Balancing Performance and Process Goals

(08:18) Preparing for the World Championships

(10:11) Growing Up in an Athletic Family

(13:49) Early Horse Riding Days in Australia

(16:31) Moving to America

(23:11) Finding the Balance Between Independence and Coaching

(28:38) Building a Successful Business

(32:08) The Role of Hard Work and Effort

(34:34) Creating a Professional and Supportive Environment

(44:39) The Importance of Physical and Mental Well-being

(51:18) Lessons Learned and Patience Gained

(54:05) Managing Risks and Staying Fearless

(1:06:37) Maintaining A Winning Mindset

Quotes:

• "To be honest, I've never ever worried about making a team. Like how do I say this? I think you can get so worked up about getting on the team and my mindset has always been just, I've got a top horse and I'm gonna go as hard as I can."

• "When I'm helping the small group that I help, I'm more just trying to verbalize what I would do if I was sitting on the horse."

• "You never know, this could be my last championship ever, and it'd be dumb to look back on it in years to come and say, 'Man, I could have tried a bit harder. I could have given a bit more.' And if you fail, I think it's better if you fail knowing that you just gave your best."

• "The fastest way is to go slow. I think taking your time and being patient and not trying to rush them to the next event has served me well."

• "Resilience is a huge part of the sport, having this ability to just keep hanging in there and hanging in there and hanging in there."

Transcript / Summary

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Hi everyone, we are joined by Boyd Martin. It looks like you're just taking a break from teaching or riding, or you just got this great backdrop and enjoying everybody else doing the horses while you're having a chat.

Boyd Martin

No, to be honest, I always think about doing this in my house, but I got two kids in there, and I've done these podcasts before, and before you know it, one of the kids is stealing your phone and someone's kicking the door down, and they're fighting each other. So I snuck out to my jump ring and set my phone up out here.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Yeah, I know. It's funny how that changes. I'm actually hiding. I know everybody's like, "How do you have kids and work and do all that?" And like, I love working. Like, get me into the ring, get me into the barn, and the kids are exhausting. Well, big congratulations on being named to the squad for the World Championships. That's very exciting stuff. It's got to be kind of, is it still, I mean, this is a dumb question, but does it still feel stressful leading up to that announcement? I mean, you've been like a regular on pretty much every team thus far. But is it nice to kind of get those nerves before you get the call or the email?

Boyd Martin

Yeah, I think so. I made it, you know, I've been at it so long. And to be honest, looking back at my career, like, I tried to get on so many teams when I was in Australia, and you know, there was a couple of Olympic teams or away teams that I just missed out on. You know, initially I never thought it was going to happen. And then in 2010, I got my first chance to compete at the World Equestrian Games for America. And I mean, that was just, I'll never forget how nervous I was. And, you know, it was so different back in those days. They used to sort of bring all the riders into a huddle, and it was, it was horrible. You know, I remember Mike Huber was the, I think he was the chairman of selectors, and you'd have 10 people that have sort of moved their whole life to get on a team. And then he had this speech where everyone's tried so hard, and it was a tough decision. But the team is this, this, this, and this. And I mean, it was torment, you know, just wondering if your name would get called out. So it's a little bit more humane now where they send you an email or you get a phone call. And, you know, I thought my horse Cecily finished fourth at the Kentucky three-day event and went to the Olympics last year, and he's a pretty sound bool, so I sort of thought I was in with a good shot. But, you know, you just never know. And especially this year, like, I think there were so many horses at about the same score. Like, my fellow, he didn't actually have a great finishing score at Kentucky. He finished fourth year with two rails down. So there was actually a few reasons not to get picked this year. But then a lot of the other horses weren't so good at the dressage but great cross country and show jumping. And there were some that were good at the dressage and show jumping but a bit slow across the country. So there was,I don't know, in my book, there were about eight horses that I thought could get named to the squad or five. So I actually think for the first time in a long time, people missed out that could have been on. Usually, it sort of picks itself, so you know, I thought I was in with a good shot. And to answer your question, I was nervous as hell and, you know, checking my emails every five minutes. And, you know, Bobby Costello called me and then, "Okay, are you gonna tell me good news or bad news?" And he burst into laughter and he said that I'm good to go. It's a good relief. But, you know, not to ramble on too much, getting picked for a team is a huge sigh of relief, but it's also not the main goal. And I think so many times we sort of focus on getting to the show rather than doing really, really well in the moment at that competition. So, you know, I've been at it for a while now, and it's great to be named. But, you know, we've got a serious mission ahead of us here, going to Italy.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Yeah. How do you balance that? I mean, there's such a back and forth between setting performance-based goals and process-based goals. Where do you kind of, how do you wrestle between those two things and not get too much one way or the other?

Boyd Martin

To be honest, I've never worried about making a team. Like, how do I say this? I think you can get so worked up about getting on the team, and my mindset has always been just, I've got a top horse, and I'm gonna go as hard as I can. My main goal this spring is Kentucky, and if he finishes well there and he's healthy, then I should be good to go. You know, I think everyone gets so wound up about our team and where are we staying? And what's the date of the competition and how the horses are getting there? I mean, I honestly wouldn't have even known what month of the year the week is. If you honestly asked me in February or March this year, I couldn't have told you if it was in August, September, or November. I just had my sights set on doing really, really well at Kentucky. And, you know, that sort of theory has served me well because I feel like, you know, making a team is just a reflection of a consistent good performance with a sound horse. And I don't know, I get a real kick out of the five stars, and I feel like if you do well at these big five stars, the international ones, then, you know, getting selected for a squad or a team comes or a list or something like that gets picked after that. So I'm a bit removed from the team chatter until after the major event's done, and then I start thinking about that.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

So is there a shift now that you've been named? Is there a change in the program, a change in the runway to Pratoni? Or is it still kind of business as usual?

Boyd Martin

You know, I'd say that I give my absolute best when I'm getting ready for a five-star, and, you know, to be honest, this Pratoni is treated just like I was going to Burley or Maryland five-star and get my horse as fit as he can be and start working on the test and really focus then on the jumping and the cross-country schooling and, you know, working out my preparation events ofhow I want to compete my horse there. And obviously, you know, you're not just doing it for yourself, you're on a team and on a squad. So I suppose the big difference is that there's a group of us banded together going to this one major competition. So it's a little bit different than going to Burley or Maryland five-star or Poe. You sort of get to check in with the coaches and staff, and a lot of it's easier actually. Like, you don't have to worry about booking flights or hotel rooms or worrying about all that stuff, and that all gets taken care of. But, you know, there's a bit of added pressure. The scrutiny on the horse's health is probably more dialed in and focused. The horses are getting trotted up, and soundness is getting checked over and over again. And, you know, there's always this thought in the back of your mind where if you have a blunder at the lead-up event or you go a bit sore or lame, you could well be off the list to go to this championship. So when you're just riding for yourself, you can sort of put that aside and keep soldiering on. So I suppose it's a little bit of added pressure.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

So I want to back up a little bit. So your parents were both very athletic, a skier and a speed skater, am I correct?

Boyd Martin

Yeah, my mum was a 3000 meters speed skater, and my dad was a cross-country Nordic racer, the 50 kilometers at the '68 Olympics.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

What was it like in the Martin house as a young chap, as a kid?

Boyd Martin

You know, I probably had a different upbringing from most kids. You know, sport was just a huge part of our family, and we had polar opposite parents. My dad was a bit of a character and very determined but humble. At school sports, he wasn't the parent on the sideline cheering and yelling at their kid, but he'd come up and shake your hand after a running race and pat you on the back and tell you, "Top effort." My mother, on the other hand, was the opposite. She was driven to win, and results were important to her. So it was a good mixture of both, staying humble and achieving quietly, and the importance of winning. From a young age, I remember participating in school sports like cross country, track, and surf lifesaving. Results were crucial to my mother. My parents never discussed college or university at dinner or even with my teachers. It was never mentioned. After finishing high school at 17, my parents drove me to become a working student for Heath Ryan. I felt it was pretty normal. When I told my parents I wanted to go to America to ride horses full-time, they thought it was a great idea. They helped me pack my bags. Nowadays, it's the opposite for young riders. Parents want them to get a "real" job and a degree to fall back on. Moving to another country to chase your athletic dreams would be a huge debate at the family dinner table. In some ways, I was lucky. I wasn't that gifted or good at school. It was pretty obvious what I was going to do right from a young age. It was complete focus and nothing else in life except competing with horses.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Did your parents have horses? Did they ride?

Boyd Martin

Yeah, we grew up on about three acres, about 45 minutes north of Sydney. My mom did a bit of eventing, and then my sister rode up to three or four-star level. I was the last one in our family to take up horses, probably when I was 11 or 12. Pony club was down the road, and I did that. All my mates from school had horses, and we would jump on the horses after school, go racing around the National Forest. It wasn't very conventional riding, but it was fun. Eventing as a young guy in Australia was like camping. You'd go to the event, never stay in a hotel, sleep in a tent or in the back of the truck, and build your own yard for your horses. In the middle of the night, the horses would get loose and be galloping around the event, and you just pull them in the morning. It sounds dramatic, but it's just what it is. I enjoyed it. Looking back on my life, there were a couple of key people that changed my path. Obviously, my parents were great, and then the guy I became a working student for, Heath Ryan, he was just an electric character. He was driven, yelling and screaming, hardworking, and the perfect person for me. At 17 years old, I could have gone one way or the other, and it was the perfect scenario. He mentored me as my boss. He was half a maniac. He worked you to death and told you that you could go to the Olympics. He taught me everything about horses, from branding to breaking them, getting horses off the track, and eventing. It was just the perfect bit of luck, or maybe my parents recognized that this guy would be perfect for me. At the time, there were so many people working for Heath Ryanunder his mentorship. There was Kevin McNabb, John Page, and Chris Burton, all scruffy, skinny, half-drunk young boys who loved horses. It's awesome to see how everyone progressed in the world. Most of them went to England and did well, and I came to America.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

I was gonna ask, why America?

Boyd Martin

Well, funny enough, when I was 12 years old, my parents took me to the American Consulate in Sydney to get dual citizenship. I remember going there, and it took all day. I thought, "Why the hell would I need an American passport?" But 20 years later, or whatever it was, I had the choice to either go to England and fill out all the visas and stuff to go live there, or I could go to America on a cargo plane with a horse and just live and work there without any problem. So I said, "Well, I'll give this a crack." And it was the best thing I ever did. It was a great decision. I often wonder in my life if I didn't take that brave step to come over here. I think I would have been all right in Australia. I had a good little business going, but it's very remote, a little bit primitive. You could still make a good living, but I don't think I could have done what I've done if I stayed there.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

What was it like when you came over here? What were some of the big cultural changes? And is there something that you brought with you that will always be a hardcore part of who you are that came from where you grew up? And how have things shifted since you've been in America? Like, there's a big cultural change there, I'm assuming?

Boyd Martin

Yeah, I mean, pretty much everything. When I got here, I met a vet named Kevin Keane, who has been one of my best friends ever since. He has been a phenomenal fit for me. He told me that we should trot the horses up once a week, and I was like, "What do you mean? I think he's sound." In Australia, we would never get a joint injection or call the vet. We tried to figure it out ourselves, and the horses were probably half lame, and we didn't even know it. Coming to America, the scrutiny, focus, and detail in vet work was different from what I had experienced. Even at events, I remember my first event was Southern Pines. I slept in just my sleeping bag in the tack room, and people were taking photos of me. I didn't know anyone there, and everyone was staying in hotels. There were stables for the horses. Walking the course with a coach was another change. I met Phillip Dutton at Carolina International, and he said he was walking a group around the advanced course if I wanted to join. In Australia, we would just walk the course and try to figure it out ourselves. Here, coaching and attention to detail, like pacing up the strides in the lines, were emphasized. Everyone would warm up in the show jumping with a trainer, while we used to wing it ourselves. So that was a big change. I think there are obviously huge positives in the changes I found, but there were also a few negatives. When you're not self-sufficient and always being told what to do by a coach, you lose a bit of the horseman culture of figuring things out on your own. In Australia, we would lunge the horse, flex its ankle, use hoof testers, and ask for opinions from friends. Now, I don't do any of that. I'm truly Americanized.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Was it hard or did you automatically become a good learner? Were you always figuring things out on your own? Was it hard to shift and learn how to take on the learning part of it, or did that come naturally from having competitive parents who obviously influenced a lot of what you did in sports?

Boyd Martin

Yeah, I think for sure. My riding improved significantly once I got to America, and being around really good people was a huge factor. Riding in the same ring as Phillip every day for years and years automatically triggers improvement. The coaching has been valuable too. I get coached by Eric Evander, who probably put me on seven horses this morning. I never had that back in Australia. The level of competition now is so high, and you can't just wing it. You need eyes on the ground, trusted people coaching you, vets, farriers, and the whole groom team. The system I'm in now is way better and more professional. Having my first 10 years in Australia, doing it the hard way and making it happen without guidance, gave me determination and grit. I rode my first five-star when I was 19 years old. Looking back, with the steeplechase and everything, I didn't even have a fitness program. I didn't know if it was five strides or six strides. I had to get through it with determination. Coming to America added finesse and polish to my riding. It took me from one level to another.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Yeah, it seems like a really healthy order. You get some self-belief that you can do it on your own, and then everything on top of that is just a bonus from the help and coaching. There's been a lot of talk about that self-belief being innately there. Kim Severson mentioned it in a previous podcast episode, where you have to believe that you're okay and that you can do it, and everything else is just a bonus. Some people end up being coached or having their hand held for the first 10 years, and it becomes hard to find that internal drive and confidence without external validation. The order in which you did it seems to work quite well.

Boyd Martin

Yeah, in hindsight, I wish I had learned to ride more correctly early on. If I had my time over again, I would focus on correctness. Having a natural feel and ability is one thing, but having the technique and a true understanding of dressage, balance, and roundness is important. I had to break a lot of bad habits because I didn't even know I was doing things wrong for a long time. There are pros and cons to both approaches. A mixture of both would be the best.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

I think everybody is looking for that balance. When you're coaching your students and crew at your farm, how do you manage the balance between technique, coaching, and grit? I remember taking a cross-country lesson with you years ago, and I enjoyed it because you had a unique way of combining technique with imagery. You would explain the technique and then describe how it should feel or look like, creating a nice fusion that made it easier to understand. Do you struggle with when to get involved and when not to, and how to let people figure things out on their own without straying too far? Does that make sense? Is there a question?

Boyd Martin

No, I know what you mean. To be quite honest, I don't do much coaching anymore. I do clinics or go away and do clinics around the country to make money and take a break from training horses. I mainly coach the guys that work for me and a handful of riders. But honestly, I'm so busy with my own horses that I don't have much time to do it properly. Having said that, I do coach a couple of top riders. However, I feel like a bit of a fraud sometimes. I've been fortunate to have great teachers who have helped me over the years, and I try to pass on their wisdom and the things that have worked for me. I've learned a lot from jumping trainers, dressage trainers, and cross country experts that I've worked with, and I blend their techniques together to help the riders I work with. When I'm helping a small group, I try to verbalize what I would do if I were riding the horse. I share my thoughts on shaping the horse, the ideal position, speed, technique, and so on. I believe this approach is the best advice I can give based on what has worked for me over the years. Of course, I've made plenty of mistakes and learned what not to do, but the learning process never stops. Eventing is a funny sport. You think you know what you're doing, but when you look back, you realize how much you've grown and how much more there is to learn. It takes a long time to truly master the sport, especially since each horse is different. Also, technology is constantly evolving and impacting the way we train and condition horses. I'm fortunate to have access to excellent facilities like gallop tracks, treadmills, indoor arenas, and cross country courses, which make it easier to prepare and improve horses.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

It's interesting to think about your journey from camping out and building paddocks while eventing in Australia to now having your own farm. How has your business model and approach to clinics evolved? Did you always envision creating such an empire, or did it happen gradually?

Boyd Martin

Well, one of the great things about America is that if you want something, you can go for it. This country allows you to make things happen. I've thrived on this mindset and borrowed money to create what I have today. It's been enjoyable, but it's also a juggling act. On one side, I strive to be the best I can be, constantly improving myself and training. On the other side, I have financial obligations, owing millions to the bank. It's a tricky balance to maintain. In America, a significant portion of equestrian businesses rely on funding from various sources such as lessons, training, sponsors, clinics, and prize money. However, Silva and I wanted to create something unique, where our farm could sustain itself financially. We didn't want to be solely focused on generating income to the point where we neglect our personal development. Going to the Olympic Games, for example, is not a profitable decision financially, but it can attract sponsors, owners, and clients. It's about finding the right balance and building a sustainable business structure. As professional riders, we have so much to be grateful for. We get to do something we love and enjoy, while many people work in mundane jobs they don't enjoy. However, there are sacrifices in our profession. We miss birthdays, haven't seen our parents in years, and work seven days a week. But considering the privilege of working with horses and doing what we love, these sacrifices seem insignificant. It's a challenging and demanding career, but we have nothing to complain about if we can make a living working with horses. It's a first-world problem, and we should appreciate our opportunities.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Is hard work enough to succeed in this sport, or is there more to it once you reach a certain level of effort?

Boyd Martin

Being a hard worker is essential, no doubt about it. However, being an excessively hard worker can sometimes be counterproductive. I learned this from my mentor, Heath Ryan, in Australia. He worked incredibly hard, dedicating countless hours to teaching, training, and riding. But he spent more time on everything else than on self-improvement. Teaching lessons until late at night may bring in money, but watching and learning from the best riders and trainers can be more valuable in terms of personal growth. Working hard is crucial, but it's equally important to work on the right things. As a professional rider, you need to strike a balance between making money and focusing on your own development. You can't sacrifice your own riding and training for the sake of teaching or other obligations. It's about finding the right priorities and allocating time and energy accordingly.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Describe the atmosphere in your barn with your team and staff. Is there a balance similar to what you grew up with? How would you characterize the environment?

Boyd Martin

No, I mean, that's what I believe. The guys are still working hard. They start at 6:30 in the morning and go nonstop until 6:30-7 o'clock at night. The work is monotonous and incredibly tough. I have tremendous appreciation and admiration for these guys. In our barn, we mostly have younger people. I no longer take anyone under 18, which is sad to say because I started when I was younger than that. But sometimes, if they're too young, there are distractions like talking to parents on the phone or dealing with school drama. I don't want to bring that into the equation. They have to be either underage or over 18 and fully understand that this is a serious business, not a part-time gig. It requires giving it their all. Most of them stay here for years. We have guys who have been here for 5, 6, 7, 8 years, and everyone gets paid. We don't have working students who work for free in exchange for lessons. I'm afraid that if I'm away at a competition one weekend and can't give them a lesson, they would feel like they're working for nothing. So, every single person on the team gets paid.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Have you always done it that way?

Boyd Martin

I've made some changes because I used to be able to get a lot of young and naive people to work for free, but it's not fair. If I don't pay them, it creates a divide. Half the people get paid while the other half don't, even though they're all working the same amount of time. The ones getting paid deserve it because I give everything I have, and it's only fair they receive compensation. I try to help them as much as I can, but it can't interfere with my own riding. I prioritize riding every horse I need to ride every day, and if there's any spare time, I'll assist them in jumping the horses. So, if they're getting paid, it means they're professionals, and there's an understanding that I'll do my best to support them. However, it's important to note that this is not a riding school. I have to be a bit selfish because everything here is focused on performance. Each person is paid as a professional, and while there may be banter and jokes due to the long hours and hard work, I've learned the hard way that I can't be friends with them. It's easier now that I'm older than them all, but we don't hang out together or go out for dinner. Maybe on Christmas Day, we might cook up a brunch for the working staff, but the boundaries are clear. I'm a nice guy, they're hard workers, but we don't socialize beyond work. There's a strict discipline. Work starts at 6:30, and you have to be here at 6:30 or 6:29, one or the other. However, it's not a dictatorship. There's room for jokes, laughter, and a great atmosphere. We have all kinds of horses here—racehorses being started, horses in breaking, Olympic eventers, retired horses, and young horses—a bit of everything, just like at Heath Ryan's where I got started. The important thing is that we maintain a very high standard of care and have high expectations for how things are done. For instance, every horse I ride would have two riders on it. One rider would walk the horse for 45 minutes before I do dressage, and then maybe it would do a 20-minute walk in the pond with another rider. There's no place for distractions like kids on the phone or someone with earphones. We're dealing with horses worth millions of dollars, so it's not a riding camp. Having Silva here, who comes from the dressage world and has a very organized and tidy approach, adds to the dynamics. And, to be honest, having my manager or head girl, Steph, she's tough but efficient. She ensures that nothing is left unfinished and maintains high standards. Unfortunately, now that I have kids, I usually leave around five after riding and spend time with them. So, having someone like Steph as a manager is crucial to make sure every horse is groomed, legs are wrapped, and aisles are clean. You need someone who is kind but tough in that role. So, I don't want to paint a picture of a militant stable. It's more like...

Sinead Halpin Maynard

It sounds like your barn is run as a professional business.

Boyd Martin

Yeah, we have an amazing team of people working here, and some of them stay for a few days while others stay for years. It's a well-established system that we've perfected over time. However, I've learned that you actually need more staff than you initially think. On a typical day, when we're just training horses, things run smoothly with the existing team. But on days when I have multiple horses competing, one going to the vet, some going for gallops, and one taking a day off, that's when we need a larger workforce to ensure everything is done properly. The key is to have more than enough people. For instance, if a horse is injured, it should be hand grazed three times a day. Horses on the walker need someone to supervise them and ensure their behavior is appropriate. Achieving all of this requires having a sufficient number of staff members. It's important to understand why each person is here. It's not just about the money; they love horses or have their own dreams that they believe being here will help fulfill. We must treat everyone with respect. Yelling, shouting, and mistreating people is unacceptable, as they won't tolerate it. We need to be kind, appreciative, and gracious. However, it's also important to recognize that hard work is unavoidable. Every stall needs to be cleaned twice a day, and each horse must be brushed twice a day. It's a lot of hard work that can't be avoided.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

That's what it is. And are the horses in your barn mainly horses that are on to you, or are there also horses in training for someone else? Do you sell the horses if they don't reach their potential?

Boyd Martin

Yeah, it has changed a lot over the years. When I first came to America, I would take on any horse that came my way, even ones that had never jumped before or had behavioral issues. But now we focus more on top-quality performance. It's safer and more efficient. Most of the horses in our barn are of high quality, and we aim for greatness with them. However, if there's a horse that needs some work and an owner or a close friend asks for help, we might take it in if we have the space.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

I see. And I noticed on your website that you do a lot of physical work off horses, like gym workouts and mindfulness. How much does that play into your overall approach? How do you balance it all?

Boyd Martin

It has been a significant change for me. In the past, I used to party all night, work all day, and eat whatever I wanted without consequences. But about five years ago, I started getting injured repeatedly. I tore my groin multiple times, broke my collarbones, and experienced various injuries. It reached a point where I thought, "I'm only halfway through my career, and my body isn't holding up." It was a terrifying realization. So I knew I had to change things if I wanted to achieve my goals and continue riding until I'm 65. Now, I focus on physical workouts off the horse. I do virtual yoga sessions, have a physiotherapist come to my house twice a week, and train with a trainer in Aiken. I also work with a specialist who focuses on riders. In terms of diet, I'm careful about what I eat for most of the year to maintain weight and stay healthy. I don't eat meat, and I quit drinking. Initially, giving up drinking was challenging, especially in social situations, but it has been a positive change for my overall well-being and focus. Being healthy and taking care of myself has become a priority, especially as I have a family now. It's essential to have a well-rounded and balanced approach to maintain physical and mental fitness, especially as I get older.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Was it a hard change?

Boyd Martin 

I thought it would be challenging, but I made the decision to stop. I started with the hardest part, which is social occasions. I used to enjoy having a cold beer with friends at barbecues or dinners, but it was causing me headaches and having a negative impact on me. So, not drinking has been a positive change for me. It has also helped me maintain a healthier weight. Throughout my life, I've had this pattern of extremes—going from not drinking at all to drinking excessively. But I believe that not drinking is the better choice for me.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Yes, and now that you have a family, you have a second life waiting for you at home. Your kids must keep you active. Having a balanced lifestyle helps you keep up with them, right?

Boyd Martin

Yeah, and another benefit is that you sleep better. As you get older, being healthy becomes more important. In the past, I was quite wild during my late teens and twenties. I wasn't necessarily focused on reaching the top of the sport. It was a different mindset back then. However, I still have fun and enjoy myself now. The difference is that I prioritize going to bed early, around 9 o'clock. Having kids also makes you realize how limited your time window is. When you have a couple of good horses that could potentially compete in championships, you never know if it will be your last chance. Looking back in the future, I don't want to regret not giving it my all. Even if you fail, it's better to know that you gave it your absolute best.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

I sent you some questions earlier. Did you receive them?

Boyd Martin

I apologize, but I'm terrible at checking my emails.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

No problem, we can discuss them on the fly. We usually end our podcasts with a set of questions for all our guests. If you're up for it, I'll ask you a few, and you can answer them as we go along. Are you ready?

Boyd Martin

Sure, let's do it.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

What is the most significant lesson a horse has taught you about yourself?

Boyd Martin 

The fastest way is to go slow. Patience and taking your time have been crucial lessons for me. There have been times when I rushed things or pushed horses too quickly, and I regretted it. So, learning to be patient and not rushing the process has been valuable.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Have you learned this lesson more recently or over the years?

Boyd Martin

To be honest, I'm still learning that lesson. Throughout my career, there have been numerous times when I knew deep down that a horse wasn't ready for a competition, but I pushed through due to external pressures. It's a continuous learning process, and I strive to be more patient and make the right decisions for each horse.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

And now, when you have that feeling about a horse, do you have a conversation with the owners about it?

Boyd Martin

Yes, I'm fortunate to have multiple top-quality horses now. If I feel that a horse isn't ready or needs more time, I can adjust my competition plans. I can slow down with one horse and still have others to focus on. However, I understand that it can be more challenging when you have only one or two top horses and are desperate to compete at the highest level. Finding the right balance and making the best decisions for each horse can be more challenging in those cases.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

How do you process the inherent risks of the sport, such as horse injuries, rider injuries, and fatalities?

Boyd Martin

In eventing, as in racing or any high-risk sport, injuries and accidents are a part of it. It's important to accept that reality. Eventing involves galloping horses over obstacles, and there's always a risk involved. I try to prepare and train the horses properly, take safety precautions, and mitigate the risks as much as possible. However, there are still inherent dangers. The most challenging part is when accidents lead to serious injuries or fatalities. It's heartbreaking, and it hits close to home when you know riders who have been injured or killed. It's a tough aspect of the sport, and it's important to acknowledge and respect the risks involved while doing everything we can to improve safety.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Do you experience fear when riding, especially on young or unfamiliar horses?

Boyd Martin

To be honest, I don't have fear when riding at the top levels or in championships. It doesn't enter my mind. I'm completely fine with the idea of falling off and getting injured if it means I'm pushing myself to achieve my goals. However, with young horses, I've become more cautious. I have talented riders who help me with the young horses now, and I leave it to them to handle the initial training and schooling. While I love working with young horses, I've become more conscious of my own limitations and prioritize safety.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

At what stage do you take over the ride on a young horse, once it's deemed safe?

Boyd Martin

Yeah, we have a group of four and five-year-old horses here. Once they reach five and show potential as quality horses, I step in. Currently, I compete a lot with the upper-level horses, and I have a rider, Diego Favre from Peru, who is incredibly talented. He has experience in the Pan American Games and Grand Prix showjumping. He spends the whole day working with the young horses. This weekend, I'll be riding a couple of first-timers at the training level who are five years old. I schooled them today, and it was exciting. This is an essential part of staying at the top of the sport consistently. You need a continuous pipeline of horses coming through. The true champions in horse sport manage to remain at the highest level for decades. The key is to have horses progressing through the ranks. However, not all of them will make it. Some may not be sound enough, jump well enough, or have the required galloping ability. That's why you need a group of quality horses coming through. Finding those horses is challenging, and finding owners for them is even harder. Additionally, having skilled riders and proper care to develop them correctly is crucial. They need to learn to love their job and understand that they have to jump from one side of the obstacle to the other, no matter what. It's a balancing act, but I find it fun. I love it.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Do you have a favorite training or competition mantra that helps you stay focused and motivated?

Boyd Martin

Not really, I mean, mentally, I tend to create my own little world at big competitions. It's challenging because events like the Kentucky three-day events are incredible but also incredibly demanding. There are so many distractions pulling you in different directions, making it difficult to give your best performance. Finding a way to block out everything and find moments of calmness and focus on your event while still fulfilling your commitments is crucial. Owners trust you with their horses, sponsors support you, and you've agreed to be part of it all. It would be obnoxious and rude to say, "Thanks for everything, now I'm off on my own." So, you need to find a balance. As you grow older and more successful, it becomes harder to maintain that balance. One of the toughest things for me has been learning to say no. Saying no to people who want lessons or declining when someone wants to send their horse for training because I simply don't have the time. Back in Australia, I was desperate for business, and saying no was unthinkable. However, to truly excel, you have to block out certain things and be selective. I also want to be a good father. I can't become so consumed and borderline obsessed with my job that I neglect my role as a father. So, it's essential to block out time for family and fulfill that responsibility properly. Otherwise, I'd just be a selfish person.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Is there a piece of advice you received along the way that still resonates with you today?

Boyd Martin

I've received a lot of advice throughout my career, but one thing that stands out is the importance of staying hungry and never settling for mediocrity. It's easy to plateau and become complacent, especially as you get older. But the true champions in any sport keep striving to get better, constantly seeking improvement. I've witnessed this mindset in riders like Philip Dutton, who continues to learn and grow even at 58 years old. So, I remind myself to stay driven, maintain a hunger for improvement, and not settle for anything less than my best.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

When you're in that driven state, do you find it easy to stay focused and make good choices?

Boyd Martin

I've found that having a structured routine and designated high-performance time helps me stay focused. From early morning until about 2 o'clock, I prioritize concentration and avoid distractions. During this time, I don't take phone calls, teach lessons, or engage in other non-essential activities. After 2 o'clock, things become more chaotic, with various tasks and commitments. But creating that focused window of time allows me to make better choices and maintain a disciplined approach to my training and preparation.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Yeah. What do you do when you are seeking inspiration?

Boyd Martin

You know, I'm lucky. I'm surrounded by great people. My close friends, especially the Australian guys, have gone through the same experience of leaving their friends and family to move here. My coaches and mentors are also top-notch people. Peter Wilde, Eric Evander, and Silva are my main three coaches who are all brilliant. They're friendly but also completely honest, which is important. I also consider Phillip Dutton a good friend and a father figure. He's been a great person to tap me on the shoulder when I need it and offer advice. The staff, led by Steph, and the core group of people working for me for five or six years are like family. They're the kind of people I can call at 2 o'clock in the morning to help me with a flat tire, and they'll be there. My vet, Kevin Keane, is another person who has been incredibly supportive. These people aren't just motivated by money; they're invested in the horses, the program, the dream, and the goal. They have the same ambition, and I'm grateful for their support.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Yeah, yeah. The people. It seems to be a key ingredient to the recipe for success—surrounding yourself with the right people. I have to share one of my favorite memories of you talking about Silva. We were in Normandy, and we were waiting to get our gear or something before going to lunch. We were discussing our last meal before getting executed or something like that. Everyone was going around the table. Then you paused for a second and said, "You know, if I could change one thing about Silva," and I thought, "This is going to be intense." And then you said, "She doesn't like McDonald's. She won't eat it." I thought, "That's a pretty good marriage right there, buddy." Hilarious. I imagine she's a tough cookie. Alright, our last question. You may have answered this in different ways, but have you faced any adversities or experiences outside of horses that have directly influenced you as a horseman?

Boyd Martin

I have to say Silva, to be honest. She's a top girl. She's half nuts. She wakes up at five o'clock in the morning, rides two horses by seven, gets the kids organized, and manages everything at home. When I'm away, she'll train my horses, coach me at competitions—she's a life partner. Having someone on the same journey is crucial. I couldn't have done any of this by myself. The thought of borrowing all this money to build the farm and having another person contributing to the income, sharing the same passion for horses, and taking care of the family—it's essential. She can be tough on me, though. Sometimes, I think she could bring me some bottles of water like those wives at the shows, but she doesn't do that. Going through the barn fire in 2011 was a significant moment. It felt like everything was going wrong. We had just started our own business, and the building caught fire. We lost all the horses, had to call the owners, lost all our equipment—it was a moment where I thought of going back to Australia. But we hung in there, pushed through it, and overcame it. If you can get through something like that, there's not much else that can make you fold. It's a subconscious realization that if you can survive such a tragedy, you can handle anything.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Yeah. Yeah, I can imagine. How do you do it? Is it something innate within you or was it influenced by your upbringing? You have an incredible ability to bounce back, whether it's from something as outrageous as the barn fire or your injuries. I hear you saying that you just have to keep going. It's truly unique. Has it been a result of nature and nurture? Is it the way you process things and carry on? Or is it something you consciously work on, knowing that you can't let yourself be weighed down if you're going down a certain path?

Boyd Martin

Well, there are a couple of things. I think being from Australia, you develop a bit of a chip on your shoulder. There's something in the culture that instills grit and determination in people. It's something that the Australian culture breeds. Secondly, I don't have a plan B. There's no fallback plan, no secret trust fund. It has to work, no matter what. If it doesn't, it's over. We're in trouble. There's no little voice in my head suggesting otherwise. Additionally, coming from the other side of the world to live in America, I had one reason and one reason only—to excel in eventing. I made a significant commitment to myself. I sold everything, cut ties with friends and family, missed holidays and parties, and disconnected from my childhood friends. I did all this because I had the ambition to chase my dream of competing with horses. It's a substantial commitment, and when I boarded that cargo plane with horses, I knew I was going all-in. There was no other option—I had to make it happen, no matter what.

Sinead Halpin Maynard

Well, I commend you, my friend. You're doing an outstanding job. I appreciate you taking the time to join our show. I wish you the best of luck in the coming month and beyond. Sending positive vibes your way. Thank you so much, and you've truly inspired me. I'm grateful for that.

Boyd Martin

All right, Sinead, namaste.

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