Earning the title of World Equestrian Brands USEA Rider of the Year is a huge honor, but earning it five times is a testament to a lot of hard work, exceptional horses, supportive owners, a great team, and a whole lot of grit. The 2021 World Equestrian Brands USEA Rider of the Year winner, Boyd Martin, has all of that and more, leading him to earn this title for the fifth time in his career.
The USEA Rider of the Year award was presented for the first time in 1960 and Martin’s name was added to the plaque on the Windy Acres Trophy in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, and again in 2021 following three international wins, nine top-three international placings, and 12 national wins during the 2021 competition season. Martin competed 28 horses over the course of 2021 with Fedarman B, Gestalt, Butt’s Aria W, Mystic Fair, On Cue, Catarina, Long Island T, Fernhill Prezley, Penhill Celtic, Tsetserleg TSF, Wabanaki, and Luke 140 making up his international string.
Martin started his year off at his winter home base in Aiken, South Carolina with a bang with Nancy Hathaway’s 9-year-old Holsteiner mare Catarina (Cascadello I x Bouquet du Ro) winning her Preliminary division at the Stable View Aiken Opener H.T. in January.
His first international outing of the season was in the CCI4*-S at The Fork at TIEC in April where he and Christine Turner’s 15-year-old Trakehner gelding Tsetserleg TSF (Windfall x Thabana) finished second and Turner’s 16-year-old Anglo European mare On Cue (Cabri d Elle x On High) closed out the weekend in fourth.
In addition, Martin had a one-two finish at Tryon in the Advanced with the Luke 140 Syndicate’s 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Luke 140 (Landos x Omega VI) finishing second and the 16-year-old Oldenburg gelding Long Island T (Ludwig von Bayern x Highlight), owned by the Long Island T Syndicate, bringing home top honors.
From the Fork, Martin made his way to Fair Hill for the Fair Hill International April H.T. and CCI-S where he had three horses in the CCI3*-S who all wrapped up the weekend with a top-five finish. Nancy Hatheway’s 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Fernhill Prezley (Aldatus Z x Killerish Diamond) served as Martin’s top mount of the weekend claiming second, Lauren Burnell’s 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Penhill Celtic (Je T’aime Flamenco x Norway Maid) placed third, and the Dawnland Syndicate’s 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding Wabanaki (Van Helsing x Hauptstutbuch Headline) finished in fourth.
After a gap year due to COVID, the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day event was back on in 2021, this time with the addition of a CCI4*-S on top of the CCI5* competition. Martin had four mounts entered across the two divisions, but withdrew one, took an unfortunate topple from another, and received a Mandatory Retirement on the third. With On Cue the only remaining horse in Martin’s pocket at Kentucky, the pair dazzled to place fourth overall and earn the title of USEF National Champion, a success that would soon prove to be a continuing theme over the remainder of the year.
“I was thrilled with On Cue. She’s unbelievable. She gave everything she had this weekend,” said Martin at the close of Kentucky. “I thought it would be Tsetserleg TSF on top, but she tried her guts out and I’m just thrilled with her.”
In May, Martin and Luke 140 would have a first-place finish in the Jersey Fresh International CCI3*-L, while Long Island T would place second in the CCI4*-S. Luke 140’s consistency would be rewarded by being named to the US Team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, however, the gelding would sustain an injury and Tsetserleg TSF would step into his place with On Cue serving as a direct reserve for Martin. The trip to Tokyo would be an educational one, and while the team riders all echoed similar sentiments that they wished things might have played out differently, they all left feeling as though they had learned a lot from the experience.
“America coming into the next Olympics is coming very, very strong,” Martin reflected at the 2021 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention. “I feel like at the end of this year America all of a sudden has eight to 10 really good horses and if they can stick around and keep improving in a couple of years, I think we have the strongest team possible that I have ever been associated with since I have been in America.”
From Tokyo Martin continued working his way through his 2021 competition schedule, ultimately making his way around to 14 different venues in the United States by the end of the year. Along the way he became the Champion of the $60,000 Adequan USEA Advanced Final with On Cue, topping a field of 39 starters and adding just 6.4 time penalties to their dressage score.
The CCI4*-S at Plantation Field served as a prep event for On Cue’s performance at the inaugural Maryland 5 Star where she and Martin made history as the first American pair to break a 13-year dry spell of an American winning a five-star competition, let alone one on home turf. In addition to Martin being awarded USEA Rider of the Year, On Cue was the recipient of two top honors at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention: the Standlee Premium Western Forage USEA Horse of the Year and the Bates USEA Mare of the Year.
“I actually tried to buy her when she was a young horse,” Martin said of the mare who played a key role in his earning of the USEA Rider of the Year title this year. “When she was sent to me, it was to be sold. I had always loved the horse and fancied the horse, thought she was amazing. I convinced Christine to keep going with the horse a bit. She’s everything you dream of in a horse. She’s got movement and gallop, she is a real trier. She is elegant, she’s a real mare.”
Martin closed out the year bringing along some of his younger mounts through the lower levels before earning a win in the CCI1*-L with Gestalt and a second-place finish in the CCI3*-L with Fedarman B at the Tryon International 3-Day Event in November.
Martin’s 2021 Rider of the Year title was earned after a change to the way leaderboard positions were calculated. Previously, leaderboard points were awarded based on placing and further determined by the number of starters in a division, often giving the focus to the quantity of rides a competitor could complete in a given competition season. The new system places emphasis on quality by limiting the types of scores that qualify for leaderboard points and counting only a rider’s six top results towards the leaderboards. With a total of 379 points, the individual scores which launched Martin to the top of the leaderboard were:
Event Name | Division | Placing | Points Earned | Horse
Maryland 5 Star at Fair Hill | CCI5* | 1st place | 110 points | On Cue
Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event | CCI5* | 4th place | 89 points | On Cue
Jersey Fresh International | CCI4*-L | 1st place | 70 points | Luke 140
USEA American Eventing Championships | Advanced | 1st place | 48 points | On Cue
Tryon International 3-Day Event | CCI3*-L | 2nd place | 33 points | Fedarman B
The Fork at TIEC | CCI4*-S | 2nd place | 29 points | Tsetserleg TSF
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