Came, saw, conquered might be the best way to describe Four-in-Hand driver (and Horse Network publisher!) Misdee Wrigley Miller’s impressive week at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto.
Just how impressive? Well, Miller won five out of the six driving classes she entered at the Royal, beginning with the Four-in-Hand Coaching Class Performance on Wednesday, November 8, and the Green Meadows Four-in-Hand on Thursday. Later that day on November 9, Miller took second in the Four-in-Hand Coaching Class Suitable for Pleasure, but more than made up for it the following day, when she topped both the Green Meadows Four-in-Hand Appointments and the Green Meadows Unicorn Classes. Then, on Saturday, she took home the Green Meadows Four-in-Hand Suitable for Pleasure class, just to close the week out in style.
“It’s certainly a record for me,” Miller joked, noting that her team’s performance at the Royal defied even her own expectations. “These horses are incredible because they’re my combined [driving] horses—they’re competition horses. And, for them, to have the temperament to come in, and allow me to do this type of driving in this setting, they’re just incredible.”
In other words, the buzzy atmosphere, bright lights, and roaring volume inside Coca Cola Coliseum is very different from the broad, countryside expanses and significantly quieter outdoor environments Miller’s team deals with in regular competition.
“I had a bit [of concern about it] the first night, with the noise, and the spotlight, and everything,” she explained. “[My horses] were a little undone—they got really, really strong and they were like, Phew, what’s going on now? But as the week went on, they settled.”
Settled they did, and Miller believes their combined driving talents actually played to their strengths in the Royal’s lineup of Four-in-Hand coaching classes.
“I think they really added something to [the coaching classes], because they’re a top dressage team, so their style is so beautiful, and their head carriage and their motion is lovely. I think it definitely raised the bar a little bit.”
In Saturday’s evening’s final sweep of the competition, Miller invited Horse Network Editor-in-Chief Carley Sparks to ride in her coach. The experience, Sparks reported, was far more relaxing than she anticipated.
“The rhythmical patter of the hooves, the gentle rocking motion of the coach, it lulls you into this odd calm, despite thousands of eyeballs on you in the ring. It was kind of surreal,” said Sparks.
According to Miller, that’s a reputation the sport comes by honestly.
“There are so many [horse-related] expressions in the modern-day vernacular, but one of my favorites is the [idea that] someone is ‘nodding-off,’ which literally came from coaching,” Miller explained. “When you’re going down the road in a coach, and it’s such a relaxing feeling, and you fall asleep—and then fall off the coach!”
And while every moment spent in a coach is a good one for Miller, she acknowledges that consistent results like the Royal don’t happen by accident.
“I think there’s so much trust between myself and my horses, because we’ve been through so many hours of training together,” she said. “I think they do trust me, and I really feel that.”