After more than a decade of competing in junior national Arabian horse shows, Centralia’s Mia Martin is about to move up to the amateur ranks.
Martin ended her run in the junior circuit with an exclamation point though, earning Reserve National Champion in the Arabian English Show Hack category at the Canadian National Championships Horse Show from Aug. 11 to 17 in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada.
For those who may not be familiar with horses, there are many disciplines that riders can enter horses in and compete, similar to what you might see in a dog show.
“I would compare this almost to the Olympics, where it is for sports but there are also different events within the Olympics. That’s what it’s like for nationals is it’s all horses but there’s different things that you’re doing with horses,” Mia Martin explained. “It is all for Arabians so half Arabs, those are half Arabian, and for pure breds. There’s multiple different rings as well. There is the main ring and then there is a second ring going as well so multiple different people competing at once.”
Martin entered the Western Pleasure and the Country English Pleasure categories with her horses, Ed and Mateo. In the competition, the horses are judged based on manners, such as how they carry themselves, along with how they perform certain tasks like walk, trot and canter.
“You get scored for different things, how the horse holds its head. Also, when you go into the ring, you can’t be messing with your horse too much. You can’t be what we would call correcting them because you’d get scored down for that if a judge sees you so you would try to be, as you would say, perfect,” Martin said. “Then, if you do have to make corrections, also it’s on the rider of watching your judges to make sure that they’re not looking at you.”
Before the event, riders have a chance to warm up with their horses and make sure they are ready to go before entering the ring.
After competing against many different riders, the judges name off the Top 10 riders and then announce the national champion and reserve national champions. Mia was in the Top 10 riders and was told by a judge to take a victory lap as reserve national champion.
“The funny thing about it, there have been a couple shows up in Monroe earlier this year and the national champion doing the show hack came down twice out of Canada and beat her twice,” Mia’s father Jeff Martin said. “At regionals in Monroe, we went up there and she beat that horse and he was a national champion. So it is pretty cool to go up and get beat twice by him earlier this year, (and then) went up there to the nationals and beat him.”
This is not Mia’s first time taking home major hardware. She was a two time junior national champion in 2014 with a half-Arab mare. The horse won 11 national championships between the riders that showed her.
Mia’s love of horses started at the age of two when she rode her first pony.
“She got her pony when she was two, so she’s been on four legs for a long time,” Mia’s mother Donna Martin said.
When Donna was younger, she used to raise and show Arabian horses for years before she met Jeff. The two bred horses when they were first married but had two boys and didn’t do anything with horses for about a decade.
Mia is 15 and 18 years younger than her older brothers and she gravitated to horses.
“We had them in the pasture and we couldn’t keep her out of the pasture and it’s just, I have to say, I think it’s just in her and I think that truly some kids, it’s just in there genes,” Donna said. “They have that kind of in them. It is unfortunate that is has to be as costly as it is but it’s saved us a lot of other expenses raising her. She’s been fabulous, easy to raise and never a problem. We have fortunately, enjoyed most of the horses and what we do with them.”
Mia is currently 19 years old and was able to compete in the junior category this last year due to her January birthday as she was 18 on Dec. 31, 2018. The horse she rode on as a reserve national champion is known in the show as Midnight Xpress but goes by Ed in the Martin’s barn. It’s a horse Mia is leasing from Katie Schaener. Schaener gave Mia a lot of trust in letting Mia work with Ed, considering he had an interesting life growing up and Mia didn’t have a lot of time to prepare with him before the national championships.
“I kind of just decided that since I haven’t had him that long, instead of just doing one class, it was OK, well I don’t want to spend all that money and then just take him to shows for one class,” Mia said. “It’s good for their brains doing this because you’re asking instead of just doing the three things. Reversing and going the way he has to think about what he’s doing so I just kind of started by doing it a little bit and then it was like, well he really likes this. He can actually do it in general so we actually decided in a short amount of time. Within like nine days of my first show on him, OK, well I’m going to go and I’m going to do this on him and it was one of those things just to see if he could do it.”
There were people that were trying to discourage Mia from competing on Ed because of the lack of preparation and the dominance of the East Coast in English horse competitions.
“It’s really cool because she’s only been doing this for a couple of months with this horse and we’ve had people tell us when we went back there with him, ‘Well, you won’t do very good because of all the people on the East Coast,’” Jeff Martin said. “That’s what they’re really into, the English horses and the competition is so high, it’s a waste of time taking him.”
Turns out, it was a great decision as Ed and Mia were named 2019 Reserve National Champions.
Mia will now move into the adult ranks, where she plans on competing as an amateur for one year before going to work with a trainer in order to climb the ladder to reach her career goal of being a horse trainer.
“You have to create a name. The horse that I got reserve national championship on with how interesting his life has been and the success that we’ve had so far is kind of creating a name for me already but you have to work super hard,” Mia said. “You want to get as much experience as you can and that is working for other trainers in what we call grooming, getting horses ready, saddling and you kind of do the harder work so the trainers don’t have to do all of it. They can do their job.”
“I plan to ride one year as an amateur and then I do have people worked out that I want to work for. Luckily, in the Pacific Northwest, we have amazing trainers for Arabian horses so I don’t have to leave but there are a few that I want to work for that are back east and quite a ways away from home. The more experience and knowledge you take in and you get to find out what ways you like to do it is better and so it’s not a rushing process at all for me. I know that I have a home but it’s what I will do. One year as an amateur and then after that, it’s starting to work more and work my way up to assistant training and then after that, then I can hang my shingle out on the wall.”
The reason why she wants to be a horse trainer? She just enjoys the hard work.
“I like the hard work because it shows off in the end. I know the road ahead of me is not going to be easy training horses but I don’t think I could live a different one because I like the outcome of it all,” Mia explained. “The other thing that kind of took over with this too that’s been hard was I was a soccer player. Going to college was a huge thing for that but coaches didn’t quite understand that either and so it’s kind of always been the path that I’ve chosen. There’s other things I could have done but I like the hard work and dedication it takes to do this.”
Jeff and Donna are proud and supportive of Mia in her quest to become a horse trainer and they also understand the path she is taking is not easy.
“I have to tell her it’s going to be a tough life. It’s not going to be an easy life. She’s had a lot of people in the business that have said, ‘Oh, are you sure you want to do it?’,” Donna said. “What she talks about is the most difficult part will be her apprenticeship because she wants to be a part, as soon as she can, of the training of the horse. When you work for another trainer, you start at the ground. You’re wrapping legs and bathing horses and cleaning stalls. It’s one of those things where she has to be able to accept that.”
Mia is taking online courses at Centralia College as she finishes up her Associates Degree in Business. She did Running Start in high school and the degree is something that she will be able to fall back on if her dream doesn’t work out.
Based on how Mia has done in her junior career as well as the hard work and time she puts in, it’s difficult to imagine her doing anything else for a living.
“These days, there’s very few kids from my age that want to do it. It’s not easy, a lot of the time you won’t have a ton of money, you don’t know where you could be sleeping at night when you’re working with other trainers for housing,” Mia said. “It’s about the hard work that you want to put in.”