Marta Loveland hardly thinks twice about returning to the site of perhaps the toughest moment of her life.
Fearless as a jockey for 30 years, Loveland was paralyzed in an accident during a 2003 race at Les Bois Park. But she’s still a fixture at the track, helping her husband, Jerry, who breeds and trains a few horses each season. She’s also the newly-elected president of the Idaho chapter of the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA).
“Horses are my passion, and I care so much for these people,” Loveland said. “The racing community really supported me when I got hurt, and I feel like this way I can still do my part.”
Initially paralyzed from the chest down, Loveland has regained some use of most of her torso, though still is confined to a wheelchair. She buzzes around the backside of the track, visits her’s and Jerry’s stable, and stops to talk with the trainers she now represents.
“I was here the day she was in the accident — and it was a tragedy,” longtime Les Bois trainer/owner Kenny Elison said. “She doesn’t have an enemy in this world, but she was one hell of a competitive rider. People will listen to her. It just tickles us old-timers to see her out here.”
As she transitioned out of a jockey’s life, Loveland began to acclimate herself more with ownership. Her husband initially gave up training as she recovered from the accident, but as she improved, that didn’t last long.
Loveland couldn’t even give up riding horses on their Middleton property.
“It took probably four or five years until I felt like I could do it again,” Loveland said. “We rigged up a rock climber’s harness and we set it into a lift that’s on our truck to get me on. I thought, ‘I can do it, but only on the gentle ones.’ We got a special saddle, and I’ve been able to do it again — slower than I was used to, but still able to.”
A big part of Loveland’s duties as president of the HBPA involve making sure conditions for the horses are up to par. She didn’t fault the track when her accident happened, and in her own way today can continue to make sure it is safe for all those involved in a dangerous industry.
“The advantage for us on our side is that she’s a great horsewoman, she knows people’s concerns, It’ll be a huge advantage,” Les Bois General Manager Duayne Didericksen said.
“I think a lot of us would’ve tried to blame someone or something for what happened, but she never did. Her attitude is wonderful, and that’s why she is still a big part of what we do here.”
Of course, Loveland would prefer the injury never happened. She’d love to stampede to the finish line atop a 1,000-pound animal running at full speed. But if some sort of silver lining has emerged, it’s that she has devoted her life to making a difference with something she loves.
“It was what I wanted to do my whole life. I wanted a horse ever since I was little, so I can’t be mad about what happened,” Loveland said. “It’s great I can be involved like this.”