Want to go to Europe and compete on the show jumping circuit? Want to stay home in the States and work on your horsemanship? Martin McAllister Training, in the Los Angeles area’s Moorpark, caters to hunter/jumper riders on either end of the ambition spectrum, and everything in between.
The training, showing and sales program’s multi-tiered approach is made possible by the unique package of experience and skills that its principals bring to the party. Jenni Martin is a well-known national and international Grand Prix jumper rider, now based much of the year in Brussels, Belgium. Her training partner Steve McAllister is equally well known as a coach and horseman. Jenni’s sister Cecily Martin Perkins was Jenni’s first riding teacher and has since used her dressage-oriented background to help hundreds of junior and amateur students achieve their riding goals. Young professional rider Kris DiCarlo and instructor Katie Spannus round out the team at Martin McAllister.
The idea for creating such a diverse program grew out of Jenni and Steve’s experiences developing Jenni’s international career. The answers they found while surmounting the many stumbling blocks in an American’s international path now save their clients headaches, money and time. “We’ve developed an efficient program for people who want to go to Europe and show,” Steve explains. Jenni maintains an apartment and rents several stalls from a yard in Brussels, where she works regularly with Jos Kumps, the longtime horseman at Nelson and Rodrigo Pessoa’s business. From Brussels, Jenni lines up horses and show invitations for Martin McAllister clients, while also pursuing her own jumping career.
The international emphasis, however, is just one aspect of Martin McAllister Training. Based at the privately owned Victorian Farms, the business is home to an average of 30 horses. About two thirds of these are owned by junior and amateur riders. Most clients have competitive ambitions, but that is not a prerequisite. “We are very dedicated to our training,” Steve says. “We teach old fashioned horsemanship and our students learn how to do everything with their horses. Nobody is above tacking up their own horse around here.”
Cecily’s well-rounded horsemanship and dressage foundation set the tone of lessons for most of Martin McAllister’s junior and amateur riders. She is a firm believer that students should be able to ride a Second Level dressage test before they learn to jump. Using half-passes, shoulder-ins and transitions, she emphasizes riding a horse from back to front, balancing them and ultimately, developing a feel for the horse. Ninety percent of the program’s lessons are taught privately. Lunge line lessons and no-stirrup work are part of what Cecily describes as a “somewhat intense” program, but the end result is riders effective enough to play an active role in their horse’s training.
Students’ goals are important and are regularly reviewed and revised. A benefit of having relatively few students and several trainers is that each client gets a custom fit program.
Jenni Martin spends about half her time in the States, and she brings her expert’s eye to each student’s progress as appropriate. In addition to advising Martin McAllister’s riders, Steve works as a freelance coach, mostly with professionals or high-level amateurs, while at competitions. Cecily and assistants Kris DiCarlo and Katie Spannus are equally comfortable at home and on the circuit. Which trainers attend which shows “depends on who is showing and what their needs are,” Cecily says. Hitting about 25 shows a year, Martin McAllister brings an average of 10 to 15 horses to each, a mix of sale prospects and clients’ mounts.
Maintaining continuity for students that stay home is equally important and that is another benefit of Martin McAllister’s great student/teacher ratio.
Jenni and Steve have been partners since shortly after they met in 1993. Successful on the West Coast in eventing and especially jumping as a junior, Jenni began her professional career in British Columbia, working for Lindy Townley and Caroline Weeks. The jumper she and Cecily brought along, a half-blind Thoroughbred/Trakehner cross named Apple Annie, continued to be her partner in Open Jumpers successes throughout that time. Jenni moved to Connecticut to train at Steve’s sales, training and show barn in 1993.
Steve grew up on his family’s Quarter Horse farm in Connecticut. Throughout his youth, he juggled success in many sports, especially basketball, with considerable progress as a horseman. His formal equine education includes graduating from the University of Pennsylvania’s farrier program. Earlier in his career, Steve had a shoeing practice that served roughly 800 horses. He now mainly shoes horses in their own program and lends his farrier expertise to friends and fellow professionals. Steve began importing and training horses from Europe in the early 80s.
Cecily was raised in Southern California, where she worked her way into every riding opportunity she could. Her main influence as a young rider was dressage master Franz Rohvansky, and her favorite student, then and now, is her sister Jenni. She left the business for a time to start her family, and reunited with Jenni in Martin McAllister Training a few years ago. Cecily’s daughters Kylie and Christeen Perkins are among the stable’s up and coming stars.
Kris DiCarlo rode in the Midwest throughout his junior years and studied equestrian science at William Woods University in Fulton, MI. While debating whether to pursue business or horses, he was offered a riding gig at Horses Unlimited in New Mexico. The chance to ride great horses and train under Cesar Parra hooked him on horses as a profession. He met Jenni and Steve through a mutual acquaintance and joined their team
For much of the last several years, the Martin McAllister endeavor was run under the name of Jenni Martin Enterprises. The team shifted to the new name six months ago, better reflecting the many opportunities available thanks to the entire team’s collective expertise with riders, horses and every level of competitive challenges.
For more information on Martin McAllister Training, visit www.MartinMcAllisterTraining.com or call 919-306-1261.