Riding the Passion

Anne-Sophie Milette

Some people are born into an equestrian lifestyle

Note: This website mainly focuses on Anne-Sophie Milette’s Canadian debuts in the equestrian world.

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Passion

Anne-Sophie was swept into it by a pure, extinguishable passion for those wonderful quadrupeds – a passion the thrill and excitement of which can be shared only those who have experienced it.
When you ask her if she remembers of any particular event or moment that could have triggered this fervour, she replies that she can’t actually pinpoint one: “Ever since I was a child, horses have been part of my life for as long as I can remember either in reality or in my dreams!”

First horse, first mistake?

Anne-Sophie didn’t dream for a very long time, putting her first foot in the stirrup at the ripe age of five.
At eleven, she convinced her entrepreneurial parents − neither of which had ever been near a paddock – to purchase a four-year old chestnut 14,2 hands quarter horse that she called Mousseline.
Despite her enduring friendship with her ginger pony mare, Anne-Sophie casts a critical eye on her earliest equine acquisition.
“Today, I would raise several red flags about such a match – especially for a first horse. Mainly, she was much too young for me and she lacked blood.” And blood was required, for Anne-Sophie quickly set her views on one of the most demanding equestrian sports, both for the riders and their mounts − showjumping.
So with the help of her first coach, she trained Mousseline as a hunter jumper.

Jumping in with both feet

Fast forward: less than two decades later, with multiple local and several national trophies on her mantle – paid for in time, sweat, and tears, not to mention a number of broken bones – she lives, breathes and longs for those magical one hundred seconds that can make or break a destiny.
One might wonder why. You could say it’s about being immersed in the now.
“The adrenaline, the number of decisions you need to make in a split second − there’s nothing like it!”
Being fully in the present requires preparation, however−a lot of it.
“Beyond a certain level, it takes an incredible amount of time and energy to make the most minute improvement. So many sacrifices go into preparing for those moments. It’s amazing, the efforts one can make for that short moment in the ring!”

Jumping in with both feet

Fast forward: less than two decades later, with multiple local and several national trophies on her mantle – paid for in time, sweat, and tears, not to mention a number of broken bones – she lives, breathes and longs for those magical one hundred seconds that can make or break a destiny.
One might wonder why. You could say it’s about being immersed in the now.
“The adrenaline, the number of decisions you need to make in a split second − there’s nothing like it!”
Being fully in the present requires preparation, however−a lot of it.
“Beyond a certain level, it takes an incredible amount of time and energy to make the most minute improvement. So many sacrifices go into preparing for those moments. It’s amazing, the efforts one can make for that short moment in the ring!”

Anne-Sophie’s steeds

As she learned to blend psychology and equestrianism, surrounding herself with professional riders
and trainers, Anne-Sophie mounted several horses who made her therider she is today.

Waldo d’Aubrac, a Hunter superstar: together, they leaped from the Hunter Children Division to the Open Hunter (1,20 m) Division, winning several championships along the way.

Fahrenheit, a spirited 16,3 hand Westphalian from the Millar Brooke Farm, with which she perfected her equitation/medal classes and rode up to the 1,40 m High Amateur Jumper category.

Zorro 182, which swept Anne-Sophie into the major leagues, namely as Canada’s representative at the North American Young Riders’ Championship in Kentucky, in 2011.

Braque de Villa d’Arto and Luigi 241, respectively from Holland and Germany, who both earned many ribbons in Grand Prix classes.

Several more hunter/jumpers that trained, developed and competed under Anne- Sophie’s saddle as she rode for Hugh Graham, Peter Leone, François Mathy, and Miriam Van de Kloet.

A sport of all seasons

Anne-Sophie has worked hard to support what she clearly sees as a way of living, one she can envision for the long run. As she says, “Showjumping is a sport you can practice at almost any age!”
However, you must pay your dues.
“Earning a place in this arena is tough, and it takes considerable means,” she admits.

Passion tempered by reason

Although she never lost sight of her goal to live for, and by, the equine, Anne-Sophie also studied for a “real” job – “You never know what can happen.”
With a programming degree under her belt, she has for example worked for an organisation that developed a software solution for veterinarian clinics, clearly not straying too far from the field. She also taught programming.
“But horses always came first,” she immediately adds.

Only a mother…

Anne-Sophie is quick to express her gratitude and admiration for the one person who made it all possible − her mom.
“She was just fabulous! Actually, my entire family, with my dad and sister, pitched in. When you’re competing, it’s a summer-long affair, one weekend after another, touring and travelling.”
“This can be quite demanding for all those involved. Yet Mom was always there, always ready to help.”
“I think that when she saw what horses meant to me, she decided to go all in to help me reach for my dream, so she supported me whole-heartedly.”
“There was only one condition − that I constantly strive to surpass myself!”

Living Spruce Meadows

And surpass herself she did − all the way to some of the top showjumping competitions.
“Spruce Meadows was the first thing I saw on television, and it was on my bucket list from that moment!”
“When I actually did make it, competing in the very spot where riders the likes of Eric Lamaze and Ian Millar had made their biggest wins, I had to pinch myself: ‘Is this real?’ I thought.”

Living Spruce Meadows

And surpass herself she did − all the way to some of the top showjumping competitions.
“Spruce Meadows was the first thing I saw on television, and it was on my bucket list from that moment!”
“When I actually did make it, competing in the very spot where riders the likes of Eric Lamaze and Ian Millar had made their biggest wins, I had to pinch myself: ‘Is this real?’ I thought.”

Running for the stable

When she found out that a stable near Montreal was up for grabs, she went for it.
It was pure instinct. I saw it as a way to leave my day job and be around horses on a full-time basis, rather than just evenings and weekends.”
Top Notch Stable was born. Anne-Sophie wasn’t necessarily expecting all that came with running a training stable: between managing and promoting the business, performing the administrative tasks, giving courses (lessons) and tending to horses, she threw a lot of time and effort at Top Notch.  Her busy schedule also meant she wasn’t wearing out her breeches as much.
Yet she finds that the overall outcome was very positive.
Even though it took away some of my time as an independent rider, the experience I acquired was worth every minute of it.
She admits that had it not been for her stable in Canada she might have left for Europe earlier. “I don’t regret anything, though: it all contributed to the package I can now offer.”

Live, learn, teach

Top Notch was also a chance to discover another passion, which stemmed from the main one, and that was the possibility to share what she had learned over the years.
I found out that I love to teach,” she says.  “It’s an opportunity to learn and connect with others around something beautiful we have in common, and that is the love we share for horses.”
I’ve had many kinds of students, both children and adults, from pony riders to hunter/jumpers.
The first thing I would do when a new student arrived for their first lesson was to ask them right off the bat to stop whatever they were doing and answer these questions: ‘What do you expect from me?, ‘How do you think I can help you achieve your goals?’ and − first and foremost – ‘What are your goals, exactly?’”
I strongly believe you need to know where you’re headed and what you’re riding for!”
Unsurprisingly, the feedback Anne-Sophie gets from her students tells her that under her highly personalized tutelage their equestrian learning journey takes them light years from the carousel of basic riding lessons.

Working with Anne-Sophie

Anne-Sophie is convinced that the well-rounded experience she has acquired, working hard to achieve the highest goals, immensely benefits those who come to her in search of the ideal horse.
For one, as an accomplished horsewoman, she has a keen eye for the perfect match.
“You’re out to find just the right fit, the best possible combination between the person and the animal,” she says. “It’s more of an art than a science, even if you’ll want to go at it with a method, a strategy.”
The depth and breadth of her experience, despite her young age, is also an important asset: two decades in the saddle and around horses have honed her sixth sense and provided her with a keen understanding of the equine world.
“After participating in high level competitions like Spruce Meadows, the Wellington, and Ocala winter circuits, attending to all the best clinics out there, training with the best, such as Yann Candele and the Millar Family, and working under Olympians Hugh Graham and Peter Leone, I’m privy to the ins and outs of training and equestrian competition in general,” she says.

Working with Anne-Sophie

Anne-Sophie is convinced that the well-rounded experience she has acquired, working hard to achieve the highest goals, immensely benefits those who come to her in search of the ideal horse.
For one, as an accomplished horsewoman, she has a keen eye for the perfect match.
“You’re out to find just the right fit, the best possible combination between the person and the animal,” she says. “It’s more of an art than a science, even if you’ll want to go at it with a method, a strategy.”
The depth and breadth of her experience, despite her young age, is also an important asset: two decades in the saddle and around horses have honed her sixth sense and provided her with a keen understanding of the equine world.
“After participating in high level competitions like Spruce Meadows, the Wellington, and Ocala winter circuits, attending to all the best clinics out there, training with the best, such as Yann Candele and the Millar Family, and working under Olympians Hugh Graham and Peter Leone, I’m privy to the ins and outs of training and equestrian competition in general,” she says.

Anne-Sophie’s ‘best-of-breed’ approach

As she readily acknowledges, being born into a family with an equine tradition is of course a great advantage.
“You have this enormous body of established knowledge to draw from, and to inspire and guide you – I remember being a little envious of some people, sometimes!” she laughs.
“Today, however, I realize that there was an upside to my situation as an ‘outsider’.”
“Starting from zero, I needed to expose myself to a variety of horse cultures, and figure things out for myself in order to learn and to grow.”
“This means that I wasn’t a prisoner of any convention or tradition. Ultimately, it has driven me to develop my own ‘best-of-breed’ approach, guided by instinct, experience and good counseling.” 

Why Europe?

Anne-Sophie finds horse hunting “incredibly more rewarding” in Europe.
“If I’m looking for a prospect, I will literally have hundreds to look at in my own backyard − a range of a few hundred kilometers.”
“For many reasons, the old Continent has maintained a vibrant horse culture − horses here are much more a part of everyday life.”

Why Europe?

Anne-Sophie finds horse hunting “incredibly more rewarding” in Europe.
“If I’m looking for a prospect, I will literally have hundreds to look at in my own backyard − a range of a few hundred kilometers.”
“For many reasons, the old Continent has maintained a vibrant horse culture − horses here are much more a part of everyday life.”