Todd Martin
Giving Back
Article by Ingrid Edisen

Todd on Dry Ruff at the Sunflower Slide Futurity in Kansas

Todd Martin didn’t start out in a horse training family but to look at his life today and hear him speak about what he’s learned, he sure made up for it. Todd and Taumi Martin live in La Vernia, TX where they and operate their training facility. Readers of this paper will be familiar with his columns on showing and training. He specializes in reining, showing at AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) & NRHA (National Reining Horse Association) events and maintains a training barn of 12 to 15 clients’ horses with the help of assistant Ginny Phipps.

“If I wasn’t happy in my home life, though,” Martin points out, “it’d reflect in my training and showing.” That serves as the cornerstone of his work. From there, he reflected that his chosen line of work has allowed him to meet people and horses from all areas of the globe. One weekend, Martin was surprised to realize that he had quite an international group at his facility as he looked around and was surrounded by some clients from Mexico, a person from each Denmark and Sweden and an apprentice from Brazil. Currently a budding trainer from Israel is knocking on his door to learn under him This year he has performed three clinics in Europe, two in Mexico and several in the area for Purina’s HOW (Horse Owners’ Workshops) program. The industry has given so much to him, Martin said and he wants to give back.

Martin attributes much of his success to the opening of doors by other reining greats who have been generous with their knowledge and time, folks like Craig Johnson and Steve Archer. The atmosphere within the reining industry is generally a very healthy one, Martin explained. Folks are eager to support and learn from each other, no matter how accomplished they already are. In the show pen, Martin said, he and Steve Archer may just prior to competing but they also share a mutually beneficial relationship in which each shares their knowledge with one another. Since Archer has had a long multitude of years in the industry, that means he’s connected with many more horses and training issues, Martin said. The two men compare notes frequently, a fact that Martin greatly appreciates. Or Archer may see Martin use a technique that he might have forgotten about and that serves as a “refresher” for Archer, too.

Prior to becoming a fulltime trainer, ten years ago, Martin was finishing up college in agricultural and animal science,

Todd conducting a Reining Clinic in Sweden.

and then worked as an aircraft mechanic. He credits an ag teacher he had in high school at Marion named Jimmy Missildine as a large influence in his life. That teacher “made me apply myself,” Martin asserts. Although he had had horses as a kid, Martin largely trail rode and not much else back then. Before he turned pro, he knew he had to seek out more knowledge, so he called such reining greats as Craig Johnson and Brent Loeske who invited him to travel to north Texas, where Martin spent many weekends building his knowledge and ability. Martin learns all he can from other trainers and continuously avails himself to a program of “continuing education” as he makes sure to expand his knowledge from other sources. He feels he has an obligation to pass on this knowledge too.

Sometimes, he admits, he feels he has an obligation to the horses too, to make their owners more knowledgeable as to how to ride them.

One of the biggest thrills he gets from training is taking a young horse, anywhere from two to six or seven years of age, and molding the horse all the way up to having confidence not only at home but in the show pen as well. Martin aptly points out that it makes little sense to spend all the effort, time and money on good training if the horse is not able to handle itself at shows as well—“the one spot where it counts the most.”

He judges whether a client should extend the training period but usually, a finished horse takes two years. He does not like to rush the development of a horse, though, as mentally overfacing a horse or pushing it when the animal is too fatigued can lead to injury and nervousness. “Each animal is an individual,” Martin said and he is careful not to hurry the process along simply because of the attraction of large purses.

Reining events are not constrained by requiring a particular breed or pedigree of horse, though. It is a performance rated event—Morgans, Arabs, paints, and grade horses all are welcome as well as Quarter horses, of course. Futurity winners are age three and have large purses in that category. Then there are the Derby winners, also calibrated by ages four, five or six. Horses older than six can compete for further honors and purses (of as much as over $100,000) in the World games and FEI Olympic events. Annually there is the NRBC (National Reining Breeders’ Classic) in Katy, TX, with its $60,000 purse for the championship winner. Martin has recently competed in two futurities where he had top ten finishes on Royal Dunit in Gold. He now has his sites set on the Southwest Reining Horse Futurity, as well as the NRHA Futurity aboard Dry Ruf. The whole industry fosters longevity in a horse’s career.

Martin points out that unlike dressage, with its progressively complex and staggered demands, reining patterns in competition ask for all the maneuvers from the beginning—the spins, sliding stops, changes in speed and collection.
On breeding, Martin stated he hoped clients would be mindful that the quality of the mare is equally as important as a big name stallion and that they would feel compelled to campaign their mares as well. Simply because a horse may be an “own son” (direct descent) of a top stallion such as Hollywood Dun It, Magnum’s Chic Dream, or Wimpy’s Little Step, for instance, does not ensure it will command top dollar or be an outperformer in the show pen. Those progeny that stem also from a quality mare, a mare that has proven herself to be a top producer of athletic and winning horses and perhaps has a stellar show record herself, deservedly get the higher sales prices, Martin asserts. “Then you are no longer gambling,” he explains. “You are investing.” Case in point: Last year, at auction, he saw a two-year-old colt by Gray Starlite go for a $125,000 sales price because the dam was outstanding as well.

As for the future, Martin fully intends to be training and showing while in his 60’s and 70’s. He’s in for the long haul. He plans to keep his facility the same size, while fostering a quality client base and aiming for his own world championship titles. And, he plans to keep on giving back, to see that his assistant trainer, Ginny Phipps, and others be given the same opportunities and open doors that he’s been given.

Todd aborad Royal Dunit in Gold at the Sunflower Slide Futurity in Kansas

Martin can be reached at: his home, 210-667-9300, cell 210-825-1114, email or web; Also, log on to to register to win a free clinic with Todd.

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