Tracey Winter and her 13-year old Trakehner gelding, Martailo (by Valhalla Farm's Hailo x Anduc x Marduc, out of Moselle x Martini) won top honors at the recent GAIG/USDF Region 3 Dressage Championships when they were awarded the tri-colored neck ribbon for the Grand Prix Championship. This coveted win would be an exceptional victory for any dressage competitor, but for this pair the victory was the culmination of a dream that spanned more than a decade.
Winter acquired Martailo as a weanling from a small local breeder Sam Culbert in Bradenton, Florida, who had been her blacksmith when she lived in that area as a youngster. She has trained the gelding herself over the past 13 years. Before she was even able to ride him, he succumbed to founder and was almost lost as a riding horse. With perseverance, Winter nursed the gelding to health and began training him to ride. In 2000, the pair secured their first USDF Region 3 victory, taking the Reserve Championship in First Level. That began their exciting trek through the levels, using the annual GAIG/USDF Region 3 Championships as a mirror of their climb up the training scale.
In 2001, Winter and Martailo won the USDF Region 3 Championship at Second Level. In 2002, the pair won the USDF Region 3 Championship at Third Level. That same year they finished Res. Grand Champion to Carol Lavell at Fourth Level. Their climb continued and in 2003, they won the USDF Region 3 Championship at Intermediaire-I and the Res. Championship in the Prix St. Georges. In 2005, they won the USDF Region 3 Championship at Intermediaire-II. And then this past October, Winter and Martailo topped their best and won the USDF Region 3 Championship at Grand Prix.
Their ride through the levels is a rare journey and Winter’s story is not only one of victory, but of hard work and dedication. Martailo had another bout of founder just as the pair began Second level work, but Winter never gave up and again beat the odds to bring back Martailo as a champion.
Winter, who trains at her, Tranquillity Dressage in South Florida, said, “The Grand Prix win was so exciting. We would have been happy just to be in the top half of the pack considering the competition.” But the pair was destined to be on the top that day and sporting the GAIG/USDF Grand Prix Championship Cooler and Jacket they strode back to the barn and left a wake of inspiration in their trail.