After Donna Miller lost her beloved Connemara stallion Ardceltic Art in 2013, she took her time to find her next stallion and potential upper level eventing partner.
With strict criteria in place, Miller scoured the internet and finally came across Coud’Poker in 2019.
“Cooper” (Westide Mirah II x Unedamdepik Tartifume) was 7 years old and never backed, living in a field in France. Miller had made a connection to him through Nicholas Hervé, who owned the stallion’s sire.
Miller agreed to buy Cooper off a video but asked that Hervé test him on a phantom mare first.
“He actually exceeded all my expectations,” she said. “It was pretty cool. I’ve pretty much bought everything I have except the ones that I bred from video. It is a lot to trust somebody that you meet on Facebook, but I did the best I could in terms of due diligence. I had Nicholas take him for a month, and I asked him to have [Cooper] taught to the phantom and see what his temperament was afterwards. That’s my criteria; they have to be able to do that and work and figure it all out. All was good. His 9-year-old daughter took him in and out of the pasture every day. I was like, ‘OK, that looks good to me!’ And sure enough, he turned out to be pretty magnificent.”
In just three short years, Cooper started his life under saddle and moved up the levels in eventing, culminating in a strong finish at the Dutta Corp. Tryon International CCI2*-L (Mill Spring, North Carolina) in November 2022.
With several other strong finishes at Preliminary, Cooper and Miller earned the 2022 SmartPak USEA Pony of the Year award.
While Miller, 65, was thrilled to win, the leaderboard wasn’t her goal in 2022; she wanted to improve herself.
“He’s so trainable,” she said of Cooper. “The Connemaras are trainable, but if you think about what he’s done in three years; he’s a great student. The first two years we just kept going, and this last year I said, ‘I need to be a better rider and be better in the dressage and show jumping.’ He’s taught me a lot. I just really worked at it. I knew he could be up in the ribbons more than he was if I was better. I did a lot of show jumping and dressage schooling shows, and sure enough, that paid off, and we were in the money quite a bit after that.”
Miller got her start in eventing after a summer camp where Andrew Popiel was teaching. She’d always loved Connemaras but didn’t get her first one until further into her eventing career.
She was inspired by former USEA President Carol Kozlowski’s Advanced level Connemara Hideaway’s Erin Go Bragh and found Ardceltic Art, who she competed to the CCI3*-L level. She also bred him, some years to more than 20 mares.
“I saw what [Kozlowski] did with [Hideaway’s Erin Go Bragh,] and I just said to myself, ‘You could do something that.’ That became a vision way back in the early 2000s when I went over and found ‘Art,’” she said. “They’re so trainable and so good natured. I saw a gap in the market. Most Connemara stallions were basically backyard stallions. After Erin Go Bragh retired, there really wasn’t anybody out there competing a stallion. I said to myself, ‘You can do that, and it could be lucrative.’”
Cooper worked in the corporate world for 34 years, and she and her husband Roger Brown bought a 6-acre farm in Alpharetta, Georgia, in the 1990s so she could start a small Connemara breeding operation.
She and her daughter, Devon Brown, competed one of Ardceltic Art’s offspring, HC Celtic Mark, to the CCI3*-S level, and she’s hoping to bring him back this year after an injury and get to advanced.
Cooper bred about 30 mares in his first year in the United States, and those foals are coming 2 this year.
“He really stamps his get,” she said. “You could breed a Thoroughbred or warmblood to him, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get.”
Once she closes his book for the season, Miller is hoping to work towards her goal of a CCI3*-L with Cooper this fall, one step at a time. They recently finished their first intermediate at Rocking Horse Winter II (Altoona, Florida).
“He’s just a blast,” she said. “He’s really a fun pony. It’s been a great journey.”
United States Eventing Association (USEA) members at the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention were in for a treat on Friday as the U.S. Eventing Team was on hand to discuss their accomplishments this year at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.
“Test the best without hurting the rest,” said show jumping course designer Chris Barnard as he and fellow designer Marc Donovan led a lively discussion for nearly 50 participants at the Show Jumping Seminar on the first day of the USEA Annual Meeting & Convention.
This afternoon, USEA President Louise “Lou” Leslie welcomed U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) Board of Governors members, USEA staff, and USEA Annual Meeting & Convention attendees to the first of two Board meetings which will take place during this year’s Convention in St. Louis, Missouri, with the teaser that 2024 is going to be full of initiatives for more opportunities to access the eventing experience, some of which attendees might get first wind of during this year’s gathering. The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention takes place Dec. 7-10 at the Marriott St. Louis Grand Hotel.
Welcome to the Show Me state and to Area IV USEA members! The 2023 USEA Annual Meeting & Convention kicks of tomorrow and features four full days of educational seminars, committee meetings, and social gatherings all with one aim—to bring the eventing community together to continue to improve upon and celebrate the sport that we all love. This year’s Convention takes place in St. Louis, Missouri, at the Marriott St. Louis Grand in downtown St. Louis from Dec. 7-10, and we have rounded up everything you need to know to make the most of your time in the heartland.