I recently came across a few of the horse books I had when I was younger. My family recently moved and in that process we uncovered a bunch of old items and junk, which had been tucked away in our basement or garage untouched for many years. This included many horse encyclopedias and picture books, the Walter Farley “Black Stallion” series (as you all might remember from a previous post) and of course a little biography on Big Ben, one of my favorite reads. He was a big chestnut horse owned and ridden by Ian Miller on the show jumper circuit. Originally from Belgium, Big Ben was bought by Ian Miller for only $45,000.00 as a young horse. I think he was a five or six year old at the time, and of course “only 45k” is relative to his worth later on in his career. What I loved most about the big gelding was that he was passed over by many buyers because of his excessive size – he was 17.3hh – and ugliness, and yet he turned out to be one of the greatest jumping horses in history.
The pair was a little bit before my time, retiring after over a decade long career in 1993 or 1994. I was only 5 years old and hadn’t yet grown into my love of horses. Their partnership and success was stuff of legend and it wasn’t long after I caught the horse bug that I was reading everything I could on them and watching all the videos of them competing. I remember it was challenging because of the lack of and access to information. Back then my family had one household computer, and we only got fifteen minutes of internet at a time because it was dial up. It is crazy how times have changed. Now, I can search Google and YouTube for Ian and Ben and be able to watch one of their Olympic rounds at Aachen in 1986 – the video I have posted here. One thing that hasn’t changed is the fact that I still consider Ian Miller one of my personal heroes, and Big Ben will always have a place in my heart. I am happy to say I have had the pleasure of seeing Ian compete in person. I am fortunate to live right next to Spruce Meadows, one of the biggest horse jumping venues in the world, where he is a staple and crowd favorite. Him and Big Ben were the reason I got into jumping in the first place. Makes me curious about other people’s favorite horse and rider pairs. Any dressage, eventing, reining or perhaps barrel racing riders out there with their own horse person heroes?