Finding A Way Back
August 24, 2009
It was easily 20 years ago that I first heard the name Marty Marten. My aunt raised Spanish Barbs and it was Marty she trusted with her training needs. She and my cousin both raved about how good he was with the horses and how the horses just seemed to love him. My aunt is a lifetime horsewoman. She has extensive knowledge of all things horsey and she’s a pretty good judge of people as well. I knew her endorsement of Marty hadn’t been given lightly – he had earned it and I always kept that information in the back of my head.
My first opportunity to observe Marty firsthand was in 2004 while photographing a Mounted Patrol training session he’d been asked to lead. I introduced myself and mentioned my aunt and cousin who he remembered and asked about. It was a pleasant exchange and I remember watching and listening carefully to his training methods and suggestions. He was kind to the horses, spoke quietly and got a good response from those he worked with. I liked what I saw so I bought both of his books.
It was probably 2 or 3 years after seeing Marty at the Jeffco training that I heard he’d been in a bad fall (unrelated to his horse activities) and was not well. I wondered if Marty would ever ride or train again. As happens sometimes, the rumors swirled and the last thing I heard was that Marty had a brain tumor and it didn’t look good for him. It was inoperable. I suppose it’s human nature to assume the worst when you hear something like that.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I considered enlisting the help of a professional trainer to assist me with some problems I was having with my gelding. If I was going to move the partnership forward, I needed someone who could guide me to the next step. I wracked my brain for names of trainers – and one kept coming to mind. Not possible I told myself, but I went online and typed in Marty Marten’s name. I was shocked when his name popped up followed by information about a Trail Obstacle clinic to be held that very weekend! Marty was okay? Marty was training again? I e-mailed immediately and received a very nice reply from a Jody Marken (not a typo) saying I could join them at the upcoming clinic with my horse, to take pictures, or just watch if I wanted. We opted to audit the clinic and headed up to Berthoud.
We were greeted warmly when we arrived at Two Spruce Farm by both Marty and Jody. Five participants unloaded their horses and proceeded to the Obstacle Course to begin their lesson. And it was quite a course. Tom wasn’t surprised at all when I decided to take some pictures of the activities.
Marty began by taking everyone through the obstacles with his horse Cashew and then he turned everyone loose to work on the course as they chose. First on the ground and later in the saddle.
I met Martha and her Foxtrotter. She told me she was at the clinic to build up her confidence for trail riding. I could relate completely. I have my own confidence issue to deal with after being seriously injured in two separate horse accidents. I was even more encouraged now. There were others like me!
The other participants started on the course. Jody had told me the obstacles would be fun for both rider and horse and it sure seemed like everyone involved was having a good time.
During the clinic, there were brief opportunities to speak with Jody. I learned that Marty’s tumor was nonmalignant and it was deemed inoperable because it sits too close to his optic nerve. Marty’s condition affects his equilibrium and balance. It’s somewhat difficult for him to walk, but he can ride. Jody explained to me that the horses were in Marty’s blood. He had to find a way back to them and with Jody’s help, he was able to. She introduced Marty to equine therapy (Jody founded the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center – a riding program for people with disabilities) and later found him a very dependable mount in Cashew. Marty does have some limitations – he’s no longer able to react quickly enough to work with very young horses so he recommends fellow clinician Rich Scott as a trainer and instructor. He says Rich works well with youngsters, problem horses, or horses ready for advancement. Rich frequently attends Marty’s clinics to lend a hand. A team effort all around since Jody is quite an accomplished rider and instructor herself. Following through with that team theme, I also learned that Jody and Marty became lifetime partners in 2008.
There were two rain “intermissions” during the clinic. Well, it is something you may encounter while out on the trail. Everyone was good-natured about the interruptions and just took it all in stride. Such a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere.
I left the clinic with a renewed enthusiasm to work through my fear and improve my horsemanship skills. Marty was an inspiration. I’m sure he has that effect on folks where ever he goes.
I absolutely believe that people are brought into our lives at the perfect time to guide and/or help us along. Fortunately, through his determination to rise above adversity, Marty is available to offer his years of knowledge at just the right moment in my own journey. I look forward to the ride.
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