Aboard Steady Eddie and with Olympian Boyd Martin as a mentor, Michael is on track for big things
Up and coming event rider Michael Pendleton’s career started in an … unconventional way: with a middle school project. “We had to do community service for class,” he recalls. “One of the options was mucking out stalls at a local stable.”
Michael, now 25, had always liked horses. But once he spent time at the stable, he fell in love. Soon he knew he wanted to pursue a career in the industry. “I started taking lessons every week,” he says. One lesson a week became two lessons, which became three lessons, and… you get the idea.
After high school, Michael moved to Cedar Creek Stables in Waynesboro, Virginia, where he trained with Melyni Worth, a dressage trainer. “I started riding the young horses,” says Michael, a passion that he would later go on to develop. “I got into eventing (an equestrian “triathalon” of dressage, cross country and show jumping) and it led me to Boyd.”
That’s right — Boyd Martin, two-time Olympian and one of America’s premier event riders. Now, Michael, a 25-year-old native of Birmingham, Alabama, is stationed in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, where he’s spent the last six years working as Boyd’s assistant. “We start at 7:00 in the morning,” says Michael. “I ride a lot of the baby horses and do their dressage and fitness work.”
Helping to ride and train young horses is one of Michael’s specialties, in fact. “I enjoy watching them progress and end up being upper-level horses,” he says. “It’s really cool to see them grow up and go through the program and develop.”
Working with Boyd, Michael has had the opportunity to watch — and ride! — several horses that have gone on to compete and win at upper levels. One example is Carlsberg, a beautiful gray gelding. “I got to ride him for the first three years he was here,” says Michael. “I learned a lot from him. It was cool to bring up a horse from the bottom all the way up to the 2-star level and be successful.”
In addition to working with a variety of young and developing horses, Michael is leasing Steady Eddie, one of Boyd’s long-time partners and four-star horse. “I’ve been lucky enough to get to know Eddie over the past six years,” says Michael. Because Boyd no longer competes with Eddie, Michael has taken over the reins — pun intended — and hopes to learn a lot from the 16-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred gelding.
Eddie knows his way around the event course, of course, but Michael says that transitioning him to a new rider has been a bit of a challenge. “He’s a little bit of a wild man jumping,” says Michael. “He twists over the jumps and sometimes gets a little bit spooky but he’s getting that sorted out.”
In his very limited free time away from the horses, Michael enjoys participating in the Tough Mudder competitions — a mud run complete with obstacle course. But, at the end of the day, horses keep him busy, especially over the summer.
And this summer, Michael has his work cut out for him — he hopes to keep riding Eddie and to moving up the levels. He also plans to continue working with Boyd and learning as much as he can. “Boyd has been really good to me,” says Michael. “I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to ride these horses. I don’t think I’d be as far as I am in my career without his help and support.”
For young riders like Michael who are working their way to the top of the sport, your support of the USET Foundation helps pave the way to support US Equestrian’s critical High Performance programs like the U25 and Developing Athletes. It’s generous and passionate people like you who make these programs possible — and provide an exciting opportunity for young riders to improve their skill and reach their dreams!