Christine Turner first laid eyes on Tsetserleg, or “Thomas” as he is known in the barn, at a Trakehner inspection being held at Dr. Timothy Holekamp’s New Spring Farm. Thomas wasn’t being inspected that day, but he caught Turner’s eye. The now 12-year-old Trakehner gelding was bred by Holekamp and is sired by the well-known eventing stallion Windfall.
Michael Pollard produced Thomas up to the two-star (now three-star) level before passing the reins to Boyd Martin at the end of the 2015 season. Martin and Thomas spent the 2016 season competing at the Intermediate/two-star level, finishing second in the CCI2* at Bromont, fourth in the CIC2* at Plantation Field, and third in the Intermediate Championship at the AEC along the way.
In October of 2016, Martin and Thomas competed at the Advanced level for the first time, placing seventh at Stable View. Their first three-star attempt the following spring did not go to plan, as Martin and Thomas parted company late on the course at Red Hills. They didn’t let it faze them, as they came back the next month and took second place in the Advanced at The Fork.
The upswing continued for the remainder of the 2017 season, with Martin and Thomas picking up second in the CIC3* at Jersey Fresh, seventh in the CCI3* at Bromont, sixth in the CIC3* at Richland Park, and finishing out the year by taking third place and the USEF CCI3* National Reserve Champion title in the Fair Hill International CCI3*.
Thomas made his four-star debut in 2018, finishing 11th at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event with only two time penalties and a single rail added to his dressage score. Later that summer, Martin and Thomas were named to the U.S. Team for the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. Unfortunately, an uncharacteristic bobble in the water at WEG kept Martin from the placing he was hoping for Thomas and the U.S. Team.
Thomas and Martin came out swinging in 2019 with two confidence-building runs at the Intermediate level at Pine Top, both of which the pair finished in second place. Then they returned to the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event, this time finishing in second place and being named the USEF CCI5*-L National Champion. Following their performance at Kentucky, they were named to the 2019 U.S. Pan American Games squad.
“Last year he felt like a young horse still and this year he’s just a real seasoned veteran,” Martin said. “He’s a little bit quirky when you’re riding him, like in the dressage ring I have to ride him really early in the morning because if there’s three or four horses in the ring, he doesn’t like horses coming at him. In the warmup for the show jumping he doesn’t like people standing next to the standards. He’s quite easily distracted, but the good thing about competition is that you’re out there by yourself.”
“To be around him as a horse, he’s the sweetest, kindest [horse],” Martin continued. “He’s like a big pony. When my kids come up from the house to give carrots to the horses, he’s the friendliest one there and lets you in his stall, the kids climb all over his legs, and he’s a quiet smudgy horse like that.”
“The system we use with our training is that the assistant riders do a lot of the hacking on the horses before I ride, and all the girls fight over who gets to hack Thomas before I ride him because he’s a pleasure horse. He’s one of the only horses allowed to munch on a bit of grass as he’s going for his morning walk.”
“He looks a million dollars and is in good condition,” Martin concluded. “I think the training and preparation are going well so it all comes down to making sure we get him [to the Pan Am Games] safe and sound.”
Ninety percent of training a horse is getting the horse to understand exactly what you want them to do. In general, horses are generous and willing creatures who want to please us; very seldom do they behave badly on purpose. Horses don’t come out and say, ‘Let’s make Mom’s (or Dad’s) life miserable today by going as poorly as possible - most prefer to do the right thing, as long as they know what that is.
Regardless of the level at which a horse is competing, its veterinary team is at the forefront of most decisions regarding its career and well-being. Liz Arbittier, VMD, CVA, has been working with equine athletes for over two decades. Graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) in 2001, she worked in private practice with a focus on sports medicine and pre-purchase exams until joining Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center Field Service team in 2013. Situated in the heart of Area II’s eventing scene, the team provides ambulatory services to the surrounding area, which is home to multiple Olympians.
US Equestrian (USEF) announces the appointment of David O’Connor to the newly created position of Chief of Sport beginning October 3, 2022.
Aspen Farms in Yelm, Washington was host to this year’s USEA Area VII Championships on September 16-18 and put on a spectacular show where 10 horse and rider pairs celebrated victory by being awarded the title of Area VII Champion in their respective divisions. Hear about each pair’s weekend below.