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!”
As they hiked through the Galway Irish countryside, Shelley Bridges and John Whelpley soon found themselves amid a herd of curious Irish Draught mares grazing calmly around them. Bridges, an endurance rider extraordinaire with a well-known, educated eye for all things horse, noticed one of the mares in particular and said, “What about that one?” and our unlikely story began.
With the holiday spirit in full swing and the New Year just around the corner, it’s time to get ready for the 2024 eventing season. From paperwork to packing, there’s quite a bit to do before you’re ready to get out there and enjoy the season with your horse. Check out these tips from the team at STRIDER, and get your 2024 season kicked off in the most organized way possible.
The U.S. Equestrian Federation is pleased to announce the Eventing Pathway Program Lists for 2024, including the Elite, Pre-Elite, Development, and Emerging Programs. In addition to these Eventing Pathway Program updates, several opportunities will be available in 2024 for both Program and non-Program athletes.
The United States Eventing Associations’ (USEA) Eventing Coaches Program (ECP) is pleased to announce the dates and location of the upcoming 2024 ECP Symposium. The annual ECP Symposium, which is held in the southeast to accommodate the migration of eventers for the winter season, will be hosted at the Florida Horse Park in Ocala, Florida, on Jan. 30 – Feb. 1, 2024. This three-day immersive educational experience is recommended for anyone who is interested in learning more about eventing coaching, including current coaches, riders, parents, owners or avid supporters. Click here to download the registration form today!