Ian Millar Scores Emotional Win With Dixson At Palm Beach Masters

Feb 3, 2017 - 1:30 PM

Wellington, Fla.—Feb. 3  

Winning a qualifying class for the grand prix is not that big a deal when you’re Ian Millar.

The man holds the record for most Olympic appearances (10 for team Canada), he’s won the FEI World Cup Finals twice and has a silver medal from the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong. His nick name is Captain Canada, for crying out loud. 

But Friday’s win aboard Dixson in the $35,000 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier was a big deal. You could see it on Millar’s face as he waited to go in the ring to collect the top ribbon, laughing and shaking his head and leaning down to joke with his groom, pressing his cheek to Dixson’s neck.

Millar couldn’t stop smiling for the entire awards presentation, throwing a thumbs up to the crowd, fist pumping Beezie Madden, and reaching down to pat Dixson over and over. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think he just added another Olympic medal to his name.

“At one point, I thought maybe I’d never ride [this] horse again,” Millar said. “That he’d never be able to do this.”  

 
Ian Millar threw a thumbs up to the crowd after his win in the qualifier for the Longines FEI Wellington World Cup qualifier class. Photo by Ann Glavan.

The 14-year-old gelding Dixson spent much of 2015 undergoing surgery and treatment for a rare condition that caused him to develop hematomas in his sinuses, a very painful condition that caused him to bleed from his nostrils when he jumped or exercised. The issue meant Millar had to sit out the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, missing his chance at adding Olympics No. 11 to his resume.

 “It looked like the hematomas could not be operated on at one point,” Millar said. Luckily, surgeons at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., were able to extricate the problem tissue.  


Ian Millar and Dixson flying through the combination on their way to the win. Photo by Ann Glavan

“At Cornell, there’s a procedure named after him called the Dixson procedure,” Millar said. “It was developed specifically for him!”

And it worked—while Millar said it is an ongoing battle to ensure Dixson doesn’t develop additional hematomas, he is certainly back in fine form this season, out-pacing the 111-horse strong start list to take the top call in Friday’s class at the Palm Beach Masters. The class was California split, and a qualifier for Sunday’s big $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping class. Sunday’s class is where riders accumulate points to qualify themselves for the World Cup Final, which will be held later this spring in Omaha, Neb.

 
Beezie Madden and Breitling LS were just shy of Millar’s winning time, but the class of 111 entries was California split, so Madden got her own blue ribbon. Photo by Ann Glavan

“It makes [this win] obviously so much better. It gets quite personal and quite emotional at that point, because at one point I thought maybe I’d never ride the horse again and that he’d never be able to do this,” Millar said. “Then he gets out there and he does it for fun. It’s extremely rewarding. We live for these horses.” 

The class was run with a California split—the results were staggered between divisions, so what would have been second, fourth and sixth, etc., in one section became first, second and third in the second section—and a qualifier for Sunday’s big $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping class. Sunday’s class is where riders accumulate points to qualify themselves for the World Cup Final, which will be held later this spring in Omaha, Ne.

Only 12 horses from the original 111 qualified for the jump-off, and of those 12 only nine came back for the jump-off, but none could outrun Millar and Dixson. 

“He’s fresh and bright [from his year off], so I said, ‘Would you like to go?’ and he said, ‘Absolutely!’”, Millar said. “And I said, ‘I’m with you!’”

“It makes [this win] obviously so much better. He gets out there and he does it for fun. It’s extremely rewarding.”

Clocking the next fastest jump-off time to take the blue ribbon in section B of the class was Beezie Madden and Breitling LS. Madden would like to go to the World Cup Finals in Omaha, but with top horse Cortes C out with an injury she has had a hard time getting the qualifying points.

“I would like to qualify with Breitling LS; I’m going to go Sunday, and then go to the [World Cup qualifier] in Ocala, but I think I probably need a top-three placing in both of them in order to qualify,” Madden said.

 
Laura Kraut has shown a lot of great horses in her life, but she says none jump like Zeremonie. Kraut took home a red ribbon in the California split class. Photo by Ann Glavan

Laura Kraut rode Zeremonie to second in the class, a horse she has spent years developing.   

“She’s amazing, we got her when she was 5, and I don’t think she had never even cantered two fences in a row,” Kraut said with a laugh. “We did everything with her, I jumped her in her first class ever.

“She was very rambunctious, and I was not convinced about her,” Kraut continued with a smile. “Nick [Skelton] was always convinced that she was really, really good. He was always on the ground as she was spinning and bucking!

“But once we were halfway through her 7-year-old year, I started to feel like, this mare is like an airplane,” Kraut continued. “I’ve been so lucky to have such great horses, but I’ve never had a horse that jumps like her; it’s easy for her.”  

The top 45 entries from Friday’s class qualify for Sunday’s $216,000 Longines FEI Wellington World Cup qualifying class. Check back with the Chronicle for more from the Palm Beach Masters! Click here for results, and click here for a schedule of events at the Palm Beach Masters.  

Taylor Land and For Edition also earned a red ribbon in the California split class. Photo by Ann Glavan

Jessica Springsteen and Cynar VA took third in a section of Friday’s class. Photo by Ann Glavan

Katie Dinan rode Dougie Douglas to third place in Section 2 of Friday’s class. Photo by Ann Glavan

Sergio Alvarez Moya rode Arrayan to a fourth place. Photo by Ann Glavan

Emily Moffitt rode Hilfiger Van De Olmenhoeve to fourth place in the second section of the class. Photo by Ann Glavan



 

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