Ian Millar & Dixson Mark an Emotional Comeback at Palm Beach Masters CSI3*-W

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Source: Tori Repole for Noelle Floyd

Ian Miller and Beezie Madden bypassed a field of more than 96 competitors to earn joint 1st place in the $35,000 Longines FEI World Cup Qualifier CSI3*-W on Friday, February 3, 2107 at the Palm Beach Masters in Wellington, Florida.

A total of 22 nations were represented in the day’s competition, the results of which determined the 45 pairs that would qualifiy in the $216,000 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping – Wellington CSI3*-W.

With several riders entered on two horses and a clear desire by the area’s top riders to compete at the Palm Beach Masters, this single class stretched out over five long hours. So it was a feat that course designers Alan Wade and Nigel Jess designed a track that produced just 12 clear rounds. Ben Maher, Jack Towell, and Cian O’Connor chose not to return, leaving a field of nine to return to the jumpoff.

Many riders faulted at the first, or the final fence on course in Round 1, and a Longines double combination near the end of the track produced more than a few refusals. A total of 23 riders were close to a clear round but for one fence down keeping them out of the jumpoff.

With his win, Millar was celebrating a drawn out journey of a different type. Last year, he withdrew from contention for the Rio Olympic Games because his top partner Dixson wasn’t fit to compete. A rare medical condition had kept the 14 year old, Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Olisco) out of the ring for the better part of a year.

“It’s personal and quite emotional because at one point I thought I might never ride the horse again, and then he gets out there and he does it for fun,” Millar said. “It’s extremely rewarding. We live for these horses.”

Millar and Dixson represented Canada at the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and the 2015 Pan American Games, but when the horse developed ongoing hematomas in his sinuses, it looked like a career-ending condition.

“When he jumps, [the hematomas] tend to bleed and cause a lot of discomfort,” Millar explained. “They’ve been surgically removed a couple of times, and at Cornell, ‘The Dixson Procedure’ is named after him because it was developed specifically for him. At one point it looked like it couldn’t be operated on, but a very creative surgeon said ‘I think I know how to do this. It’s been ongoing for about three years but hopefully they got it all this time and that’s the end of it.”

With nearly 100 entries, Madden earned 1st place prize money on her 2nd place jumpoff time via the California split format, which awarded equal prize money to two sections of the class. With the 11-year-old SLS stallion Breitling LS (Quintero x Accord II), her time of 39.80 seconds was over a second slower than Millar’s in 38.26 seconds.

“I did the jump off because I really wanted to work out the turns and the pace between fences,” said Madden. “I went into it thinking that it would help him for Sunday, and I thought he went even better in the final round.”

With just two more chances to qualify for March’s Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Omaha, Nebraska, Madden made no secret of her plans to make a bid for the Final. However, she currently stands 25th in the North American League standings, and was well aware of the task in front of her.

“I’m going to do Sunday [World Cup Jumping Wellington] and then do the one in Ocala [at Live Oak International], but I think I would need to be in the top 3 places in both of them in order to qualify,” she said. “But I’d like to qualify and if I did, I would take Breitling to Omaha.”

Laura Kraut and Zeremonie, her 10 year old Holsteiner mare (Cero II x QuickStar) were the 2nd place finishers in group two with a time of 41.06 seconds. The two most recently had a top 10 finish at the 2016 CSI5* London International Horse Show at Olympia.

“I haven’t jumped her since Olympia, so she’s had about six weeks off,” said Kraut. “I wasn’t trying to win because first and foremost I wanted to qualify for Sunday, as I’m really interested in going to Omaha and I wanted the opportunity to get a few more points. It’s nice to at least have the opportunity to jump on Sunday and I was really pleased.”

The first round of the class served as a testament to just how well executed the course design was, with so many faults occurring at two fences in particular, the final fence and the Longines oxer.

“It would be very interesting to ask Mr. Wade too if he expected so many faults at the first jump. Faults at the last jump were predictable,” said Millar. “A lot of these horses thought they were done after that oxer. When 10% of the class knocks down the first fence, I would say that was an unexpected consequence.”

As for his plans on competing at Omaha, Millar was emphatic: “No, that was never in our plans! Although, maybe I should [try for it] now! It’s been a little while since we got that job done, it would be fun to do it again.”

Taylor Land and For Edition earned a 2nd place finish with a time of 41.37 seconds. In 3rd place, Jessica Springsteen and Cynar VA (Clarimo x Alcatraz) finished with a time of 41.93 seconds in group one, and Katherine Dinan and Dougie Douglas were 4th with a time of 43.10 seconds.

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