BY LAUREN MAULDIN
There is a tendency to divide the equestrian industry into the “haves” and the “have nots.” With events ranging from small schooling shows to extensive seasonal circuits, for many it can seem like you’re on one side of the fence or the other. But Texas-based Amateur, Marjorie Martin, proves there’s a third category—the ones who “have” built themselves up to achieve so many equestrian dreams.
Martin wasn’t born into the show ring, but it just took one pony ride at an amusement park. “I begged my mom to go back, and when she finally relented I went straight for the pony rides. I spent all day there, and refused to leave when it was time to go. That’s when she realized what I was really after,” she laughed.
The horse fervor grew as she started western pleasure lessons, attended summer camps, and finally switched to english riding at 12. Learning and showing locally, Martin dreamed of being a professional like many teenage equestrians, but her plan to take a gap year after turning 18 to be a working student came to a sudden halt when her horse fell on her and shattered her ankle. “They weren’t sure if I would ever ride—or walk—again,” she said.
Though she indeed got back in the saddle, Martin accepted the reality of the long hours of manual labor and riding professionals endure would be out of the question with her leg. But she didn’t give up on horses. Instead, she shifted the plan.
“I realized I would need to pursue a career that afforded me the sport, and I made every decision in my young life with this in mind,” she explained. Today she works in technology sales as the director of commercial corporate sales for one of Cisco Systems’ products. She channeled the same determination that got her mother to bring her back to the amusement park for more pony rides into a successful professional career that has allowed for showing nationally and even riding overseas when looking for new horses.
Martin currently owns four horses, which she admits would make her 12-year-old-self just die of sheer happiness. Over the years, she has imported three Dutch Warmbloods from Wilfred Beerse Stables in Holland, all as six-year-olds. Game-Power or “Gus” is a 9-year-old gelding by Brainpower, Hannibal V is an 8-year-old gelding by Tornesch (Malin Baryard-Johnsson’s partner for many European championships and world cup finals), Halifax VDM which she co-owns with Nicki Wilcox, and an American-bred yearling filly out of her late heart horse.
Recently, she took her crew to the Split Rock Jumping Tour at the Kentucky Horse Park, and relished in the return to horse shows after the Covid-19 cancellations. “Split Rock makes every class down to the smallest jumpers a big deal,” she said of the event. “They ride for ribbons in every single class, post about you on their instagram stories, and really make exhibitors feel special.”
Though she has done a future prix and a mini prix, Martin predominantly shows in the Low and Medium Amateur Owner jumpers. But she has taken her time to get there with each partner. “I don’t generally buy my horses ‘made’ with lots of show miles,” Martin explained. “I buy them young and take the time to invest in professional training and campaigning to get them ready for the show ring with me. While I wouldn’t say this route is cheap, it does require less of an up-front investment.”
Starting with greener horses is just one of the ways Martin has found her place in a sport where many of her peers in the AO seem to have a limitless budget. Funding her riding entirely through her own career means she puts careful thought into each decision. “The sport has become very, very expensive. It has become almost impossible for people with normal jobs and average incomes to participate in,” she said.
However, Martin challenges the idea that you can’t find your way into the AA circuit. “I was neither born rich nor have married into money, and here I sit showing each month with my wonderfully kind and generous horses,” she stated. “I think if you work hard enough, talk to enough people to see what options are out there and are willing to do whatever it takes, pursuing this sport is within your reach. I know there are some this answer will frustrate, but all I can say and offer is feel free to give me a call if you want to discuss career options that help make this sport possible. I would love to help other big dreamers in any way I can!”
The way she makes it all come together is through a lot of hustle. “I do a job that comes with a lot of pressure and stress so I can afford to participate in this sport,” she explained. A lot of work travel (prior to the pandemic) and managing large teams means that her days at the barn now look different from those of her youth.
“For a while I was hard on myself about the fact that sometimes I arrive at the barn and have my horse handed to me and I hand them back off before I go, because caring for my horses myself is something that I enjoy and think makes me a better horsewoman. But at 7am on a weekday morning before work, it’s the only way I can fit a ride in. Then there are days when I get to spend leisurely Sundays at the barn giving them baths, cookies and hand grazing. Like most things in life, it’s important to find a balance. I have changed my opinion over the years, and have realized that horsemanship can look a lot of different ways and we are all finding what works for us.”
Regardless if she’s taking Gus in an AO classic or working on ground exercises with her yearling, Martin prioritizes her horses’ well-being above all else. “They say you can’t breed heart into a horse. You can’t create it either, but you can certainly take it away,” she explained. “The fact that all the wonderful people I’ve ridden with, such as Nicki Wilcox and Matt Cyphert, who help care and work with my horses, have managed to help me keep their heart intact is awesome. That heart shows up for me in the ring every time. I have never been prouder of anything in my life than when they nicker to me because they hear my voice.”
When it comes to looking to the future, Martin keeps an open mind. “When I was 12 I wanted to go to the Olympics. When I was 20 I just wanted to go to an A show. Over the past few years, I’ve contemplated if I might make it to the Grand Prix ring. But for now, I would like to be successful in the Medium AOs and do some small welcomes or mini prix. But really, I would like to keep my horses sound, fit and happy.”
For Martin, strolling through the horse show now is a bigger dream than her 12-year-old self (or the kid begging for more pony rides) could have ever imagined. She’s worked hard for what she’s accomplished, but isn’t ready to coast either. There is always more hustle to be had.
And whether you are warming up next to her in the AO ring or preparing your horse for its first schooling show, she asks amateurs to be kind to each other. “Compliments from my trainers feel wonderful, but when a fellow amateur takes the time to stop and tell me that they love my horse or they thought I had a really nice ride, it means the world to me. We are living in an age where people are constantly tearing one another down because there is simply so much to disagree on. I would love it if our sport set an example and was full of people who lifted one another up. Despite the fact that we are competing against one another, we can still be ‘for’ our fellow riders.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
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