Aaron Millar, international event rider
The Dorset-based rider gives his tips on training young event horses and explains how he’s building up a stable of top horses after a tragic road accident in 2015.
You had a serious car crash in 2015, are you fully recovered and what are your main goals?
Yes, I’m lucky… I’m now concentrating on building up the business. I lost quite a few horses to other riders after the accident – you can’t expect owners to wait for you to recover but it’s also taught be to rejig the business and I now have shares in all the horses.
So how are you building the business back up?
I have someone in Ireland who sends horses over. Anything good enough to go to the very top we keep. Anything else we keep, produce and sell. The plan is to have a top string of horses at all levels and to achieve that I’ve set up a syndicate of owners. Sarah Wild, a lady who used to work on Wall Street, helped me create an amazing business plan to offer investors.
And you also offer a scheme, Affordable Eventing, whereby you don’t have to invest large amounts of money?
Yes, it’s aimed at people who love the sport but can’t afford to be an owner. You invest a monthly fee, get the similar benefits as if you were the owner, but instead you have an interest in four horses that run. You get a day a month at the yard watching them trained, free entry to all BE fixtures and a share of the profit if they’re sold.
Tell us about your main horse.
I have a good advanced horse Leonardo VIII (Leo) who I compete at 3 star and who I’ve produced since a four-year-old. He’s 13 (2003) out of a TB mare and Dutch stallion (Maximillian Voltucky). He’s a real character and loves his job. He’s done Blenheim, placed in advanced classes.
Tell us about your other horses.
I could have bought a couple of really good established horses with the money from investors, but then there’s the risk that if one goes lame, there’s only one running, so instead I’ve chosen four or five top five-year-olds.
They’ve got serious potential….William Fox Pitt asked to buy a couple but they’re not for sale unless I get offered a ridiculous price I can’t refuse!
Friendship VDL is a 16.3hh six-year old gelding by Azteca VDL. He’s had some good placings at BE100.
Galoping B is a 16.2hh five-year old gelding by Bustique with a couple of placings at BE100.
Gold Flush is a 16.2hh five year old mare by Andiamo. I went to see a three-year old after my accident and I saw her in the corner. She’d just come over from Holland and had probably been on a farm or something as she clearly hadn’t been handled very much and looked a bit like an RSPCA case. I’m not sure what is was, but I just saw something in her. I bought her and sent her to my parents to be turned out to chill out and get fat, then brought her on slowly. She’s gone out as a five-year-old and been placed every time.
So what do you look for in an event horse?
Around 60 per cent thoroughbred and something that has quality movement, jump and temperament. I’m looking for a couple more – they’re hard to find! At the lower levels the foreign horses look smart but they’re not always careful and get tired at a high level if they jump huge over every fence. They can also get bored if they’ve gone from the stable to the school from a four-year old. The Irish, however, go hunting, they gallop hills, jump ditches, learn where their feet are and how to look after themselves and conserve energy. The cross country phase is so important now as we saw recently in Rio.
What tips would you give others looking to buy an event horse
Temperament is vital – finding a horse loves its job and wants to do it.
Riders who want an advanced horse will of course need something that has a little sharpness and to be able to dig deep. By sharpness I don’t mean something that whips round… I mean alert, switched on and able to deal and learn from its mistakes.
Any Horses for sale now (August 2016)?
I have one that would make an ideal junior young rider. It will easily jump a two-star advanced but for me it behaves too well… it just doesn’t have that spark I’m looking for to go to the very top.
What’s the best horse you’ve produced?
I guess it was Allercombe Ellie whom I produced from a five-year-old up to three-star level. In 2014 she was selected for the World Games and for Rio with Izzy Taylor but unfortunately she never went as she was lame. Knowing I’ve produced a horse to that calibre is really exciting.
What horse will you never forget?
Stormstay (Henry) who took me to my first Badminton – we had a faultless round cross country. He also gave me two clear rounds at Burghley before I retired him.
Any tips for people training a young event horse?
If it’s a young horse then take it hunting. They learn how to conserve energy and really dig deep when they are tired. Fitness is vital for any event horse and they also need core strength so we do a lot of pole work on lunge. We have our show jumps and dressage arenas in a field – young horses move naturally forwards in a field, whereas in the school they’re often not in front of your leg. They tend to enjoy working much more if you go for a short hack first. You can generally tell a horse that goes from the box to the school and back.
Describe a typical working week for your young horses.
On a Monday they might be hacked then go in the school long and low.
We use a lot of raised trot poles on floor to help them strengthen their core and develop their trot, and canter poles to help their jumping.
On Tuesday they’re hacked then worked more ‘up together’ on the flat in the field or in dressage arena.
On Wednesday they’d jump – depending on the horse they might go through a grid in the school or jump in the field. They’ll also go for a canter afterwards.
Thursday is an easier day – they’ll be hacked or be lunged over poles.
Friday depends on whether they’re competing the next day. If they’re going to a show, they might have little pop over a jump or two, or work through a test.
All of our horses get time out religiously every day. My main aim is that I want them to enjoy their job and to be doing four star eventing at 13-14 years old.
What’s your goal?
To be at the stage I was before the accident. I want to get back to Badminton and Burghley but I’m not in a rush. I have some very nice young horses but I want a yard full of horses with a high value of £30k upwards. At the moment we make it work by selling horses at£15k-£20k. We need a couple more investors and horses.
Interview for Horse Scout by Sam Lewis
Follow Aaron Millar and keep up-to-date on his progress and the horses he has up for sale either through his profile page here or on our Horses for Sale pages by using these links. We have also a blog about Aarons’ horses for sale.
Aaron Millar also has a lovely young coloured horse April Shower for sale, to find out more link to his Horses for Sale page on the Horse Scout web site.