Introduction To Michelle McMillen
I started out as a typical horse-crazy girl – from toddlerhood, if not birth. I got early satisfaction from grocery store mechanical mounts and pony rides in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, while playing with my growing collection of Breyer horses and reading every horse book available in the library (I was a voracious reader). After my 6th grade year, we moved from Southern California to my step-dad’s childhood home on a farm/ranch outside Hereford, Texas. There my step-grandfather (“Papa") took this horse-crazy, know-it-all (from those books, you know!) girl under his experienced wing and turned her into a horse trainer.
Papa had bought around ten young, untrained horses at a sale just before we moved to Texas; my step-brother and I each got to choose a mount from this group for which we repaid him from the money we made from selling feeder calves. I chose a coal-black racing-bred quarter horse filly and Papa proceeded to teach me how to ‘break’ her. The term was harsh; his methods were not. There was lots of handling and ground training, including ground-driving, until putting a leg over her back was a non-event. I was an eager and willing student, so I got to help ‘break’ some of the other horses to add value before Papa sold them.
I’ve been training – and being trained by – horses ever since. I met my future husband in college; he had a horse, too, so we rode together around his Nebraska home. We married after graduation and moved with our horses to Kansas, where I put him through veterinary school (not as a horse trainer, though ;-). Eventually we moved to NW Oregon, where we live now. It wasn’t long with the encouragement of new friends that I started pursuing my longtime fascination with English riding, which quickly veered over to what felt like home – dressage. Different disciplines attract different types of people, and dressage definitely attracted me. I lovedeveloping the partnership it takes to DANCE with a horse, with the lofty goal of making it look effortless and joyful. I love seeing the improvement in a horse's gaits and physique through the discipline’s systematic way of training no matter what breed it is. I enjoy helping others achieve that partnership with their own horses, too, passing on the knowledge I’ve absorbed from some excellent teachers along the way.
Most of my instructors have not been breed-biased, and neither am I. A purpose-bred warmblood with uphill conformation and natural suspension is blast to watch and ride, but developing a special working relationship is possible with nearly any equine. I’ve owned and competed on Paints, a Morgan, several different warmbloods and warmblood crosses, and my current horse, a mustang. In addition, I’ve worked with quarter horses, ponies, an Appaloosa, Thoroughbreds, an Andalusion, a Haflinger, and a mule. With the US Dressage Federation’s All-Breed Awards, you can compete against others riding the same breed you have for recognition and awards. So if dressage suits you, mount your partner, whatever it is, and get out on the dance floor!
Michelle Mohr McMillen