Diego Martínez: A Young Spanish Dressage Rider Making Strides in Belgium

Diego Martinez con il suo cavallo

Diego Martínez, a 24-year-old dressage rider hailing from Spain, is making waves in the equestrian world. Currently competing in the international Grand Prix under 25 and various other classes, Diego is not only showcasing his skills in the arena but has also delved into the world of buying and selling horses, as well as teaching and training.

Diego’s journey into the dressage world began at the tender age of five, introduced to ponies by his horse-loving parents. While many riders explore different equestrian disciplines, Diego found his passion early in dressage. His competitive journey commenced around the age of 10, and since then, he has been dedicated to refining his skills and forming deep connections with his equine partners.

In June of the previous year, Diego made a significant move from Spain to Belgium, where he is now based with Morgan Barbançon . The transition has offered him the opportunity to be part of a top stable alongside a seasoned dressage rider. Reflecting on the differences between the equestrian scenes in Spain and Belgium, Diego emphasizes the cultural distinctions in the approach to shows, selling horses, and the overall dressage environment.

“Moving to Belgium and being at Morgan’s top stable has been a tremendous opportunity. It’s a different world compared to Spain, especially in terms of the culture surrounding shows and horse- related activities,” shares Diego.

Diego acknowledges the positive impact of being at Morgan’s top stable, providing him exposure to high-level shows and a rich learning environment. The abundance of national and international competitions in Belgium, as well as the ease of horse movement for selling purposes, contrasts with the situation in Spain, creating a unique learning experience for Diego.

“I’m very lucky to be at Morgan’s because it’s also like, yeah, like, as you said, the top stables with a top rider. She also has her sport career, and I’m lucky to go with her to top shows and everything to see her and to be in her environment or at her level.”

When asked about his most memorable moments in his sporting career, Diego highlights his second Europeans with his Grand Prix under 25 horse in San Marignano, Italy. Winning two Spanish championships with the same horse also holds a special place in his heart. Beyond competition success, Diego finds great satisfaction in the progress and development of the horses he trains, emphasizing the joy of sharing these moments with close friends and family.

“I can’t forget the feeling of competing in San Marignano. It was an unforgettable moment that fueled my passion for dressage. Winning Spanish championships with my horse is also incredibly special, but there’s a unique joy in the daily progress and development of the horses,” reflects Diego.

Diego’s training methods involve a balanced approach that caters to the age and experience of the horses. With young horses, he opts for a lighter workload, allowing them time to grow both mentally and physically.

“For us, three years old is really young. They’re just starting to be ridden. I ride them like three times per week, not more, when they are starting. I don’t push them so much or put them under pressure. I let them grow physically and mentally, like horses naturally should.”

For older horses, the focus is on maintaining fitness and shape while incorporating variety to keep them engaged and willing to work.

“With the older ones, it’s more specific training. Of course, almost every day, at least four days a week or something like this. But they also have some days off, without much. I think it’s quite good for them to move free without the rider and go to the paddock and hacking.”

Discussing the mental aspect of the sport, Diego acknowledges the importance of individualized routines. He personally finds comfort in maintaining a sense of normalcy, avoiding overthinking the competition setting.

“For me, the thing that goes better is not to change anything, not to overthink that you’re in a competition, just to keep a normal life. If you’re surrounded by people that you love, to stay with them, to have fun, and not overthink that you’re on a show.”

He encourages his students to discover their unique strategies for concentration and focus, understanding that what works for one may not work for another.

“Everyone has their way of preparing mentally. For me, it’s about keeping things normal, not overthinking the competition. But it’s a personal journey, and each rider needs to find what works best for them.”

Like any athlete, Diego has faced setbacks in his career. Around a year ago, he experienced a period of frustration and feeling blocked in his work. His advice for overcoming setbacks is to reassess, set achievable goals, and appreciate the progress made. Diego underscores the importance of maintaining a positive mindset and not losing sight of the journey’s purpose.

“Setbacks are part of the journey. When I felt blocked, I sat down, reassessed my goals, and appreciated the progress I had made. It’s about staying positive and remembering why you started in the first place.”

Looking ahead, Diego envisions himself excelling in both his riding career and training endeavors. His aspirations include reaching the pinnacle of the sport, creating a successful business, and sharing these achievements with his loved ones.

As the equestrian world evolves, Diego appreciates the positive shift towards prioritizing the welfare of horses. He notes that winning couples now emphasize classical principles, reflecting the belief that less is more. While acknowledging various training methods, Diego sees the equestrian community moving in the right direction, with an increased focus on harmonious partnerships between horse and rider.

“Seeing a shift towards prioritizing the welfare of horses is encouraging. The winning couples now emphasize classical principles, and this is a positive direction for the sport.”

Building a strong connection with his horses is a cornerstone of Diego’s approach. Spending time with each horse, understanding their unique reactions, and respecting their individual characters are key elements of Diego’s training philosophy. He emphasizes the importance of riders learning to communicate effectively with horses of different characters, recognizing that horses teach us as much as we teach them.

“It’s challenging, but building a connection comes with spending time, understanding their reactions, and respecting their individuality. Horses teach us as much as we teach them,” reflects Diego.

Diego Martínez’s journey in the dressage world serves as an inspiration for aspiring riders, blending dedication to sport with a genuine love for the horses. As he continues to make strides in Belgium and beyond, Diego embodies the values of harmony, connection, and continuous improvement that define the essence of dressage.

V. Sozzi | Photo provided by Diego Martinez

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