Life is about choices. For one business school graduate, the choice was simple. She preferred returning to the family business of long days, weeks away from home and working with equine clients over the hustle and bustle of corporate life behind a desk.
“The best part of my job is the pleasure to work with kind, caring animals, get fresh air and exercise every day. No two days are ever the same, even if I am working the same three horses, it still isn’t the same,” said Amy Millar, 2016 Canadian Olympic Show-Jumper and partner at Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, Ontario.
Amy who has been riding since before she walked said she is lucky to have been born into a successful farm and family that excels in the equestrian world. Her father, Ian Millar, is best known for his unprecedented Olympic record, as he has competed in more Olympic Games than any athlete in history, in any sport. Older brother, Jonathan, has also shone in the sport of jumping and is part of the family legacy.
Although born into the sport and the renown Millar Brooke Farm, Amy took a few short breaks from riding. One year in high school, she chose not to travel with her family to Florida in the winter to compete, and also took a break when she attended business school. Most recently, she took breaks from riding while pregnant with her and her husband’s two children. Each time, she took a sabbatical she missed the horses and the sport.
“I did take a couple of breaks along the way to make sure this is what I really wanted to do. It takes a lot of dedication if you are going to be good at this profession. There are other ways to make a living that take less dedication, and I wanted to be sure,” Amy said. “Each time I took a break, I came back hungry, always came back chomping at the bit as they say, so I knew this is what I wanted.”
The highlight of Amy’s career came in 2016 when she represented her native country as a member of the Canadian Olympic team that was 4th place in Rio de Janeiro. “It was surreal, being surrounded by the best in the world,” Amy said. She is already planning to vie for her spot on the 2020 team that will compete in Tokyo with the goal to capture an Olympic medal. She said first Canada will have to qualify its team at the Pan American later this summer.
Other career highpoints include becoming the Canadian Champion at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in 2017.
However, these successes haven’t been without dedication, perseverance and hours of training and diligent work. The stable at Millar Brooke Farm at any time will house 30 plus horses that belong to the family and their students. Amy said she is currently competing on up to five horses; and she rides at least three every day to keep them in shape.
For four months each winter, the Millars winter in Wellington, Fla., to compete. While this might sound like a warm “getaway” from their cold Canadian winters, they compete for 12 weeks straight and it is rigorous. Amy shared their weekly schedule from January through March.
“We show Wednesday through Sunday. Monday is a ‘day off’ although it is usually used to consult with a veterinarian or a farrier or to do paperwork, and Tuesday is a training day. The weather is wonderful and the competition is fierce and exciting, but it does take a lot of dedication to be successful.”
Perhaps the most important key to Amy’s success, or any equestrian’s success, is keeping a barn full of horses healthy. At Millar Brooke, the horses’ health and exercise programs are of upmost importance, as is paying close attention to each individual horse and his or her attitude. Each horse gets exercised three times daily: turned out, on the walker and ridden. They get four smaller meals each day, and they are given Vitalize®Alimend® every day.
“Keeping their gut healthy is important because horses, like people, get cranky, lethargic and show anxiety when they have pain in their stomach. Horses in a natural state are grazers bred to be outside all day, grazing and eating grass; humans have changed a lot about their lives, confining them to a stall and feeding them grain, so we have to compensate. That’s where a product like Alimend comes in,” Amy said.
Vitalize Alimend is a natural product that supports gastric health and GI tissue in horses. It’s unique blend of MHB3® Hyaluronan, H. erinaceous (Lion’s mane) extract, and AO-Biotics® makes it safe for routine and continuous use in all horses. It helps heal and protect without altering stomach pH. AO-Biotics is a precision-based prebiotic designed to boost animal resilience to challenges. It is research-proven to improve gut integrity and immune response.
“You can often tell when you look at a horse and study its behavior how it feels or if it has ulcers. Alimend makes their stomach feel happy, so the horse is going to feel better. Alimend has Hyaluronan in it, and we were already using that on our horses,” Amy said.
She relayed that she had one mare who was a little “hot” or had excess energy and was always unhappy and stressed at competitions. A scope showed her stomach had several little polyps, the cause of her pain and stress. The Millars, who recently became Vitalize Ambassadors, started the mare on Alimend and six weeks later, when the second scope was scheduled, Amy said the mare was a different horse, showing an entirely different level of happiness.
“After that, we put the whole barn on Alimend. Prevention makes a lot more sense than treating ulcers. Our horses are shinier, look healthy, act happy, and have no ulcers. Hyaluronan is super for joints, so they are receiving an extra benefit there,” she said.
According to Amy, most ulcer treatments are prohibitively expensive, and they are not intended for long-term use. For a family and show team that is always traveling and moving horses, there is no good time to take them off of a product. Vitalize Alimend is safe for continuous use and at the same time is a good investment. She said some ulcer treatments can cost up to $600 per month; Alimend is only $138, and it keeps her horses healthy, happy and performing without interruption.
People make choices every day. For show-jumper Amy Millar choosing a life of hard work and dedication has paid off with success. Success isn’t easy, but with a choice like Vitalize Alimend and keeping her horses healthy and happy, she is one step closer to that success each day.