Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014

Equestrian News

Jumping To It

Millar cleans up on Star Power at Greenhawk

Released by Royal Agriculture Winter Fair

 

Ian Millar on Starpower Friday in Toronto at the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships.

 

he 92nd Royal Horse Show opened tonight at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, and the packed house was treated a full slate of equestrian excitement.

 

From the rocking excitement of Horseware Indoor Eventing and the Shetland Pony Grand National races, to the nail-biting hairpin turns of the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships and the majestic beauty of the heavy horse four-horse hitches, visitors experienced the full range of what makes The Royal Horse Show uniquely special.

Ten-time Olympian Ian Millar of Perth, Ontario, captured the opening round of the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships with Star Power, demonstrating he still has the keen edge (and perhaps the wisdom which only comes with experience) and quick wits to get the job done.

The congested north end of the arena proved the undoing of many a rider, with a left turn out of the in-gate to a skinny fence at jump eight followed by a right turn to an oxer at nine and then past the in-gate again to the combination at ten a/b... As one commentator said, it was likely that many of the riders would like to take fence eight and just "burn it" because it toppled so frequently tonight.

Millar cleared eight and nine fine, but found a path to ten which was obviously not on the original plan, resulting in some 'enthusiastic encouragement' of his mount Star Power.

"Through the windshield it wasn't a pretty sight!" joked Millar following the ribbon ceremony. "What ended up happening was a "point of no return". Once I had the pace I had, and the track I had, it was too late to change my mind. Although what I had was not exactly ideal - it was too late to change it and I was committed and the only move was a decisive forward. Many riders would hesitate for a split second at that moment, and if you do you're cooked. You've got to go. So that's what I did and fortunately Star Power rose to the occasion."

Erynn Ballard, from Tottenham, ON on Appy Cara.

Runner-up Erynn Ballard of Tottenham, ON, found out just days ago she had officially qualified for the prestigious international division next week, rather than having to qualify via the Canadian Championships. 

"I just really don't think it could have gone any better," said Ballard. "Keean (White) said to me before I went in the ring - 'Really, you have nothing to lose.' Since I'm already qualified for next week's international division, at this point the pressure was off. Tonight was a bit like icing. It was relaxed, I got to ride the way I wanted to ride, I got to be competitive, because if I had a silly mistake, it didn't matter. He's the kind of horse that likes the attention of the crowd and the lights and all the energy."

Clean rounds tomorrow will be of the utmost importance however, as the scoring format means Millar will start on a score of zero, and fractions of points mean penalties for rails suddenly have the potential to become very expensive.

Canada's Tik Maynard took the first round of Horseware Indoor Eventing, riding Dutch Times to almost the same line Millar did at the north end of the arena over an entirely different course, edging out second placed Colleen Loach by just tenths of a second.

The combination of hedges, brush jumps and the bank/drop, mixed with maximum height stadium jumps tested accuracy, carefulness and bravery of horse and rider tonight over the course designed by Canadian eventing team coach, Clayton Fredericks

"I felt like I was all over the place tonight," said Maynard. "When I walked the course when they set it up - it was HUGE! I wondered if I should stay with my plan to cut the corner on the turn into the bank, but I knew my horse was pretty quick and careful with his feet, and in the end it rode really nicely. A couple of lines didn't ride as well as I thought they would, but my horse is so awesome that I just let him do his thing. The plan was to be fairly aggressive to the turn into the bank. He's got a big stride and can sometimes be a little slower over the jumps so my plan was to really get the turns as quick as possible."

The second and final rounds of both the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships and Horseware Indoor Eventing wrap up tomorrow night in The Royal Horse Show, where features will include an encore of the Shetland Pony Grand National Racing as well as a preview of Sunday's Ontario Toyota Dealers Royal Rodeo. 

Final Round

Millar walks away with it on Star Power at Greenhawk

he 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 tomorrow, 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. 

$100,000 Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships

Rider / Hometown / Horse / Final Score

1. Ian Millar / Perth, ON / Star Power / 1
2. Jaclyn Duff / Edmonton, AB / PaterNoster / 3.84
3. Elissa Reisman / Guelph, ON / Venadium R / 4.06
4. Jordan MacPherson / Toronto, ON / Aanwinst / 6.89
5. Christian Sorensen / Caledon, ON / Recadis B / 8.64 

$20,000 Horseware Indoor Eventing Championship - Final Results for Champion and Reserve Champion

Rider / Hometown / Horse / Final Score

1. Tik Maynard / Vancouver, BC / Dutch Times / 117.81
2. Holly Jacks-Smither / Orangeville, ON / More Inspiration / 122.30

About the Royal Horse Show and 92nd Royal Agricultural Winter Fair ~ The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is the world's largest combined indoor agricultural and equestrian show.  This year, The 92nd Royal Agricultural Winter Fair runs November 7-16, 2014 in the Direct Energy Centre and Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto. The Royal Horse Show CSI4*-W is just one of a handful of 'four-star' competitions in North America and was voted the number one indoor horse show in North America by the North American Riders Group. To purchase tickets, request media accreditation, view competition schedules, LIVE webcasting, and for complete results please visit www.royalfair.org

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