Sidnee Milner and My Valentine did not become partners out of sheer coincidence. The pony and rider combination that took home the 2021 SmartPak USEA Pony of the Year award were a product of the thoughtfulness and generosity of family friend and trainer Tawn Edwards. Sidnee was, at the time, a young and inexperienced child rider looking for a partner to teach her the ropes of eventing; My Valentine was a well-seasoned eventing pony who knew the job of advancing young riders well and was looking for her next partner. Over their three-year relationship, the duo have accumulated various ribbons and accolades together with 2021 being the most impressive of their seasons thus far.
Sidnee, even at her young age, has already had a crash course in what it takes to rise up the event level ranks as her mom, Halliea Milner, is the owner and trainer of Go With It Farm out of Sandy Springs, Georgia. The partnership formed between her and the Welsh pony mix seemed destined with the family’s close relationship to esteemed eventing professional Tawn Edwards.
“I was at the point that I was looking for a pony that could take me through Novice level potentially and My Valentine has plenty of experience with that,” explained Sidnee. In her time with Tawn Edwards, the pony had been the trusted companion of both Tawn’s niece and her own son in safely climbing up the levels.
“It was a personal gift for us to even have the opportunity to have this pony,” Halliea chimed in. “She is very treasured by their whole family and certainly was not for sale at the time, but Tawn called and proposed the idea to us. It was a huge deal for her to even offer the pony to us for Sidnee to gain knowledge on.”
Besides her extensive knowledge of the job, Sidnee says that it is My Valentine’s overall personality and attitude that has made her such an invaluable asset to her career and development.
“I think part of what makes her so special is that, on top of being very athletic, she is also extremely forgiving,” Sidnee detailed. “She is extremely kind and patient with all people - other horses, not so much! When you are riding her though, her attitude is very patient, and she is the type that if you mess up quite a bit she will just continue on and encourage you to try again. That kind of personality has been amazing to learn on.”
The duo have competed in over 30 events together since their official show debut in January of 2020 and raised the bar on their previous personal best of reserve on the leaderboard for Beginner Novice in 2020. The USEA’s new point system adds up points accumulated over the exhibitors' top six events to produce its leaders. Certain events such as long-format events may also count for more points than other regular show formats. With a busy season behind them, the pair proved they had mastered the level and emerged as the 2021 Pony of the Year leaderboard champions.
“I fell in love with her immediately, and have been so fortunate to grow up on her” gushed Sidnee. “She really has taught me everything I know.”
Sidnee has since moved on to another horse to continue her growth but the family has no plans of saying any goodbyes to the special mount. My Valentine is currently doing what she does best and producing yet another young, determined rider up the ranks under the tutelage of mom Halliea at Go With It Farm.
“I’m so excited for this pairing,” Sidnee added. “Her new leasor is one of my best friends and My Valentine has been so special to me- I know they will do a great job together!”
US Equestrian (USEF) announces the appointment of David O’Connor to the newly created position of Chief of Sport beginning October 3, 2022.
Aspen Farms in Yelm, Washington was host to this year’s USEA Area VII Championships on September 16-18 and put on a spectacular show where 10 horse and rider pairs celebrated victory by being awarded the title of Area VII Champion in their respective divisions. Hear about each pair’s weekend below.
A double clear cross-country round propelled Rebecca Braitling and Arnell Sporthorses' 11-year-old British Sport Horse gelding Caravaggio II (Vangelis-S x Courtesan) to their first blue ribbon together in the CCI4*-Short, and Haley Turner and her own 12-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Shadow Inspector (Tinaranas Inspector x Caragh Roller) continued their run of sub-30 dressage tests to win the CCI3*-Short at the 2022 Twin Rivers Fall International in Paso Robles, California.
USEA podcast host Nicole Brown chats with Interim Eventing Chef d’Equipe and Team Manager of the U.S. Eventing Team Bobby Costello about the Silver Medal Performance put forward by the U.S. Team at the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships.