Silva Martin’s Journey Since Accident One Year Ago

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Silva Martin riding Rosa Cha W at this year's Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. © 2015 Ken Braddick/
Silva Martin riding Rosa Cha W at this year’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida. © 2015 Ken Braddick/


WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 3, 2015–When Silva Martin rides into the competition arena and halts at X she sees two of everything, the result of a riding accdent a year ago, so closes one eye to focus.

After three operations and two more to come, the German-born Silva has no idea whether her sight will get better in a sport where accuracy and detail are paramount.

Silva, though, doesn’t dwell on the negative of the accident a year ago this week that sent her to the hospital in a coma.

“Awesome,” is the word she she uses to describe her life today. “I’m just so excited that I’m doing what I’m doing.”

The March 5, 2014 accident caused fears that it could be a repeat of the tragedy in which Courtney King-Dye sustained serious head injury in Florida four years earlier.

It came less than two weeks after Silva rode Rosa Cha W, owned by a syndicate put together by she and her husband, Australian turned American team event rider, on her first U.S. team in the Wellington Nations Cup. The pair won team gold followed a week later by a first place finish in the international Prix St. Georges.

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 two weeks before her accident. © 2014 Ken Braddick/

The friendships she built and the respect in which she was held was reflected in the outpouring of support and prayers–George Morris, the legendary jumper coach sat at her hospital bedside talking to a comatose Silva.

Silva recalls of her recovery at home in Cochranville, Pennsylvania: “I’m not saying I was depressed but definitely, at times, I was down. I’m terrible at resting and I had to rest so much.

“For me not to go out and do my job was very hard. Just kind of hanging out and not doing my job… I’m not very good at that.”

Less than seven months later and approaching her 34th birthday, she was back in the show ring with Rosa Cha, the mare sired by Regardez Moi, owned by the Australian dressage and event rider Heath Ryan. She has owned Rosa Cha since birth and thinks the horse may be helping her now.

At Dressage at Devon on Philadelphia’s storied Main Line and not far from Silva’s home, the pair logged two third place finishes in the international small tour.

This winter, she has returned to Florida and, with coaching from Debbie McDonald, is competing both Rosa Cha, 10 years old, and Aesthete, a 10-year-old KWPN gelding.

She was successful on Aesthete in the U.S. six-year-old championships during another stressful time in her life–a fire in the barn of her eventer husband, Boyd, killed six horses and four others were injured, then Boyd’s father died and the pair went to Australia and shortly after Silva’s father died and they went to Germany.

Riding now, Silva told, “is harder for me than it used to be. I’m a lot more tired, I have to work harder.

“I think that’s normal, it has not been a year yet.

“I’m just so excited I’m doing what I’m doing.

“There was a very good chance I wouldn’t be doing any of this.”

“This” has meant putting it all on the line at Wellington’s Adequan Global Dressage Festival where as many as 60 other combinations are competing in the small tour to be one of a handful to earn a trip to Europe in the lead up to selecting the team of mixed big and small tour pairs for the U.S. team at the Pan American Games in July.

With Rosa Cha she is ranked at No. 14 and with Aesthete at 16.

Silva Martin riding Aesthete at the U.S. six-year-old championships in 2011. ©  Ken Braddick/
Silva Martin riding Aesthete at the U.S. six-year-old championships in 2011. © Ken Braddick/

“In general,” Silva said, “I don’t see anybody around me. I don’t see the judges. I can only see the immediate area around me–just a few inches.

“I don’t see who is there. I cannot move up, down or left or right.

“The hardest thing is halting at X… not to overshoot the centerline. I can see C when we’re standing still but when we’re in motion my eyes don’t really work.

“Accuracy–that’s what I have to struggle with.

“I only see one C if I close one eye. If I don’t close one eye I see two and I have to make sure I don’t go to the wrong one.

“Who would have thought that out of this accident I would have been struggling with that.

“I didn’t think I was using my eyes that much but I guess I was.

“But it could be harder.”

Two more surgeries won’t fix motion issues–“that’s fine, I can live with that”–but she hopes to get rid of the double vision.”

Silva feels lucky that she is able to be back pursuing what she loves, especially after meeting others during her rehabilitation who have not been able to return to their normal lives.

“First of all,” she said, “I don’t like whiners.

“I thought this year was probably the hardest year I’ve ever had.

“But I have met so many people who have a lot tougher life than I do.

“For me to whine would be pathetic. I have met people in rehab who are incredible.

“Even though it’s harder life is harder in general. So it’s fine

“It can always be better but it can definitely be worse.”

Though riding at a top level is harder, she is still very critical of her performances.competitively

“This is what I want to be doing,” she said, “so I have to be doing it better. I can be frustrated because I want to be better.

“And I will be.

“I hate to make excuses… I don’t want to make excuses.

“If I can’t do it accurately I shouldn’t do it.

“I’m going to have work harder to make it more accurate. I know I’m going to do it.”