Show jumper a class act

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:12 AM ET

A premier show jumper for more than 30 years, Ian Millar is rarely left speechless.

The honour the popular Canadian rider will receive next week, though, is one of those events that has him tongue-tied.

Millar, who has represented this country in every major event since 1972, including eight Summer Olympic Games, will receive an honorary doctorate of laws from the Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph.

"It is very special," he said yesterday between competitions at the Spruce Meadows National. "I don't know what to say about it but I'm very honoured."

Millar has held close ties with the college over the years, especially after the death of his famed mount Big Ben.

"With Big Ben, we worked with the veterinary college on raising money for research on colic -- which was the bane of Big Ben -- and I've been a great believer and great supporter of the college so it doesn't get better," he said.

Millar will miss the first two days of competition during next week's Continental meet.

However, the trip isn't just to be lauded. He'll also be the commencement speaker to the graduating class of veterinarians.

"I'll go on about my life lessons and talk about veterinarians I know and have worked with very closely and respect tremendously," Millar said.

"Proper preparation prevents poor performance, so stick to what you know, stick to your protocols and your basics and you'll be successful.

"When you watch the top veterinarians work, they stick to their protocol -- you can't get them off it -- and that's why they're consistently solid and good."

Speaking of consistently solid, expect more from Millar in the near future, especially with the potential of his 11-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding Promise Me.

The horse already has competed at the highest level for a couple of years, including the Athens Olympics last summer, and Millar is expecting big things from the gelding that's entering his prime.

"Last year, the Athens Olympics, was really a year, maybe even two years, too early for him," Millar said. "They need to know so much, be so educated and experienced.

"Even when their body is past its prime, their knowledge and their mind is still on the uptake, so that's why a horse may be as mature as it will be physically at eight years of age but the biggest winners tend to be 11, 12, 13 or 14 these days.

"That's training and experience."


Videos

Photos