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RIDER REVEAL Geena S. Martin

Written by Cynthia Dawn

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Posted on October 06 2020

DARING GREATLY 

Geena S. Martin is a highly motivated and accomplished FEI Equestrian Athlete who is unafraid to take the reins of adversity into her capable hands and ride a courageous dance of transparency, truth, and resilience. Her triumphs in the saddle are schooled upon a healthy foundation of tenacity, hard work, ethics, and informed personal growth. 

“One of the most profound riding experiences for me was that moment when I experienced a horse working in a complete circle of energy. It’s an incredible feeling of harmony and being in 100 percent connection while just sitting there; it’s like borrowed energy in a way—like there’s so much power at your fingertips and you just need to tell the power where to go.” 

Geena with Aloha. photo credit: Pam Davies

When Geena speaks about training, a sage teaching comes to mind about the best teachers being the ones with an ultimate goal of making themselves obsolete.

“Essentially I just want my horses to be self-sufficient and be in that circle of energy with me just sitting there. I strive for that on every horse; not every horse is capable and that’s okay too but I do strive for it.” 

Geena is a rider and trainer who expresses deep mutual respect for her equine partners. “It’s truly a gift to be on a horse’s back. I mean, they allow us to ride them so we owe it to them to communicate clearly and to listen. If they don’t understand, that’s me failing as a trainer.” 

“I’m just really into the flow of energy and that feeling that comes when a horse is properly connected and through; we’re like one muscle of being breathing that deep breath of ‘we’re together.’ 

Geena and Hugh. photo credit: Pam Davies

She emphasizes the importance of ground work. “A lot of training is done on the ground getting to know each horse because they’re all different. As their caretaker I see it as my job to listen and find out how they feel day to day, and really notice how they’re doing as athletes.” 

At 28, Geena is Assistant Trainer, Barn Manager and Administrator at OS Dressage in Wellington FL. She works six days a week riding eight to ten horses a day, and working closely with her mentor, Oded Shimoni. “I start riding each day around 8:00 and finish around 5:00 during season and 4:00 off season. I ride client’s horses as well as Oded’s, and also teach lessons. An important part of my training is when Oded rides the horses I’m training and gives feedback. I learn so much from that.” 

Geena on Skywalker and Oded on Boo. photo credit: Ellen Nelson

Geena loves her barn family and feels grateful to be in an environment where there’s much collaboration. “I’ve never felt more at home than at OS. When I first came, Oded said that the main priorities at the barn are positive energy and creating an environment that is productive for training horses, because they feel everything we feel. I called my Mom and told her, ‘I found my people!” 

“I think all beings on the planet want to feel loved and supported – you cannot learn if you don’t feel that; Communication and understanding is so important for horses and for people.” ~Geena Martin 

Geena and Aloha. photo credit: Pam Davies

Geena treasures the support of her grooms at OS. “We have an amazing group! Mario, Wilvur, David, and Norvin take care of the day to day responsibilities and really keep our day flowing. I honestly believe grooms are the most important people at the barn and I rely on them greatly.  We trust one another and that’s so important.” 

Geena’s respect for Oded is evident. “Within the first month of riding for Oded, he talked about the concept of forward, not only in regard to the horse, but in life. He said that forward is a way of being, a way of thinking, a way of getting out of bed in the morning; think forward until you go to sleep at night.” 

Geena, Oded, and Hugh. photo credit: 

This lesson resonated deeply for Geena, perhaps, because of the poignancy in which horses entered her life. “Horses saved my life in a way. When I was four years old my parents got divorced and it was pretty brutal. I went to the stable all day and just buried my head into horses. They were my therapy; taking care of someone other than yourself can lift you up. I honestly don’t know where I would be without horses.” 

Geena and Quarterline. photo credit: Timothy Martin

Geena grew up in Kentucky and went to the barn each day with her au pair beginning at age four. But she was not allowed to ride until she was five. “So, you know where I was on my 5th birthday!” She exclaims with a smile that is reflective of her five-year-old self. 

“When I was seven, I rode a seven-year old Arabian and I’m not sure why that was a good idea but it’s what I did.  That horse bucked me off every single day, but he really taught me to get back on and keep going.” Quite a metaphor for a kid doing her best to survive her own emotional rodeo. “I just stuck with it and it took over my life in a good way.” 

Geena and Sir Junior. photo credit: Pam Davies 

Geena’s journey on Arabians continued. “When I was fourteen or fifteen I started riding a horse that was half Arabian and half Friesian with trainer, Chrissa Hoffmann. Eventually I started working for her and that was my full transition into the open dressage world. Kristin took me to Wellington when I was seventeen for my first winter season and I have lived on and off in Florida ever since.” 

Interestingly, Geena credits Christian Kennedy for the perseverance that put her on course to her current position at OS Dressage. As most know, Christian Kennedy was a young rider who was killed in an unfortunate automobile accident in 2017. “I had just finished U25 and was living in Ocala with my husband. I was struggling with depression and kind of getting my head together. I have that from time to time and I like to be open about mental health because it’s a huge part of my life and there shouldn’t be any stigma about it; horses definitely keep me on track. Christian encouraged me to apply to any and every USEF program to get myself back out there and so I did. I was beyond shocked and happy when I was accepted into the Robert Dover HorseMastership Week!” 

Geena and Bon Chance at Gladstone. photo credit: Susan Stickle

Geena found her flow and continued her forward movement after showcasing her extraordinary riding talent during Robert’s clinic. Then, in 2018, she auspiciously received the Christian Kennedy Future Stars Scholarship that was created in his memory. “The scholarship awarded me one month of training with Robert and it was life changing! A whole new world opened up for me! Along with the amazing dressage training, Robert also taught me a lot about believing in myself and having a vision for what I want, both in the saddle, and in my life.” 

During the HorseMastership week Geena also embraced invaluable skills for navigating life with a healthy inner compass. “Robert brought in a hypnotist who spoke about being an observer of our subconscious. I learned how to train me to be with me and to be on the same side as me."

I also meditate at least once a day. So often my thoughts are everywhere and breathing helps me to center myself. It brings in what I call an inner peace of being Geena.” ” 

 

Quarterline and Theo, Geena's rescue mastiff mix. photo credit: Geena

As flow would have it, after her month-long training with Robert, she was hired by Oded at OS and has been there since 2018.

What would she would like to see more of in the sport? “More youth programs!” She replies enthusiastically and without delay. “In Europe there are so many programs for youth riders providing education, not only in the saddle, but also in the classroom. We need more of that! I cannot stress enough how important education is to me.” She continues. “Robert is a great supporter of youth here and our sport has done amazing things with the development programs, but I say we do more and start younger.” Her suggestion is for a more expansive and regulated pipeline that offers youth riders an empowering educational experience and also advocates for them so there is equal reciprocity between student and trainer.   

Geena and Lyon. photo credit: Pam Davies

Geena describes the training program at OS as structured and systematic. “We start, build and end each lesson the same way each time and the horses and riders thrive because they know exactly what to expect.” She credits the rhythm and consistency of execution as being a key to their success with their horses. 

Her goals for this season? “More ring time,” Geena says. “I’ll ride in some younger horse classes and we’re planning to show Quarterline, who Oded trained to Grand Prix. It will be his first time, so we’ll probably start him with Intermediare 1 and eventually do some CDI’s.” 

But for Geena, it’s not just about the competitions.

“I really love to compete but I like to focus more on the day to day. I love training and just want to keep developing and producing horse athletes.” 

Geena and Quintessenz. photo credit: Pam Davies

She feels reward in developing the gaits. “I really enjoy the phases of development, like when you get that horse to swing for the first time—it’s pretty incredible. And then finding the forward and the half halt and getting the result of that training, like them being honest to the leg and creating balance. That to me is really rewarding!” 

Geena is an animal lover with four dogs, three cats, and three snakes—many of them are rescues. On her days off she like going for walks with the dogs, reading, and spending time with her husband, Timothy. “We’ve been married for four years and he’s my rock! He still lives in Ocala, but is very supportive of my career in Wellington. We’re both goal-oriented people and our marriage is based on supporting one another on our own individual path. So, when we’re together we just like to have fun. And we can be pretty silly together and have been known to break into random playful cake fights.” She laughs. “We also like to sit on the porch, watch the dogs play, and listen to the Eagles-we love the Eagles!”   

Geena, Bon Chance, and husband, Timothy. photo credit: Al Guden

One of Geena’s many favorite Kingsley products is her special elastic girth. “I’m really obsessed with it! It allows for more sternum freedom and has dramatically changed the freedom my horses have in their shoulders.” 

And Geena loves her custom Kingsley boots too! “They’re brushed navy with diamonds and they are gorgeous! I had so much fun designing them with The Dressage Store!” 

Hey Geena, what’s in your tack room?

My KEP Helmet and I love it! It almost feels like you don’t have one on- and it makes a huge difference in the Florida heat! We’re transitioning through some other products and tack so we’ll share some exciting news soon.” 

Geena is one who chooses to live her life from broad perspective and is inspired by quotes that incite self-reflection and deep meaning. One of her treasures is the Man in the Arena by Theodore Roosevelt: 

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

Geena and Quarterline. photo credit: Pam Davies

As she recites this quote, its relevance is palpable. Her own inner wisdom radiates when she summarizes it in her own words, “If you never try, you never fail, and if you never fail, you never learn anything, and if you never learn, you’re never going to achieve anything.” 

Is it any surprise that she indeed has resilience tattooed on her ankle? I think I’ll drop the mic on that one because it speaks for itself. 

Keep on keeping on Geena Martin! Your triumph will surely be of the highest achievement!

Cynthia Dawn is an Author, Writer, Mindful Life and Awareness Coach and Horse Mom. www.cynthiadawn.com Follow her on Instagram cynthia.d.a.w.n. and Facebook Cynthia Dawn