About Instructor Tara Martinez

Tara Jumping Cropped

I am originally from central Michigan and the youngest of three daughters born to Larry & Diane Winegar. My passion for riding began early as I watched my oldest sister, Tiffany, ride and compete. I'm told I had no fear of her horse, and when I started walking underneath him, my parents decided a pony of my own would be a good idea. A surprise Christmas pony when I was 7 years old started the riding passion I have to this very day. That special little black pony, named Stormy, is still with me here at Tarawin as I'm teaching other children to ride. He thought he was leaving the snow and cold of Michigan to come to Florida to retire. 4-H competitions with Stormy were fun for both of us.

I began to ride in more serious competitions at the age of 12 when I bought my first horse., a 17 hand Thoroughbred that came off the race track. At this time, the true working career also began, as I was always working in the barns to pay for my lessons, my show entries, my equipment, and the boarding payments.

I fell in love with dressage as a student of Penny Underwood, a premier dressage trainer. Penny was instrumental in helping me take a borrowed Dutch Warmblood through 4th level and schooling Prix St. George. While training under Penny, I joined one of the U.S. Pony Clubs and earned my C-3 rating. I qualified for the U.S. Pony Club Nationals in Lexington, Kentucky my very first year. I was chosen as a "Young Rider" in dressage and that earned me the right to train at the prestigious International Riding Academy in Warendorf, Germany. Trip Harting, Shannon Barnes, and most recently, Jessica Jo ("JJ") Tate, are a few of the dressage trainers I've been fortunate to study and ride with. Pony Club exposed me to other disciplines in riding in addition to dressage. Jumping and eventing were exciting and new.

Striving to improve my riding in competitions led me directly to Susan Moessner, a veteran competitor and top trainer in eventing from Southeast, Michigan. Riding at the preliminary level at age 16 took me to competitions in New York, Ohio, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Florida. I even traveled to Canada to compete. I spent time in Florida during the long Michigan winters and trained with the great eventers: Ralph Hill and Jim Graham. Eventing is a 3-day combination of dressage, cross country, and show jumping. The show jumping aspect was where my heart soon came to land. It was during this time that I had leased several horses to compete in eventing with and trained them as the horses had no experience.

Ivan Rakowsky was available as a show jumping trainer to me as he was in Southeast Michigan at the time. I worked with Ivan while in Florida. This also gave me the opportunity to show my horse while working at the Wellington Equestrian Festival, also known as WEF. While showing and working at WEF, I had the opportunity to meet Debbie Stephens. The following year, I began working and training with Debbie. During my nearly 5 years with Debbie, I had the opportunity to show at many of the top shows in the country. When not on the road with the show jumping circuit, I was working as her primary rider and responsible for training all of the young horses.

In the spring of 2007, I opened my own training facility. Tarawin welcomed its first foal on July 10. My passion is fueled by pure love and complete dedication to horses. Horses have taken me to places and have given me experiences one can only dream of. Each day is exciting and different. When you work with a horse as a team, wonderful things unfold before you.

My goals are to continue to train hard and to teach the knowledge I have in a positive manner to both horse and rider.

I am focused on continued success in breeding, buying, training, and selling horses for myself and my clients. To raise a foal, train it, and compete in high-level show jumping or dressage will remain a dream come true.

Tara Martinez