Behind the Scenes With a Four-Star Eventing Barn

Catch a ride with eventer Boyd Martin and find out what it takes to prepare high-performance horses for competition.

Boyd Martin and Welcome Shadow

International three-day eventer Boyd Martin owns and operates Windurra USA, in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, and Aiken, South Carolina, with his wife and Grand Prix dressage rider, Silva. He is a veteran four-star event rider who has represented the United States on multiple teams since he began riding for Team USA in 2009 after moving from his native Australia.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Before the Competition: Settling in

Horses and riders arrive at the Kentucky Horse Park several days ahead of the competition to get settled and school before the Wednesday afternoon horse inspections. Here, Martin prepares for a jump school aboard Shamwari 4, his 2014 World Equestrian Games partner.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Course Walk

Martin’s Rolex week typically involves several cross-country course walks. In addition to evaluating the course alone and with other riders, he often hosts public course walks to educate attendees.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Waiting for the Scores

Martin waits to see how Blackfoot Mystery scored in dressage after his test at the 2016 Rolex. “Red” received at 52 from the judges to put them in 34th place after the first phase.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Cross-Country with Blackfoot Mystery

Blackfoot Mystery had a fast and clean cross-country run en route to finishing 5th at the 2016 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. The result would help team selectors choose him to accompany Martin to the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Sponsor Swag

Friends, family, and often sponsors are important parts of all Rolex riders’ teams. Martin’s wife and Grand Prix dressage rider, Silva, shows off some swag made especially for the couple’s son Nox. Nox has also been spotted wearing “tails” on dressage day and an outfit matching his father’s cross-country attire on endurance day, among other adorable pieces.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Warming Up for Cross-Country

Eventers must warm horses up properly for cross-country at all levels. Here, Martin heads to the warm-up area at The Fork event with fellow four-star eventer Ryan Wood.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

An Efficient Stride is Key

"A good galloper" is a trait many riders look for in an upper-level event horse, and an efficient stride is key. Here, Welcome Shadow shows off her powerful stride at The Fork Horse Trials.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Celebrating a Clean Trip

Martin celebrates a clean cross-country trip with "Shadow" …

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Cooling Down after Cross-Country

…before diving in to help his team cool her out.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

The Vet Box

An experienced team in the vet box following cross-country is essential to helping horses recover well after the endurance test. At FEI events, like the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, veterinarians inspect horses immediately after cross-country to ensure they’re cooling out properly and ready to return to their stalls.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Helping Horses Cool Down

Applying, scraping, and applying more cool water is one of the mainstays in helping horses cool and recover following cross-country.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Water Obstacles

Event horses must navigate water obstacles on cross-country. Shadow is well-acquainted with water jumps, but some horses find them more challenging.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Proper Tack and Equipment for Cross-Country

Proper tack and equipment for cross-country is an essential part of getting around the course. Martin wears a timing watch to keep track of how long he’s been on course, as each second over the optimum time spent on course results in 0.4 penalties added to the dressage score. Additionally, most eventers ride cross-country with a breastplate to help keep even properly fitted saddles in place when navigating obstacles such as up or down banks and drop fences.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Even Four-Star Horses Need Basic Care

While they might look flawless galloping around the toughest cross-country courses in the world, even four-star horses can make serious messes in their stalls! Having a top-notch team at home and events to help provide basic horse care is key for top competitors.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Turnout Time

While many four-star horses are well-acquainted with spending a good deal of time in stalls at events, they're still horses and enjoy turnout whenever possible. Here, Red heads to the paddock for some outside time.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Tack Cleaning and Inspection

By and large, tack is inspected and cleaned at least daily at most top eventing barns. This not only helps it last longer, but also affords the opportunity to ensure it’s still in good working order. The cross-country course is not the place you want to realize your reins are reaching their breaking point! Here, Cesar finishes cleaning and inspecting one of Martin's bridles.

Photo: Amber Heintzberger

Nox Martin

The next generation of equestrians in the Martin family is always on hand to cheer dad and mom on at competitions!

Photo: Amber Heintzberger