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Piper speaks with Misdee Wrigley Miller about the world of Combined Driving and one of her very special horses that was chosen to be the 2023 Breyerfest Celebration Horse. Brought to you by Taylor, Harris Insurance Services. Listen in!
GUESTS AND LINKS:
- Host: Piper Klemm of The Plaid Horse Magazine
- Guest: Misdee Wrigley Miller is a fourth generation horsewoman and the first woman to win a gold medal in Combined Driving at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, which was also the the first gold medal in the sport for the US. Misdee owns the 2023 Breyerfest Celebration Horse, Bravour 54, a KWPN gelding who helped her win that gold medal. Misdee is also the Owner & CEO of Wrigley Media Group, where she leads the vision of the Kentucky-based brand that conceives, creates, produces and distributes media content seen around the world.
- Title Sponsor: Taylor, Harris Insurance Services, Taylor, Harris Insurance Services (THIS) was founded in 1987 to provide specialized insurance for all types of equine risk. THIS places their policies with the highest rated and most secure carriers, meticulously selected for reliability and prompt claims settlement. THIS is proud of their worldwide reputation for responsive and courteous service, and welcomes the opportunity to discuss your equine insurance needs and provide you with a quote.
- Photo Credit: Shannon Brinkman
- Subscribe To: The Plaid Horse Magazine
- Sponsors: LAURACEA, Show Strides Book Series, With Purpose: The Balmoral Standard, and American Equestrian School
This transcript was generated automatically. Its accuracy may vary.
Piper Klemm [00:00:29] This is the plaidcast. I’m Piper Klemm, publisher of The Plaid Horse Magazine. And coming up on today’s special mini episode, I talk with Misdee Wrigley Miller about the world of combined driving and one of her very special horses that was chosen to be the 2023 Bryer Fest Celebration Horse.
Piper Klemm [00:02:34] Misdee Wrigley Miller is a fourth generation horsewoman and the first woman to win a gold medal in combined driving at the 2018 World Equestrian Games, which was also the first gold medal in the sport for the US. Misdee owns the 2023 Breyer Fest Celebration Horse Bravour 54, a KWPN gelding who helped her win that gold medal. Misdee is the owner and CEO of Wrigley Media Group, where she leads the vision of the Kentucky based brand that creates, produces and distributes media content seen around the world. Welcome to the plaidcast, Misdee.
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:03:06] Thank you. Thank you. Glad to be here with you.
Piper Klemm [00:03:09] Most recently, I saw you compete at the Devon Horse Show. Can you tell us a little bit about your family history and what kind of horses and how you grew up with horses? I think you’re part of that thing we’re almost missing these days where you’ve done basically everything and have a background in a little bit of everything.
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:03:32] yeah, I’m I’m really blessed that way. And I think I got the horse gene from my family and I’m actually a fourth generation horse person. My great grandfather rode horses and loved horses and actually raised a few standardbred But he, he loved to ride, as did my grandparents Bill and Helen Wrigley. And my mother was an amazing horse woman. And so I just grew up. I of course, I had a pony and just was always around horses. And because we had a cattle ranch, I started out being a cowgirl and had to learn to work cattle. And so I you know, I started out with kind of a different background and people are kind of amazed that I actually used to ride cutting horses and raining horses. But it was, you know, that sort of started my fascination with all the different disciplines that, you know, you can participate in and and how versatile and wonderful our equine partners are. And just about anything that we want to do, they’re willing to do it with you.
Piper Klemm [00:04:56] It’s so interesting to me because there’s a lot of data on like even rushing kids to focus on one one sport to early makes them have a less healthy relationship with that sport. And I’ve often thought about that in the context of our our great sport and said everyone’s in such a rush to get into the ring and to pick up their ribbon that I think having a lot more young people trying and exposed to a lot more disciplines would make better all around horse people.
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:05:27] I couldn’t agree with you more. And I will tell you that my mother never pressured me to go into the show ring. There was never any, ‘you’ve got to do this’. She was more concerned that I just enjoyed the horses and, you know, and we would take long rides on our cattle ranch together. And so there was never that showring pressure. And I think I was eight years old when I said, you know, mom, I kind of like to, you know, go into this, you know, the show ring and try that. And, you know, she said, okay, but, you know, never any pressure. And I think that helped me a lot.
Piper Klemm [00:06:14] Yeah, it’s almost the you know, we talk about a lot kind of about living living through your child a little bit, too. And we get a lot of these parent monitors and you don’t hear nowadays many people who don’t put pressure on their child.
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:06:29] Yeah. No, I’m again, I just feel so fortunate and thinking about it, I was probably very blessed that my my mother, my grandparents and then my mother raised Arabian horses and were very prominent Arabian horse breeders. And of course the Arabian horse is known as the versatile Arabian. And I did everything with those Arabian horses from from cutting horses to jumping. I tried my hand at jumping to riding English. And so that probably looking back on it was very helpful in exposing it like so many different disciplines. It’s like, Wow, what can I do now? No, you know, this is so much fun. I can do so many different things.
Piper Klemm [00:07:24] So given that we are so siloed and I know we have a lot of Hunter Jumper listeners, can you explain to us like what combined driving is as a place to get started?
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:07:36] Yeah, of course. You know, hunter/jumper discipline would be very familiar with eventing. And the sport of combined driving is based on eventing. The wonderful history. I think the sport sort of got started in, I’d say the early sixties, I believe. But when Prince Philip gave up Polo, which he did when he was 50 years old, you know, he was too old but still had, you know, still wanted to enjoy horse sport. And of course, his daughter, Anne, was a very accomplished eventer. And it was thanks to Prince Philip that the role really got codified within the FEI. And it’s based on eventing. We have one day driven dressage and the next day is cross-country. Of course, we don’t navigate jumps, but we navigate seven or eight obstacles, each with six gate. And the final day is the equivalent of the stadium jumping in, which we go back into the arena and drive the cones course, The Timed cones Obstacle Course.
Piper Klemm [00:08:54] Tell us what makes a good combined driving horse. What are you looking for? Because it seems like like an eventing horse, you need the bravery, you need the discipline. Like there are a lot of different aspects you’re looking for on one of these horses.
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:09:09] Yeah, very much so. Especially with the combined driving can be done with any kind of ports, any size. I mean, you can drive ponies, but at the World Equestrian games level, you drive a team with four horses and it is so difficult to find four horses that will work together. And, you know, over the course of those three days, which can get pretty grueling. And so you need horses that are our athletes are extremely intelligent, especially the leaders. The leaders have to be so forward because they’re they’re out there on their own and they’re responding only to the reins in your voice. And you know, especially in. The the cross country. You know, when you gallop towards an obstacle, you have to have total faith that you’re going to find that first gate and navigate those gates through as and as quickly as possible. And those horses have to be just so responsive. And the same thing with the time comes course when the crowns can be set very close together and very difficult and they have to respond immediately to your your voice. They touch on the rein so they know which they’re going to go through. Otherwise you’re eliminated and. That is all based on having a solid, solid dressage foundation. And I really can’t emphasize that enough because if you don’t have the horses grounded lately with those, you know, the requirements of dressage through their supplement, through their response to the rain. To their athletic ability. It’s it it really is. It’s all the same foundation that you need to successfully navigate the obstacles and the course.
Piper Klemm [00:11:34] So what are some of the obstacles that. That that you’re navigating for people who haven’t watched a combined driving event.
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:11:44] Well, there are many, many different types of obstacles, and that’s what makes it very, very interesting. There are some obstacles that are built in water, so you have to drive through water while you’re navigating the gate. Again, you have to navigate gate A through F in the right direction, always with the red letter on your right. Otherwise, you know you acrue penalties if you do it incorrectly and like the eventing riders, you can walk the course, but the horses will never see the course. So some of these obstacles can be quite intimidating. I remember one year, at Aachen there was an obstacle built that looked like a bunch of Pixy Stix and you cut into it and you know, it was hard to keep from getting completely lost in there. And again, it’s the horse just has to be so responsive. And able to get you through those gates as quickly as possible, because every second that you’re inside, that obstacle is a penalty. So we have to navigate them correctly and and some of them are extremely tricky. The course designers. You know, at the top level make it really, really difficult and you can choose. Usually there are a couple of different routes that you can use and the driver just has to be aware of what route this is going to be the best for his or her first team. Some teams turn faster to the left, for example, or some teams during better to the right. So as you work as a driver, as you walk the various obstacles, you keep in mind, you know what you have in terms of horsepower.
Piper Klemm [00:13:54] I’m one of the things when I was watching the World Cup in Omaha this year, they had a lot of demonstrations and falling, had some some demonstrations. And one of the things they said it out was that Vaulting is the most economic type of horse sport, because you need one horse for many people. You’re you’re kind of the opposite of that. Is there a way that we can like, how do we get people interested in driving or people who are listening to this podcast like and are like, That’s so cool. Like, is is there a way that we can help our listeners engage with that community?
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:14:38] Absolutely, yes. There are local driving clubs and there are trainers who will give lessons. As I mentioned earlier, you can start in the sport with a pony or a single horse and you know, and at the lower levels you don’t need as advanced a carriage. And so the entry level really isn’t as intimidating as it might seem at first. And also for for many different ages, a driving can appeal. I mean, you know, there’s some people say, oh, my gosh, I had a career, I used to ride horses, but I don’t feel like, you know, I’m comfortable riding anymore. Well, driving is, you know, another avenue to enjoy your horse and combine driving especially. You have such a connection, such a bond with your or it’s because, as you can imagine, it takes hours and hours of training and that horse has to practically be able to read your mind. So, yeah, you don’t have to start at the top of the sport with four horses or actually five horses are available to you. So yeah, there there are local clubs and the lower levels of driving and. The U.S. has a wonderful developing driver program that, you know, you can you can start out and we have clinics with great coaches. And yeah, it’s not as difficult as it would seem.
Piper Klemm [00:16:35] And then one of your horses was recently selected to become a Breyer, which I think is something all horse people can unify behind. it’s extremely exciting.
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:16:48] It is.
Piper Klemm [00:16:50] And this horse is the celebration horse for this year’s Breyer’s Fest. So can you tell us a little bit about what that means? And then also, my other burning question is when you have four wonderful horses. How do you pick one?
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:17:04] Well, that’s a very good question. And I will start with with that one, because, as I said, it takes a very special horse to be the lead of the team. And Bravour just exemplifies what that type of horse is. Just so he’s one of the smartest horses I’ve ever worked around. And. And it is also very emotional, which I think intelligent horses are. And definitely he has his own opinion about things and lets you know immediately if he doesn’t like something like, you know, a bit or whatever. But, you know, because he is so intelligent and because, you know, he was No. A tad on the difficult side just because you know because you know, he was very pretty is still very particular. I spent even more time working with him and building a very, very strong relationship with him and a real bond. And so we have a very special communication. And when you get to the top competition at the international level, you just need to be able to put your your trust and faith in that one horse that is going to be a true leader of the team. And, you know, the other horses draw off of the confidence of of a true leader. And whether it’s in the dressage ring, when you say on and you expect that immediate extension, you know, that that flashy, you know, let’s get across the arena in full extension and you know to get four horses to do that and on one short command takes a horse at the front that says, okay, guys, let’s let’s go. And you know, the same thing when you’re navigating the obstacles, I mean, you know, galloping towards something that could look very foreboding to these horses. You need one horse. It’s going to take you and, you know, give their horses confidence to say, okay, we are rushing towards this thing. That looks pretty strange to us, but we’re going to trust you and go with you. And in the same in the striving and bravura with just that horse, that he was so brave. He is he is still brave. He’s retired now. But, you know, he had the athletic ability, the grace, the elegance, the suppleness that just that expression that made him stand out, that so many of the judges would say, you know, after a dressage test in the remarks that, you know, he just he has that X-Factor. And so that’s really when the prior group came to me and said we would like to to use one of your horses, there was never any doubt that it was going to be Bravo or because he he does have that that X-Factor. And I think he’s personally and obviously I’m prejudiced, but I think he’s one of the greatest leaders of all time in that sport.
Piper Klemm [00:20:43] Besides all of the all you’ve accomplished with combine driving and and continue to do, you also have an impressive journalism and media career. Can you talk a little bit about balancing those two very separate goals? And what are some stories that have really impacted you over the years?
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:21:07] Oh, gosh, I yeah, I grew up in, as I said, in a horse family. And I also grew up in a media family. My stepfather had television and radio stations, and I was always fascinated by television and television production. And so even though I went to college thinking I was going to. Become a veterinarian. I took a couple of broadcast journalism classes and ended up switching my major and becoming a news producer first and then an on air reporter. And so it’s it was was very interesting balancing that. And and I was able to do so until I was offered a job at CBS in New York. And I had a very good friend who preceded me to New York, who was really my mentor. And she said, Missy, you’re going to make your life in the news industry. This is CBS, you know, at the time was number one in news. She said, this is the best place for your career and you will go a long, long way. But you have to realize that you will be married to the news business and you will have no other life than the news business. It’s a good life. But I know that going in. And so I thought on that long and hard and decided, well, I really couldn’t give up the horses. So I gave up the news business instead. But I’ve always had a love of a television production and the impact that it can have on on the society. And to that end, one of the stories I did that to this day, still the most proud of, there was a very important statute being discussed in Arizona at the time to really strengthen the laws around domestic violence. And at the time, not a lot of people spoke about domestic violence. And so I did a five part special on domestic violence and really bringing it to light and bringing to light the the necessity of strengthening the statutes to protect victims and hopefully to prevent it. And after that story. The statute passed and the courts recognized me as having a lot to do with the passage of that statute and that, you know, knowing that my work impacted the lives of so many people that, you know, that that stays with you. So. Many years later when I moved to Lexington because I wanted to move my horse business to Lexington, I found a beautiful farm and I was asked to work on a documentary and on Josephine Clay, the widow of Henry Clay, who was an amazing woman who, after Henry Clay died, she continued to operate his thoroughbred breeding operation and actually bred some early Kentucky Derby winners. And, you know, in 18, you know, the 1870s, 1880s, women just didn’t do that. They you know, there were no women supposedly in the thoroughbred industry. And she proved them all wrong. And, you know, of course, that story struck a chord with me, but I enjoyed working on that production so much. And I remembered how much I loved producing and, you know, storytelling. So I asked the owner of the company that did the production if I could, you know, become his partner, which he graciously said I could. And eventually we we grew the company into a production company. And I’m happy to say that today we have programs airing on Discovery and, you know, and on national air. And also I’m very proud of the work that we did with. Our sort of partner that I helped start Horse network and the We Ride Together program. And that’s been going strong and getting getting the message out. About protecting our youth in equestrian sport.
Piper Klemm [00:26:14] Misdee Wrigley Miller, thank you so much for joining us on the plaidcast.
Misdee Wrigley Miller [00:26:18] My pleasure. Thank you.
Piper Klemm [00:27:37] To learn more about anything we’ve discussed on today’s show. Visit theplaidhorse.com. You can find show notes at theplaidhorse.com/listen. Follow The Plaid Horse on all the social medias. You can subscribe to the print edition of the Plaid Horse Magazine at theplaidhorse.com/subscribe. Please rate and review the plaidcast anywhere you listen to it and if you enjoy this episode, please share it with your friends. I will see you at the ring!