Silva Martin, 3 Months After Accident, Sets Devon World Cup In September as Return to International Competition

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Silva Martin and Rosa Cha W celebrating Nations Cup gold medal. © 2014 Ken Braddick/
Silva Martin and Rosa Cha W celebrating Nations Cup gold medal. © 2014 Ken Braddick/

June 2, 2014


Three months after a freak accident sent Silva Martin to the hospital in a coma raising fears about the future of the talented and popular rider she has recovered enough to set the iconic Dressage at Devon World Cup event in September as the date for her return to the international competition arena.

“I’m doing everything but riding and driving,” the 33-year-old German-born rider said of the accident on March 5 that the horse world feared could be a repeat of the tragedy in which United States Olympian Courtney King-Dye sustained serious head injuries in a similar incident in Florida four years earlier.

Silva’s accident occurred on March 5 near the end of this winter’s Florida circuit when a horse she was working stumbled, the heads of horse and rider hit each other.

Up to then, the season was a highlight of her career, riding Rosa Cha W to win gold on her first American team at the Global Dressage Festival Nations Cup.

It was “the best ever season, I was so excited about Florida. Rosa Cha came into herself… getting help from Debbie (McDonald), getting team experience… it was a dream come true.

“It was a bummer what happened. Things happen in life but you just have to deal with it. Some say things happen for a reason, but what’s the reason for that?”

Silva was looking to keep moving up, with her eyes on the Pan American Games in Toronto next year and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and those are still the goals.

“I remember everything before the accident,” she recalled in a conversation with “I remember looking in the mirror before it happened. I don’t remember being in intensive care. I remember some of being in the hospital. Maybe that’s good that I don’t remember the accident.”

When she did realize what had happened, “I wasn’t scared at all. I was more mad that I wasn’t better than anything else.

“I wanted to get up and be my normal self which I couldn’t.”

“I’m a very positive person, that probably helped when I was down.

“I never had a doubt in my mind I would return. Not being on a horse is not a normal life.”

Less than three weeks after her accident, her eventing husband, Boyd Martin, broke a leg when he fell off during cross-country at the Carolina International, so both riders were recovering from riding accidents at the same time at their Cochranville, Pennssylvania farm.

Silva has ties on three continents and the accident led to an outpouring of concern around the world.

She was born and raised in Germany and has family there, her mother, a sister active in dressage and another sister in health care in Holland; lived in Australia where she met her husband then moved to the United States where both became American citizens. Boyd rode for America at the 2012 Olympics in London. And Rosa Cha is an Australian-bred mare by Regardez Moi, the stallion of Australian eventer/dressage rider Heath Ryan that Silva and Boyd personally picked out.

The incidents were a reminder of 2011 when a fire in Boyd’s barn killed six horses and injured four others. Among them was Neville Bardos, an Australian Thoroughbred eventing horse that came to symbolize triumph of spirit over tragedy. Neville Bardos, bought by Boyd for $850, was trapped in his stall by the fire for 45 minutes. The horse made a miraculous recovery to go back into competition and shared the 2011 U.S. Horse of the Year title.

That same summer, Boyd’s father died and the pair went to Australia. Then Silva’s father died and they went to Germany.

Silva said the therapy to recover from her accident “is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. I’m not very patient and recovery is not my thing. I’ve never been hurt before. I have no history with broken bones. It’s the most frustrating thing I’ve ever had to do.”

The therapists and the doctors, she said, believe she will recover fully–her optic nerve was damaged but that, too, is expcted to get back to normal. And her balance is “pretty good.”

“I never had a question in my mind I would be back,” she said. “It could have been a lot worse. It was lucky I was wearing a helmet. That saved my life.”

“Maybe I’m lucky my recovery has been so fast,” she said and gives credit to her older sister who lives in Holland who came to America to help out.

She will have a driving test this week and, while she has not yet been back on a horrse, expects to do so soon with the help of a couple of people to make sure nothing goes awry.

Her staff has kept her horses going and she is back teaching, includng helping her husband.

Despite the loss of three months of competitions, Silva and Rosa Cha placed 11th on the final standings for the Tim Dutta Intermediate Championships that will earn her an invitation to the United States Championships in Gladstone, New Jersey later this month.

She won’t go because to be at the championships and not riding would be “hard for me.”

Instead, Silva has received the green light from her doctors to fly to Europe to watch her husband compete at the Luhmühlen 4* event in Germany at the same time. The event is a qualifier for the United States eventing team for the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France at the end of summer. And she will be with her family.

As to setting the goal of being in the CDI small tour ring at Dressage at Devon on Main Line Philadelphia Sept. 23-28, “I think it’s realistic. I’ve come a long way in a short time. To me, it feels like an eternity, but it has been three months.”

The accident changed her in one respect–she goes to rehabilitation where she sees seriously injured people.

“Seeing people without a helmet makes me so mad,” said Silva. “I was very lucky I had a helmet.

“I don’t have much advice, just keep doing what you’re doing but do it safely.”