When the athletes named to the National Team Program for Jumping were announced for 2022, Amy Millar topped the ‘A’ Squad with the highest percentage of clear or four fault rounds jumped at the 1.55m-1.60m level riding Truman. Her name also appeared on the ‘B’ Squad beside Christiano where rounds in CSI2* competition and classes held at 1.50m or above were taken into consideration.
As a member of the Millar show jumping dynasty, Amy and her older brother, Jonathon, are the children of 10-time Canadian Olympian Ian and the late Lynn Millar. Amy, now 45, has no memory of the first time she sat on a horse, only the photographic evidence to prove it. She does, however, have clear memories of the first time she jumped and, more than four decades later, still loves it today. That passion for the sport saw her follow in her father’s footsteps to the Olympic Games where she and Heros represented Canada at the 2016 edition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
With a successful career currently in full bloom, Amy was preparing to head to Europe to represent Canada in Nations’ Cup competitions in La Baule, France, and Rome, Italy, when we caught up with her during a rare week home at Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, ON. When not based in Wellington, FL, for the winter season, Amy lives on the farm with her husband, Brad, and their two children, Lily and Alex.
What age did you start riding and what was the name of your pony or horse?
I was on a horse’s back before I can remember being on a horse’s back! I’ve seen photos of myself at the age of one or two in front of the saddle with my dad. I loved it right from the beginning. I had a little black pony named Cindy. She was so small that she would go under the paddock fence and roam the farm free like one of the dogs.
The first time I jumped, I remember it clearly because my mom had gone away. I must have been really young because it was a big deal that we were doing something that we weren’t supposed to be doing; I think that’s why the memory has stuck with me so clearly. I was riding in a western saddle. I wanted to jump, and my dad said, ‘Go for it!’ I loved it right from the beginning, too.
My first pony I competed with was Belvoir Star Wart. Maybe not exactly that. I was really little, so I didn’t know how you spelled it! We called her “Star,” and the Gayfords lent her to us. She was one of those wonderful ponies that gets passed around between families. Tommy [Gayford] gave her to my dad at a horse show and he brought her home to me. I would think I was around eight or nine. The horses got home from a show one night, and they got me out of bed. I came running down to the barn in my pajamas! There was the pony stood in the middle of a full trailer – they didn’t have a stall for her – with all of the horses’ heads hanging over her. It was very exciting!
You are currently named to the National Team Program ‘A’ Squad with Truman and to the ‘B’ Squad with Christiano. How long have you been partnered with each horse, and what are your goals with each for this season?
I have been riding Truman since he was seven. He’s 13 now, so we’ve been together for six years. I find that when you ride a horse that long and get to be part of their development that you have a bond, and you find each other’s actions predictable. It’s nice to be able to work with a partner that’s predictable. The big goal for him this year is that I would like to be successful at these shows in Europe that I’m going to and, if all goes well, go to the World Championships and help my teammates qualify Canada for the next Olympics.
I’ve been riding Christiano for two years; he is a horse that my dad was originally riding and training. He was jumping about 1.20m when we got him, and my dad got him up to the 1.45m level and then passed him on to me. He’s a horse that just keeps getting better, and we’re also building a nice relationship. He’s been a second horse to Truman, and I would like him to step up and start to do some of the 1.60m grands prix so that by next winter, I will have two horses that are consistent and confident at the 1.60m level.
What is your favourite competition memory?
This is an easy one. On the first day of the Rio Olympics, in the first individual qualifier, I jumped clean, and I looked up at the scoreboard and it said, ‘Amy Millar, zero faults, first place!’ That was a pretty heavy moment. That whole experience was unbelievable.
I also love doing the team stuff. When we won the Nations’ Cup at Spruce Meadows last September, that was pretty special. We wanted to do that because it was Spruce Meadows and, even though we didn’t know it at the time, it was Eric’s last show. There are a lot of reasons that make that memory a special one.
Favourite horse show venue to compete at?
I’m pretty biased to the Ottawa horse show. It’s the only show that’s close to my house. We spend so much time traveling, and that this venue is close enough for me to come home and sleep in my own bed makes it pretty special. Also, the fact that it has the quality; they are always making improvements, like hosting a five-star for the first time this summer.
Which competition is still on your bucket list?
A bunch of the big shows in Europe that I’ve never been to. Dublin, which won’t happen this year. La Baule, where I am going this year. I’ve seen pictures of people riding on the beach and it looks incredible. I feel like this year, I’m going to see some things that are eye-opening and amazing. I’m going to go to Rome, and maybe next year I’ll keep pushing the envelope and get into those big shows like Geneva; a bunch of those big ones that I haven’t been to yet. I have been to Aachen, which was unbelievable.
(Editor’s Note – Amy competed with Heros at CHIO Aachen, Germany, as a member of Canada’s Nations’ Cup team in 2016.)
On a beach, definitely, with great childcare at an all-inclusive resort. It’s more about the who than the where. There are so many beautiful places, but I need to relax and to do that, I need to be surrounded by the people I care about.
I’m also excited that I’m going to Rome this year. Italy has been on my bucket list for some time.
Cats or dogs?
Both! We have a German Shepherd, Zoe, and a cat, Scramble. You need the dog for travelling and the cat to come home to.
Last show you binge-watched?
The most memorable ones from this winter are Yellowstone and Ted Lasso.
Favourite motto or saying?
“Never give up.”
What three things are always in your fridge?
Eggs because I have chickens, milk for my children, and a bottle of wine for mommy.
If you could ride any horse in the world, past or present, which one would you pick?
You know what horse looked unbelievable to me was Lizziemary, Danielle Goldstein’s horse. Wouldn’t you want to ride that one in its day?
(Editor’s Note – Lizziemary was ridden by Danielle Goldstein Waldman representing Israel at the 2018 World Equestrian Games and the 2017 and 2019 European Championships.)
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
That I have a husband. He used to come to all the horse shows with me and then he got bored of them. Now when people see him, I can tell what they’re thinking – ‘Oh, he is real.’ They think he’s imaginary. His name is Brad and he’s lovely.