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Canadian Superstars--Big Ben
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Canadian Superstars--Big Ben

Last year, I stood outside a ring with my children, Annie, Charlotte, and Owen.  We stood beside a huge oxer, probably 5 feet tall and at least as wide.  We were at the new horse show facility, Angelstone Farm, just outside of Rockwood ON.  We'd come to watch a childhood hero of mine compete. . .none other than Ian Millar. 

I'm sure many of you remember, between the mid eighties to the early nineties, the famous duo, Ian Millar and Big Ben!  They were unstoppable.  Who didn't love watching that massive chestnut horse tear up the ring as Ian Millar would maneuver hairpin turns into jumps and shave seconds off his jumpoff time?  How could such a big horse turn like that?  He was 17.3 hands! 

Who knows where Ian Millar would be today if it hadn't been for that once in a lifetime partnership.  How many riders get to journey to the Olympics twice on the same horse, win the World Cup twice in a row, win Gold at the Pan Am games twice?  Their journey together was phenomenal.  Of coure that's why Big Ben was voted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.  He and Northern Dancer (a great Canadian racehorse), are the only horses to have been voted in.

Big Ben helped horse folk dream of greatness.  Big Ben was hidden talent discovered at the right time.  Big Ben was passed over for years because he was too big and ugly, until Ian Millar saw him as a seven year old, and was immediately smitten.  It made all of us little horse girls on board so-so mounts, believe that with enough perseverance, the greatness we believed our horses to possess would be noticed. 

As a teenager, I dreamed of riding Grand Prix.  An older woman in our stable who had done some Grand Prix show jumping, told me that jumping the big fences was "like flying."  I wanted to fly too, like her and all the others that soared over those Grand Prix fences. 

Though I was blessed with many a sweet horse, I never personally jumped those kinds of jumps. But you know when I, along with countless others,  watched Big Ben jumping his fences, I felt like I was going along for the ride too.  He was a nation's horse. 

And so the moment I'd been waiting for came.  I drew my little children near to me, and whispered to them as the next competitor entered the ring.  It was Ian Millar on board a stunning gray horse.  Together we watched them soar over the jumps.  It was a different horse that he was riding, but in my mind's eyes, I'm a young girl riding a grand-prix course alongside Ian Millar and Big Ben.  Thanks Big Ben, for the giving the gift of flying to so many!

More about jumping, BigBen

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Leave a Comment

  1. HorseDiva
    Oh, what memories are flooding back! Of course I remember Big Ben! I was very young when he started to compete, so I don't remember the details, but the name is so familiar! Of course I'll vote for you! I'm surprised to find out Ian Miller is still riding. How old is he now? Please don't forget to stop by my article, Win a Pair of VEGAN Fashion Riding Boots from NeuAura!, and vote for me! Thanks!
    Log in to reply.
    1. Terri AP Widdowson
      Dear Horse Diva, I think he must be in his 60's? Yes I entered the contest for the vegan boot contest and put my vote down!
      Log in to reply.
  2. naturegirl
    Yes, I remember Big Ben too. He was great. I enjoyed watching him on-screen and remember my mother's shouts of "Come here everyone, it's Big Ben!" We'd gather around the TV and cheer him on! Voted! If you want to ttravel or move to another country, my article can tell you how to do it if you still want to work in the horse field: Long-Term Travel. Give it a vote if you liked it! Thanks !
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  3. Old School
    Big Ben will always be a larger-than-life (and he was dang large IN life) hero to me. What a horse! I voted! Thanks for the reminder of a past greatness. And Ian Millar gives us older horsefolk someone to look up to still.
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  4. sweedly
    sweedly
    Great post. I voted!
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