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horse. I think having the extra weight on her made a big difference in bringing her back.”

Return to Competition Caitlin is Boyd and Silva Martin’s longest standing employee, having started as a working student for Silva six years ago and eventually working up to assistant rider for Boyd. “Everyone has been so amazing,” says Caitlin. “Boyd and Silva are my bosses, but they are also family to me now. Without Boyd’s positive attitude I probably wouldn’t have made it to the three-star so soon.” By March this year, Caitlin decided she and Hoku were

ready to compete again. She decided at the last minute to enter the CIC at North Carolina’s The Fork, held in April. “I thought I’d never get in, it was such a late entry,” she recalls. But the secretary must have been at her computer because she responded about three minutes after I emailed her and said, ‘No problem, do you want to do test A or B?’ During the long drive home from Aiken I panicked that I had signed up for Advanced! I was calling all my friends for reassurance but instead they all confirmed, ‘The Fork is really hard!’ which didn’t help. But Boyd gave me a plan and luckily it all worked out.” In preparation for this, their first Advanced event, Silva

helped Caitlin by riding Hoku on the flat, bringing the mare’s dressage up to par. “She really took care of her and put a lot of effort in for me,” says Caitlin. “I’ve been a part of their team for so long that we all work together so well—it’s really cool. At The Fork, when I saw the look on Boyd’s face, I could tell he was proud of me for getting around cross-country. I definitely couldn’t do it all without them coaching me—it was a fast track to my first three-star with only one advanced experience leading up to it. All of Boyd’s expertise certainly helped in the whole process.” The “firsts” have continued for Caitlin and Hoku. In May, they finished ninth at their first CIC***, the Jersey Fresh event. And in June, it was on to Bromont for their first CCI***, a more difficult event where they placed a respectable fifth.

Caitlin and Hoku at the Jersey Fresh CIC *** in May this year.

Heart of a Champion “I think that Hoku is an amazing horse. She has the biggest heart and is the bravest horse—it gives me chills,” Silva remarks. “She wants to get better and improve. I think she’s a different horse just because she’s gone through all this. I’m sure she appreciates being alive!” Silva continues, “Caitlin is an amazing person—she has hung in there for so many years. She’s had the worst luck, with lame horses and everything you can imagine. Every morning she shows up and tries a hundred and ten percent, and even after the fire she never talked about quitting or giving any less than hundred and ten percent. If I have a busy schedule and can only help her at 5:00 a.m., she’s ready at 4:30 and has the horse walked and ready to go. That’s why she’s going to be a champion—she’s going to make it, that girl!” While Boyd was away in England preparing to ride at the

Olympics, Caitlin remained at home in Pennsylvania keeping his young horses going and eventing every weekend with continued training from Silva. This fall Caitlin is aiming Hoku for the Fair Hill International CCI***. If they continue as planned, the Rolex Kentucky CCI**** could be in their future—the pair has already qualified for 2013. “This whole experience has been awesome—I’m so proud

of Hoku. Her success at Bromont shows how much this horse loves her job!” says Caitlin fondly. “Hoku enjoys what she does and she’s such a ‘tryer.’ My ultimate dream is to take Hoku to Rolex Kentucky next April. If we get there, I couldn’t ask for a better partner.”

Caitlin and Hoku at Pine Top, March 2012, their first event since the fire. Warmbloods Today 19

Photo courtesy Caitlin Silliman

Photos by Amber Heintzberger

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