For The Soul—Unique Aspects of the Western World


The Cupcake Gypsy

Scents of sawdust and sweetness blend together in Jade Martin’s kitchen as she finds respite from the horse business in decadent bites of her imaginative desserts.
By Abigail Boatwright

Most days, you’ll find Jade Martin down at the barn at Cinder Lakes Ranch, a premier breeding facility in Valley View, Texas, doing everything from handling contracts to collecting stallions. But before she puts on her assistant manager hat, she’s probably spent a few hours in her kitchen, baking a couple dozen cupcakes to decorate with glittered feathers or cacti for a customer’s party. Some people watch TV to unwind. Others knit. Jade—well, she goes a little gypsy wild.

Building the Horse Business

Jade grew up in the West Texas town of Lamesa, surrounded by rodeo competitors. As an animal science major with an equine emphasis at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, she interned at National Reining Horse Association Hall of Famer Carol Rose’s breeding operation in Gainesville, Texas, and was ultimately offered a full-time position upon graduation. Jade graduated a semester early, in December 2007, and immediately began working at Carol’s ranch during the next breeding season.

“That was my formal introduction to the [reining, cow horse, cutting] associations within the industry,” Jade said. “I am very passionate about reproduction—it’s really my favorite part of the business.”

Diving headfirst into her horse passion, Jade also crisscrossed North Texas to lend a hand at
Whitesboro’s Hartman Equine Reproduction Center and Weatherford’s Oswood Stallion Station. During her travels, Jade met Cinder Lakes Ranch’s Rick Ford, a match as equally entrenched in the reproduction business as she.

“We just hit it off,” Jade said. “To this day, he is still the only person to captivate me.”

The pair spent the early part of their relationship more than an hour apart but performing the same breeding services. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be the love; in 2014, Jade and Rick went all-in on building a business together.

“We just thought if we truly love this and we’re both passionate about it, why couldn’t we do it together?” Jade said. “So I moved up there [Valley View, Texas] and we joined our lives and our passions, and now I am a part of Cinder Lakes.”

Rick built Cinder Lakes from the ground up, and the ranch has, in the past, stood such greats as NRHA Hall of Famer and $9 Million Sire Wimpys Little Step; their current stallion lineup includes the flashy two-time FEI World Equestrian Games gold medalist Spooks Gotta Whiz. The USDA-recognized facility exports embryos, semen and horses, and its stalls are filled with colorful cutting, reining and cowhorse athletes visiting for reproductive services and sale preparation. For fun, Rick and Jade also raise a few thoroughbreds, bringing all the excitement of Kentucky and Keenland to their Texas ranch.

A Sugar Craving

In the fall of 2015, Jade started having mysterious medical problems and within a year, she began suffering from a series of what she thought were allergic reactions.

“I would break out in hives, and I wouldn’t be able to breathe,” Jade said. “We couldn’t get a diagnosis, couldn’t figure out what it was, and Rick did not want me in the barn.”

The mysterious ailment brought up a lot of what ifs—what if it’s a reaction to something horse-related? What if nobody were around the barn to help during an episode? What if it’s never identified?

“Essentially, I was on house arrest until we figured out what was going on and got some answers to further tests,” Jade said. “I don’t do well just sitting around, so I started to bake.”

Central to horse country and, well, not much else, Valley View doesn’t have many shopping options; buying sweet treats and custom desserts requires a 20­-60 minute trek to Denton or Frisco just to reach more upscale chain grocery stores. Spotting an opportunity with potential for sweet rewards, Jade took a crack at creating interesting, custom-baked cupcakes for her community in early 2017, using family, friends and business acquaintances as taste testers and first customers.

“Cupcakes are a lot easier than cakes to me, and you can be as creative or as generic as you want,” Jade said. “And it just kind of took off from there.”

Going Gypsy Wild

Drawing from her West Texas roots and sprinkling in some sparkles, Jade’s cupcake style is a bit unconventional: feathers pop out of towering icing tiers, bright flowers lay delicately atop lavender-infused morsels and live cacti add real, rustic pop to Jade’s delectable treats.

“I really like the ‘gypsy wild, hippie style,’ ” Jade said. “I like big things that are gaudy, statement pieces. The bigger the decorations, the better for me. And I don’t like boring things. So, I started playing around with feathers and different colors, different flavors. And then I came across edible glitter, which is quite possibly the best thing ever.”


This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2018 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.


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