Normally, when a baby is born, grandparents will happily step in and help take care of their new grandchild.
But when Ian Millar is your father and show jumping is your life and you’ve just had a baby, Grandpa takes care of the horses instead and ensures they’re ready for competition when you get back in the saddle.
That was the case with Amy Millar when her son Alex was born last summer as the Canadian show jumping legend exercised one of her top horses, Truman, a 10-year-old gelding whom she rode to fourth place in Sunday’s CNOOC International Cup.
“This is the great thing about (Truman) … I needed a little help with the training and I got pregnant, so I gave him to my dad,” said the 42-year-old native of Perth, Ont., who works alongside her father and brother Jonathon at the family’s Millar Brooke Farm. “(Ian Millar) rode him all last year and got him up to the Grand Prix level. Then I came back and since I’ve come back, it’s been straight uphill since then.
“I have to credit my dad for his help because he did some really beautiful work training in my time off … that’s the beauty of my situation of running a business with my father. My horses had only the best.”
And, Ian Millar, is the best of the best.
Recently, the 72-year-old announced his retirement from the sport after competing for Canada at 10 straight Olympics, including the most recent 2016 Games in Rio which saw the father and daughter compete alongside each other.
He was at Spruce Meadows this week for the first time in a long time as only a coach, imparting his wisdom on Amy and his son (Amy’s brother) Jonathon, and not a competitor.
Retirement, she said, is treating him well.
“He is figuring it out,” Millar said with a grin. “I think he had a good week here this week. He seemed happy. He’s a wonderful help to me and he’s more relaxed, I’d say. It’s intense getting yourself pumped up for the competitions and trying to be the best every day when you wake up. He’s let some of that pressure off himself.
“But as far as our every day life when we’re not at a competition, nothing’s changed … and we love it.”
As for Millar, who is still trying to bounce back from childbirth, the National had its share of ups and downs. She’s done this before, however, nine years ago when she had her first child and daughter Lily.
Spruce Meadows is one of the top equestrian facilities in the world and provides a challenge to many; Millar admitted that the first few days this past week were difficult.
She’ll compete at next week’s Continental, but Sunday’s finale to the National — a fourth-place finish behind American Beezie Madden, Argentina’s Luis Pedro Biraben, and Ireland’s Jonathan Corrigan — was a huge result for her and Truman.
“The thing about what I do is, I love riding horses so much that is actually so hard for me not to be riding,” Millar said. “When I can’t, I (am) just so keen to get back at it. There’s a lot of balancing of many different things in my life right now. Getting fit again and strong again and learning to be fast again, which obviously had to work on because I was fourth and not first.”
Just like her father has done eight times in his career, Millar has aspirations of competing at the Pan American Games this summer at Lima, Peru, which will help Canada earn its spot at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The Spruce Meadows National was the final observation tournament for Mark Laskin, Canada’s chef d’equipe, as he makes his selections before the deadline on June 14.
Millar would compete on her horse Heros, who she took to the Olympics in 2016, but indicated that her chances might be hurt because of a 15th-place result in Saturday’s RBC Grand Prix thanks to a time fault and one jumping fault. That being said, she had a successful winter as she bounced back in the months postpartum.
“I really want to go and I really believe in my horse,” she said. “It’s the same partnership as (the Olympics), but obviously it would have been better if I was zero faults (Saturday). It probably would have made me sit here and speak very confidently. I’m in some suspense … I think the selection committee has some interesting choices to make.”
And, for the first time in many years, the team will not involve her father and Eric Lamaze, who indicated earlier in the week that he would not jeopardize Canada’s chances at a medal due to his health.
“It’s going to be very different,” Millar said. “I think my Dad has been riding on the team for 44 years and Eric for, I don’t know how many. Whenever you ride on the team with those two guys, they’re such wonderful leaders. And they bring everyone together … so, it’ll be up to the new group to create that synergy.
“Luckily, for me, if I’m involved, I’m making my dad come with me.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019