On an equestrian vacation with friends in the summer of 2006, Megan Martin raced across the English country like National Velvet on Pie, galloping towards jumps that might have terrified her back home.
Far from the confines of her hunter/jumper circuit she did not worry about the position of her hands, or her position in the saddle. She did not worry at all. She just rode, really rode!
“I absolutely loved to be running toward the jumps and going over them. I had so much adrenalin going through me, and instead of worrying about details of riding— like leaning in my outside stirrup and bending— for the first time, I just galloped,” she says.
This was when the A circuit hunter/jumper discovered she secretly possessed the heart of eventer.
But as with many dreams, her desire to pursue a new discipline didn’t happen over night.
Race name: Victoriouslife
New name: Victory
Sire: Victory Gallop
Foal date: 2004Returning to the US to finish her English degree at Skidmore College, she continued to compete in hunter/jumpers in Florida. After graduation, she completed a six-month internship at the Chronicle of the Horse in Virginia and later accepted a position as a co-trainer at Cornerstone Farm in Haverhill, Mass.
Two years passed while Martin completed her education and fine-tuned professional and equestrian goals, while a young Thoroughbred named Victoriouslife (now Victory) was discovering that his lot as a racehorse wasn’t working out.
The four-year-old stallion was losing claiming races and was put up for sale. He wasn’t for sale long when Massachusetts’s top-level eventer Stephie Baer spotted the gorgeous conformation and no-nonsense personality of an eventing prospect.
And soon after, Victory surged into his new career the way great runners do on the stretch.
Just six weeks after leaving racing, Victory attacked his first novice event, doing so well he was immediately shipped to Ocala, Fla. to compete in more events. After which, Baer shipped him north for further training, Martin says.
By the time Martin’s path crossed with Victory in late June 2009, she had tried 14 other horses, but none were right for her.
“I had been looking for an event horse for a while. I’d tried so many,” she says. “Victory was the bravest, scopiest horse I ever tried.”
She could tell all this in those first easy-going moments together, through the walk, trot and “polite canter” and decided on the spot to buy him, her first eventer.
“I’d tried so many horses at this point. I didn’t know much about eventing, but I knew I needed something big-hearted, big strided, scopey and small, because I’m only 5-foot-2,” she says. “Victor was all of those things. None of the other horses I tried were all that interested in doing the job I asked. But he was willing to do anything.”
In the eight cross-country events the team has conquered since, Victory has earned distinction and risen in rank. Most recently, he took fourth-place at the famed Groton House Farm Horse Trials in June, surprising even Martin with his can-do willingness to tackle the scariest of obstacles.
“When I go out on some of these courses, I’ll be riding toward a jump and think, ‘Oh, he’s never seen anything like this.’ But I’ve discovered that no matter whether he’s seen it before or not, if you sit up and kick, he’s going to gallop over it.”
He recently moved up to Preliminary level, and now Martin is gleefully racing across landscapes that even rival the English countryside, in both beauty and challenge.
“Groton House is probably the prettiest eventing field I’ve ever seen,” she says. “It has such a vast cross-country course, and it was really special to gallop over multiple fields. Victory loved it.”
And no matter how scary the obstacles were, they were no match for this pair. “There was one in-and-out jump that he had to gallop up a bank for three strides, jump in a pen, and jump back out,” she recalls. “He ate up the field, hopped in and out and was on to the next thing.”
There are many fields and jumps to conquer, and on Victory, Martin knows she need only sit up tall in the saddle and urge her Thoroughbred forward.