Lindsay Sears’ Legendary “Martha”

There were none that could do it like "Martha," a gritty mare that terrorized the rodeo world running to both the left and right barrels.
Lindsay Sears and Martha barrel racing at the 2008 NFR.
Lindsay Sears and Martha at the 2008 NFR. Image by Hubbell Rodeo Photos.

There has arguably never been a reign of terror on the cloverleaf to match that of Lindsay Sears and the great barrel racing mare Martha.

Sears, an Alberta native, and Sugar Moon Express were just 25 and 6 when they struck out in 2006 and made their first of seven CFRs and seven straight NFRs, which included two gold buckles and two reserve world championships, plus the honor of 2008 AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year.

Martha, by Dr Nick Bar and out of Babys Blue Jeans, is possibly the only NFR barrel horse to have run down the alley at the Thomas and Mack going both directions. That’s right, she was a great horse to the right, trained by Dena Kirkpatrick. Trouble was, Martha would intermittently duck the second barrel with Sears, like she’d done that May in the short round at Guymon. At the 2006 NFR, Sears ran her to the right. Once. And wasn’t about to let that happen in that arena.

Martha was ambidextrous

“As a rider, I knew I was incapable of pulling on an outside rein,” Sears recalled. “And Martha required somebody to use that outside rein to keep her true to second. I’m just not good at the outside rein. I can’t lift my leg, either! I’m not knocking anyone who can.”

Sears gutted it out on other horses including DJ Nick Bar for the next 9 days, and resolved to come back better. She’d already been working Martha to the left and running her to the right. Finally, at Clovis in ’07, a near-ducking prompted the official switch.

“I thought, ‘I’m crazy to switch her,’” recalled Sears. “’Who switches their horse they made the NFR on?’ I had quite an internal mental struggle. But that second round at Clovis, I was angry. I’d had enough. She smoked a run to the left, and I never ran her to the right again.”

It was a fresh start with a new direction, and they became unbeatable all over the continent.

“One of the unique and extremely special things about her is that she ran so well everywhere,” Sears said. “It didn’t matter if it was Cheyenne, Calgary, Reno, San Antonio or the Thomas and Mack – it just didn’t matter.”

Sears said the mare was so dominant because she truly thrived on the energy at a rodeo.

“There’s just nothing better for atmosphere than the Thomas and Mack,” said Sears, who won five out of 10 rounds in two different years and notched 17 go-round victories over six NFRs. “The world’s best rodeo fans are there. The energy in that building is unmatched – it’s coming from the fans, the contestants and even just Vegas. It’s crazy.”

“It’s kind of like how Dolly Parton is just Dolly Parton,” Sears said. “Martha did it her way.”

Lindsay Sears

The other contributing factor was that Martha always arrived in Vegas completely rested.

“I never ran her at more than 30 rodeos per season in her career,” Sears said. “I always had great backup horses, thank goodness. I would literally go to Omaha the end of September, and then never make another run until the first round of the NFR; not even lope her through the pattern.”

But Martha also had that super-grit that mares sometimes reveal, wherein they clock faster with each successive run in a day or week.

“A lot of horses were tired by the time they got to Vegas,” Sears recalled. “Martha was coming in fresh and always got stronger through the rounds. It was just her aggressive personality – she has killer grit. Still to this day! She’s 24, here in Texas with me, and is the bossiest boss I’ve ever been around in my life.”

Sears lives now in Lipan, Texas, and is excited to be breeding some great mares to her current stallion, SME One Of A Kind, standing at 113 Equine. He’s out of Martha, by First Down Dash, and is 8 this year. The stud had already earned more than six figures on the cloverleaf, himself, before he got hurt badly in 2023 right after the Ruby Buckle.

If his genes produce anything like the smooth, fluid style of his mama, he’ll truly be one of a kind. After all, Sears admitted, Martha’s style was 100 percent unique to her.