What does it take to create a winning taco? Cathy Martin and Cara Martin of Marion might be the only ones on the planet who answer that question with carpet pad scraps, painted fiberfill, and a horse named Bob.
Along with Cara Martin’s younger brothers, Larry and Johnny Zieammermann, the grandmother/granddaughter duo created approximately 20 horse and people costumes in the past five years. The costumes are used for community fundraisers, nursing home visits, and Halloween parties, but mostly for youth horse show events.
“It’s a combined effort,” said Cathy Martin. “The boys, especially, dream up with some extravagant ideas, usually involving ninjas. Then after a while, Cara and I start whittling it down to what can really be done. Finally, usually with our deadline upon us, we get going and put it all together.”
Of course, the whole business of creating costumes began with a horse.
“I’ve always loved horses,” said Cara Martin, 16.
A 4-H club member, Martin started working with a large quarter horse gelding when she was seven.
“I absolutely loved him,” she said. “But he was so big and I was so little then. He was over 16 hands tall and just kind of pushed me around all over.”
Martin said local miniature horse enthusiast Deanna Olson came to her rescue.
“She had me work with her miniature gelding Bob, and I just fell in love with him,” Martin said. “He was so gentle and sweet, and just the right size.”
Martin soon found that all miniature horse shows included costume classes. Her interest was really sparked then.
“Winnie-the-Pooh was the first costume we came up with,” Martin said. “That one is still my favorite because everyone was just in awe, including us, with how we pulled it off.”
With the small horse Bob dressed as Eeyore, Martin, her brothers, and some friends dressed up as the other Winnie-the-Pooh storybook characters, including the titular bear, Christopher Robin, Tigger, and Piglet.
Since then, the sky has been the limit as to what costumes the group has created. Their favorites include Star Wars, complete with Darth Vader, an Army helicopter, a wooly mammoth with cave woman, firedog and volunteer firefighters, Cinderella and coach, and more.
“I have 15 crates of costumes in my garage,” said Cathy Martin. “We never use the same costume at the same show, but we might use the same costumes three or four different times each year.”
Cara Martin currently owns four miniature horses. Bob, the original miniature gelding, is still the mainstay of the bunch, but also in on the action are Tulip, a black and white paint mare who also pulls a cart, Romeo, a tan gelding not quite a year old, and Mickey, a sorrel gelding whom Cara hopes to show in the future.
For the past three years, the Martins and Zieammermanns have qualified for the World American Miniature Horse Association show and trekked to Texas with their horses and costumes.
“We really like going to the shows because we make a lot of friends and meet the same people year after year,” Cara Martin said.
Cathy Martin said those involved with the shows expected them to come up with great costumes, now that they have won several times.
“We almost have to top ourselves each year now and it is getting harder to come up with something original,” she said.
They won third place at the World AMHA show in Texas last year with an Alice in Wonderland combination, which featured the three horses, Tulip, Bob, and Romeo, as the Talking Flower, Cheshire cat, and Caterpillar. Cara Martin dressed like Alice and her brothers were playing cards.
Coming up with something new this year with the potential to top that effort was difficult.
“We’ve done a lot of Disney characters in the past,” Cathy Martin said. “Cara and I were shopping in Wal-Mart and saw this display thing that looked like a taco. Cara just said, ‘That’s it.’ And we set about trying to turn our horse, Bob, into a taco.”
The Martin duo made a taco shell out of two pieces of painted carpet padding cut in half moon shapes. The taco meat was a problem, but fiberfill (used in making quilts) painted brown and dried in the sun looked close enough. Chunks of stuffing covered in fabric made the tomatoes and lettuce.
Cara Martin dressed as a Mexican in a sombrero and authentic blanket escorted Bob, the horse taco, to first place finishes at every show they entered this year.
“It really is a group effort,” said Cathy Martin. “Everybody has to work together, and the kids have a lot of fun with it. That’s why we do it.”
The Martins are often assisted by Melissa Zieammerman—Cara, Larry, and Johnny’s mother—and friends Susan Waddell, her sons, Hap and Anderson, all of Marion.
The horses and costumes are part of the group’s “Trail of Terror” and “Family Fun Trail” fundraiser, Oct. 28, on Cedar Street in Marion, with all money raised donated to the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization.