Showjumper and Hickstead Derby winner Phillip Miller didn’t come from an equestrian background. The 36-year-old only took up riding because it looked like a safer bet than rugby, which was his brother’s sport of choice at the time.
Aged six, he went to his local stables — Di and Pennie Cornish’s Greenacres Equestrian in Hertfordshire — for his first half-hour lesson.
“I was a total wimp,” says Phillip, who didn’t get out of walk for some time and almost gave up riding when he was nine following a fall.
Having persevered, his parents bought him one of Pennie’s former jumping ponies. And Pennie gave the pair lessons, even though Phillip still hated showjumping.
In his teens, Phillip started helping with the Cornish’s horses, and when Steven Smith came to train one day he suggested Phillip might have some talent.
“I was quite useless to begin with and couldn’t spot a stride,” insists Phillip. “Pennie’s novices taught me to ride properly — if I didn’t, I would be on the floor.”
Phillip Miller the producer
It is thanks to Di and Pennie’s continued support that Phillip has made the big time.
Initially, he focused on producing young horses while Pennie competed the more established rides.
He didn’t even want to jump big classes back then. However, when Pennie was pregnant with her first daughter, Phillip had to step up.
“I said I’d have a go and see how I got on. I didn’t want to go ruining anything,” he says.
In 2006, he pulled off county wins on Uniek II, Twister II and Very Versace.
The following year, he won the six-year-old final at Horse of the Year Show with his now Hickstead Derby winner Caritiar Z. He was fifth in the same class on Talan, who went on to contest the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky with Robert Smith.
Phillip also produced Je T’Aime Flamenco, who went on to success with Irish rider Billy Twomey.
So although Phillip has only just touched this level of fame, he has ridden Olympians for some time. Perhaps now, in Caritiar Z, he has one for himself.
Phillip Miller factfile
Rider: Phillip Miller
Date of birth: 29 March 1977 (36)
Nickname: “Mr Cool”
If he didn’t work with horses: He’d like to work in a zoo, or on an African safari.
Bet you didn’t know: He once came third in a young rider championship at Olympia riding a half-bred Welsh cob bought from Southwell market.