Gary Martinez was born to ride.
During the 1970s, his father became a breeder of Arabian horses and passed on his career of caring for horses to his son, who first began showing horses when he was only two years old. As a child, he mainly participated in events such as Lead-line and Walk Trot, and rode as a Lead Rider. After many years of training and practicing, he started showing professionally at 16 years old. In addition to showing Arabians, he later showed quarter horses and paints.
Fast-forward many years later, and Martinez is a youth coach and reverential figure in the showing industry. He specializes in Working Western, Reining, Cutting, Working Cowhorse, Trail, and Ranch Riding. Additionally, he participates in main ring events such as Hunter Pleasure, Country English Pleasure, English Pleasure, Costume, and Sidesaddle. However, one of his most notable specialties is Youth Riders, comprising Showmanship, Horsemanship, Reining Seat Equitation, and Hunter Seat Equitation. Like many others, he partakes in a prodigious variety of showing events. He brought nine horses and showed a mare named Maid Marion at the Region 8 Championship.
Horse showing can be considered an art as much as a sport. With the riders’ extravagant costumes and the horses’ elegant, careful movements, horse showing distinguishes itself by teaching people many crucial life lessons and values including responsibility, compassion and sportsmanship.
“We learn to connect with the animals that we’re working with, and we build a relationship,” Martinez said. “And I think that for most people, it’s a very rewarding thing to do.”
As far as showing goes, compared to normal sports, many concur the reason he or she competes - or why others compete - is because of how showing goes beyond focusing on the end goal, such as winning a class or taking home a ribbon. Rather, understanding why he or she didn’t win, or what mistakes were made that needed to be corrected, is the most important part of learning and growing and knowing what to do to improve the next time. It is a fluid sport, an ever-changing process rather than one with a solid start and end. This is what makes showing special. This is what makes showing important. The sport not only teaches kids critical life lessons they can apply to their own lives and futures, but also that winning isn’t the most important thing. Once kids recognize this, they are unstoppable not only in competition, but in life as well.
“Through all the coaching that I do of youth riders, I’ve found that my kids that are very successful in this have gone on to be very successful in life,” Martinez said.
Martinez has students who are doctors, lawyers and engineers who have “acquired a lot of self-esteem” and developed diligence and determination. He describes horse showing as being unique because it “makes very well-rounded people.”
Another quality of horse showing that makes it stand out from other sports is the competition’s subjective nature. Whereas other sports are as simple as earning points from shooting a goal or scoring a touchdown, horse showing proves to be unique in how winners are selected.
“In showing horses, you’re asking for somebody’s opinion,” Martinez said. “And you can have a ride one weekend that wins the class and have the same ride or better the next weekend and not get a ribbon. And so, I think it teaches you to be humble; it teaches you good sportsmanship; it teaches you that you have to have compassion for the horses that you’re riding.”
Martinez talked about the importance of understanding the challenge of adding horses to the competition since they are living beings like us and are also prone to getting nervous or scared. They can be an unknown variable when it comes to winning or losing, but this is why compassion is so important. He emphasized that riders must always be patient and compassionate, not just to improve the relationship with the horse, but also to apply that skillset to other areas of life.
“You have to have that ability to kind of read what your horse is feeling as well,” Martinez said. “So not only do you have to deal with your own emotions; you have to learn to deal with their emotions. And I think that’s an invaluable skill.”
Martinez compared handling a horse’s emotions to humans adapting to the emotions of others. He explained how the business world in particular requires the ability to empathize and get along well with other people. To understand and control your own emotions, and to understand and handle the emotions of others as well, can be a challenging but rewarding skill to develop. And it is also critical for riders to empathize with their horses, to improve their communication skills and to hone a strong and enduring relationship. These animals and partners have the ability to help riders push their limits, to better understand their animals and themselves and to enable them to accomplish anything they set their mind to in the ring and in life.