The University of Guelph and OVC honored one of Canada's most accomplished athletes at convocation ceremonies.
Ian Millar, Canada's greatest equestrian, received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from OVC on June 16. The honour recognizes Millar's significant contributions to society, the equine community and Canada's international prominence in equine sports.
A delighted Millar rearranged his schedule so he could come to Guelph.
"I am truly honoured to be awarded an honorary doctorate," Millar says. "I also very much look forward to meeting and addressing the DVM graduating class."
Dr. Carlton Gyles, Interim Dean, says the nomination reflects Millar's and the college's long-standing involvement with the equine industry. Equine Guelph, a centre for equine-related research, performance and education at the U of G, is partnered with industry groups such as the Ontario Equestrian Federation (OEF), whose president, Allan Ehrlick, supported the nomination.
"Ian has been a generous ambassador for the horse industry by using his status and reputation to draw attention to important issues and groups," Ehrlick wrote in his letter of support.
While in Guelph, Miller had the opportunity to visit Equine Guelph and meet with both Dr. Alan Meek, and Gayle Ecker, Equine Guelph’s Co-Chair and Senior Manager respectively. Miller was delighted to learn about the progress of Equine Guelph’s education and research programs.
Among Millar’s many achievements, Gyles highlights his 20-year association with the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association (CanTRA).
Millar has brought international recognition to Canada as a member of every Olympic equestrian team and World Show Jumping Championship team since 1972, and as the mentor and trainer of a new generation of riders and horses. In 2004, he won his ninth Canadian championship and competed at his eighth Olympic Games — a Canadian record.
Millar is best known for his accomplishments riding Big Ben. The pair won back-to-back world titles, two gold medals at the Pan-Am Games and many Grand Prix titles. Big Ben officially retired in 1994. They were inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
After Big Ben died of colic in 1999, Millar partnered with the Equine Research Centre (the forerunner to Equine Guelph) to establish the Big Ben Memorial Fund to advance research and education on colic prevention, nutrition and management.
"Mr. Millar speaks eloquently and publicly about the value of equine sport and the importance of animals in our lives," says Gyles. "His passion for equine health makes him a perfect fit with the University of Guelph and its veterinary roots. The granting of this degree brings honour to Ian Millar and to the university."