Millar time for his old stomping ground

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 6:58 AM ET

When Ian Millar pays a rare visit to Edmonton, it's the show-jumping equivalent of Wayne Gretzky returning to his backyard rink in Brantford, Ont.

The most successful rider in Canadian history took his first tentative leaps right here in Edmonton, about 30 years before anybody ever dreamed of calling it the City of Champions.

"This is actually where I began riding," said Millar, a 58-year-old elder statesman who's still at the top of his game.

"We moved here when I was 10 and lived here till I was 15."

Forty-eight years, eight Olympic Games and a spot in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame later, Millar remembers every detail of those early formative years, right down to his old address.

"I found the house we used to live in on 53 Street and 111 Avenue," he said.

TRIP THROUGH TIME

"It was quite a little trip back through time for me. I remember that I just loved being with horses, whether it was grooming them or taking them to the paddock or riding them - anything to do with horses I loved to do, and that hasn't changed."

Millar is back in his old stomping grounds to help kick off the Edmonton leg of the new Kubota Cup Canadian Show Jumping Series - a seven-stop cross-Canada tour offering $325,000 in total prize money.

The Edmonton leg goes at 3 p.m. tomorrow on the infield at Northlands Park.

"Standalone events are wonderful," said Millar, who thinks the series is the best thing to happen to Canadian show jumping in years.

"But there's nothing like a tour."

SEEN IT, DONE IT

Millar has pretty much seen and done it all since his first trip to an Olympic Games in 1972, but even though he's pushing 60 he doesn't plan on slowing down anytime soon.

"I think it's my parents' good genes," he said, adding he'd like to compete in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.

"They were both hearty individuals and I seem to be a hearty individual. And you have to be lucky. Sure, I've had my share of lumps and bumps, but nothing that was going to stop me."

The first rider ever to win back-to-back World titles (1988 and 1989) Millar is bringing three horses to Edmonton - all of them are good, but none will ever compare to the legendary Big Ben.

"What made Ben so special is his tremendous intelligence. He figured things out way faster than most horses. If he made a mistake once, it was only going to be once. Many horses will make the same mistake many times before they figure it out, which lengthens the training process. He got to the point that there wasn't anything any course designer could build that was going to trick him or fool him in any way, shape or form. And he had the heart of a lion."


Videos

Photos