Ian Millar | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Ian Millar

Ian Millar, CM, equestrian, entrepreneur (born 6 January 1947 in Halifax, NS). Ian Millar is the most successful competitor in the history of Canadian show jumping.

Ian Millar, CM, equestrian, entrepreneur (born 6 January 1947 in Halifax, NS). Ian Millar is the most successful competitor in the history of Canadian show jumping. First named to the Canadian Equestrian Team in 1971, he has represented Canada in numerous Nations Cup competitions. He has also been a Canadian Show Jumping champion a record 10 times and he holds the record for the most Olympic Games appearances (10) of any Canadian. He has won nine medals at the Pan American Games, the most of any show jumping athlete.

World Cup and World Championships

Millar was the first Canadian rider to successfully defend the World Cup Final title, winning in 1988 at Gothenburg, Sweden, and again in 1989 at Tampa, US, aboard the legendary Big Ben on both occasions. (He placed second on Big Ben in 1986, also at Gothenburg). Millar has ridden for Canada in numerous world championships since his first appearance with Brother Sam in 1978, and he has been a regular feature at world cup events ever since.

Pan American Games

Millar has experienced significant success in Pan American Games competition, winning nine medals in nine appearances at the Pan Am Games, the most of any show jumping athlete. In 1979, at San Juan (Puerto Rico), Millar won team silver and individual bronze medals; in 1983, at Caracas (Venezuela), Millar won a team silver medal; in 1987, at Indianapolis (US), Millar won both individual and team gold medals riding Big Ben; and in 1991, at Havana (Cuba), he won a team silver medal. In 1999, at Winnipeg, he had an incredible come-from-behind victory riding Ivar to win the individual gold medal in addition to his team bronze medal. In 2007, at Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), he contributed to a team silver medal riding the horse In Style.

Olympic Competition

Since his first Olympic competition in 1971, Millar has become a Canadian Olympic legend. He holds the record for competing in more Olympics than any other Canadian athlete, and he is currently tied with Austrian sailor Hubert Raudaschl for the title internationally. Named to every Olympic team since 1971, Millar competed in all except 1980, solely due to the boycott of the Moscow Olympics. In particular, Millar and Big Ben represented Canada in three consecutive Games from 1984 to 1992.

Though he has enjoyed success on the international scene, an Olympic medal eluded him until 2008, when Canada's equestrian athletes became the surprise winners at the Beijing Olympics: Millar and his team of Eric Lamaze, Mac Cone and Jill Henselwood won silver, Canada's first medal in the sport since 1976. Millar and his team (Lamaze and Henselwood) had less success in the 2012 Olympics in London, finishing in fifth place; in individual competition, Millar finished ninth.

Continued Success

On 14 September 2014, Millar and horse Dixson won the $1.5 million CP International, presented by Rolex, at Spruce Meadows (Calgary). The competition was the feature event of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, one of the most prestigious Grand Prix equestrian events and part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Millar also helped Canada win the 2014 BMO Nations Cup at Spruce Meadows.


Millar is the most decorated rider in Canadian history. In 1986 Millar was awarded the Order of Canada, and in 1989 he was named Ontario's Male Athlete of the Year. In 1990 Millar co-authored a book about his show-jumping career entitled Riding High. In 1996 both Millar and Big Ben were inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, rendering Big Ben the second non-human to be inducted, the other being thoroughbred racing legend Northern Dancer. Overall, Millar had his greatest success partnered with Big Ben, who retired in 1994 after 11 seasons on the international circuit.

In addition to competing, Millar has coached some of Canada's most successful show-jumping riders, including 1986 World Champion Gail Greenough and 1999 Pan American Games team bronze medallist Jill Henselwood. Millar lives at Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, Ontario, a world-class training facility for show-jumping run by Millar and his family. His two children, Jonathon and Amy, have both represented Canada in international team competition, and his late-wife Lynn supported his riding career until her death in 2008.

See also Equestrian Sports.

Further Reading