Home in the Heart of a Horse

A Vietnam veteran finds solace in his American Quarter Horses.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Vietnam veteran Manny Martinez is proud of his service and his American Quarter Horses. (Credit: photos by Tara Matsler)

In less than a second, a combination of sounds and feelings erupted. A thunderous boom, followed by the crash of metal and then what could be compared to the sound of rain falling, only it was the plink of debris and shrapnel descending to the ground. Pressure pushing its way into chests and ears. Then voices, some calling for others who were moaning, crying for help. But AQHA member Manny Martinez didn’t hear any of that or remember any part of the explosion.

“We ran over a land mine, I guess,” says the Hollister, California, resident. “All I know is that we flipped in the air and I was pinned underneath it. I should have died, but they got me out.”

At 20, Martinez had barely begun his service as a U.S. Marine, stationed just south of the DMZ (demilitarized zone) in Vietnam. Assigned as a truck driver, an MOS 3531, Motor Vehicle Operator, his job was to join others of similar position in convoys going past the out poles to drop supplies to units in the field. Being a truck driver was a dangerous position in a combat zone, as convoys were ripe targets for guerilla attacks and land mines.

“When I woke up, I had blood all over my head and I couldn’t see out of my left eye,” he recalls. “Both of my hands were bruised completely through, black and blue on both sides, and I couldn’t move my legs.”

In the November issue of The American Quarter Horse Journalmeet AQHA member Manny Martinez, who found healing in his horses. The owner-breeder-exhibitor of cutting horses says he thinks often of the men and women who gave their lives for their countries: "They’re not here, they’re not with their families. So take some time out and look at the sky and say, ‘Thank you,’ because they have provided us with a way of life that we enjoy. They put their lives on the line. They gave their lives.”

On this Veterans Day, thank you to the men and women who have served our great country.


Horses kept Manny Martinez going when he was at his lowest points. Now, he shares his passion for horses with his wife, Toni, who owns Otoe Swingin Darlin, a 2010 palomino mare.


In 2017, Manny Martinez's homebred gelding Cats Lil Moon Gees was Level 2 reserve champion in junior cutting with Devin Clinton in the saddle. The chestnut gelding also earned the 2017 AQHA high-point cutting, junior cutting and cutting gelding titles. He now belongs to Ryan Long of Sparks, Nevada.