The capacity crowd in the Ricoh Coliseum was treated to a thrilling display of sport tonight, between the final rounds of the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships and Horseware Indoor Eventing. The energy was palpable and the competition fierce.

Records fell as the previous champions of each division were dethroned tonight.

In Horseware Indoor Eventing, Tik Maynard managed to hold on to the overall title, despite having the last rail down on course, tipping a fragile stadium pole amid a sea of sturdy cross-country jumps. His round was far from equitation, but it was certainly effective.

“After walking the course tonight I really thought it was going to ride a lot smoother than last night, more like a little hunter round!” laughed Maynard ruefully. “But once you get in there, and the crowd is bigger and the lights are dimmed and they’re playing the music but you can’t even hear the music… You just get going, you try to get all the right distances but I just had the reins on the buckle and was really “in the back seat” just trying to steer!”

Maynard explained although it was a tad erratic from a steering perspective, he never doubted whether his horse would jump or not.

“I felt pretty confident I was going to get the turns, but the triple bar caught him by surprise. I saw a distance coming out of the turn and I knew he wouldn’t see it until the last stride. But I knew he would GO on the last stride, as he’s very honest.”

Coming in as the one to beat definitely changed the perspective, as Maynard pointed out and Millar would confirm later in the evening.

“It was very different from last night. I didn’t even know what I was in for last night, I was nervous all day! I didn’t know what the course was going to be like, how many people were going to be there… tonight I was a little more prepared and a little less nervous but then again I was in first place coming in tonight, so there was way more pressure!”

Captain Canada, Ian Millar of Perth, ON, is no stranger to pressure, having been crowned the Canadian Champion now for the eleventh time, and having competed at a record ten Olympic games over the span of his career.

Millar managed to maintain his top place finish through three rounds of jumping between last evening and tonight, accumulating just one time fault in the process. Unlike Maynard, Millar entered the Championship as the odds-on favourite, the clear one-to-beat in the field of 23.

“It’s NEVER easy to do.” Stated Millar emphatically at the conclusion of the evening. “I’ve been second a bunch of times too. But when you’re EXPECTED to win – it puts the pressure on. It’s easier to be coming from behind when nobody has expectations.”

Having competed so extensively and so successfully for so long, Millar has a unique perspective and ‘long vision’ for the class and for The Royal, as it relates to the development of future Canadian Team riders.

“The Greenhawk Canadian Championships are a great opportunity to showcase our national riders and give them a chance to get in the “big part” of our sport. It was a full house here tonight, with good sponsors and serious prize money. The format of the competition with the last ten coming back – there’s definitely pressure there and everybody feels it. And that’s how you learn to ride on a Nations Cup team.” Millar explained.

When asked about his history at the Royal specifically, Millar drew closer and softened his voice, just a little.

“I’ve been competing at the Royal since at least the late sixties… It never gets old. It really is one of the best indoor competitions in the world. It has it’s own character with such a strong agricultural underpinning – and it’s such a family event. I love to see these little kids who come running up who want a picture with me. They’re eight, 10, 12. It’s pretty neat that they would be interested in me. They could focus on any of the younger riders. But that’s the thing about our sport. The horse is the common denominator. For all levels of society, all levels of wealth, all ages, all genders. It’s one melting pot and everybody has that same love and interest in the horse. I believe the horse brings out the best in people.”

After a wonderful opening weekend at the 92nd Royal Horse Show, we couldn’t agree more.

The Royal Horse Show welcomes the Ontario Toyota Dealers Royal Rodeo to the Coliseum on Sunday, before the prestigious international division begins on Remembrance Day, Tuesday, November 11th. Elissa Reisman (Guelph, ON) and the brand new Reserve Canadian Champion, Jaclyn Duff (Edmonton, AB) earned the right to take their place in the second week, following their performances this weekend.