The 92nd Royal Horse Show opened tonight at the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, and the packed house was treated a full slate of equestrian excitement. Ten-time Olympian Ian Millar of Perth, Ontario, captured the opening round of the Greenhawk Canadian Show Jumping Championships with Star Power, demonstrating he still has the keen edge (and perhaps the wisdom which only comes with experience) and quick wits to get the job done.
The congested north end of the arena proved the undoing of many a rider, with a left turn out of the in-gate to a skinny fence at jump eight followed by a right turn to an oxer at nine and then past the in-gate again to the combination at ten a/b. As one commentator said, it was likely that many of the riders would like to take fence eight and just "burn it" because it toppled so frequently tonight. Millar cleared eight and nine fine, but found a path to ten which was obviously not on the original plan, resulting in some 'enthusiastic encouragement' of his mount Star Power.
"Through the windshield it wasn't a pretty sight!" joked Millar following the ribbon ceremony. "What ended up happening was a "point of no return". Once I had the pace I had, and the track I had, it was too late to change my mind. Although what I had was not exactly ideal - it was too late to change it and I was committed and the only move was a decisive forward. Many riders would hesitate for a split second at that moment, and if you do you're cooked. You've got to go. So that's what I did and fortunately Star Power rose to the occasion."
Runner-up Erynn Ballard of Tottenham, ON, found out just days ago she had officially qualified for the prestigious international division next week, rather than having to qualify via the Canadian Championships. "I just really don't think it could have gone any better," said Ballard. "Keean (White) said to me before I went in the ring - 'Really, you have nothing to lose.' Since I'm already qualified for next week's international division, at this point the pressure was off. Tonight was a bit like icing. It was relaxed, I got to ride the way I wanted to ride, I got to be competitive, because if I had a silly mistake, it didn't matter. He's the kind of horse that likes the attention of the crowd and the lights and all the energy."
Clean rounds tomorrow will be of the utmost importance however, as the scoring format means Millar will start on a score of zero, and fractions of points mean penalties for rails suddenly have the potential to become very expensive.
1. Ian Millar / Star Power / Perth, ON / 65.18
2. Erynn Ballard / Appy Cara / Tottenham, ON / 65.55
3. Jaclyn Duff / Pater Noster / Edmonton, AB / 68.86
4. Beth Underhill / Viggo / Schomberg, ON / 69.53
5. Keean White / For Freedom Z / Rockwood, ON / 69.66
Source: Press release from the The Royal Horse Show
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