Wilmington, Ohio – This week’s Wilmington Sunday Spotlight shines on Ashley Miles of Chicago, Illinois. The young, skilled amateur rider never fails to impress the crowd at World Equestrian Center – Wilmington with her two quality horses, Conreu and Chaning Tatum. As the youngest rider in the $75,000 Grand Prix at both Fall Classic 3 and 4, we caught up with Miles after her impressive rounds to learn more about her unique riding journey.
WEC: Tell us about how you got started riding.
How I got started into riding is actually very different than most! I was a very competitive gymnast as a kid, and I’m not really built to ride horses. After some years with a few state titles, I ended up quitting gymnastics and everyone was a bit devastated. I played every sport in the book, and one day I was around 10 years old and decided to take a horseback riding lesson at a barn 10 minutes from my house. I was hooked, it was difficult, different, and having a partnership with another being was different than any sport I had done, most importantly I could not perfect it as I could with gymnastics. Going into it I had no idea it was a real sport or the whole world involved with it… and here we are now!
I currently ride with Taylor Granat, I moved to her when I was 12. I was just moving up to the children’s jumpers. The first rated show she took me to was a week after I moved to her with my one lovely geldings! I was so excited, my first real show outside of my home state, Illinois, was actually WEC – Ohio! I had begged my parents to let me go because at the time, they also had no clue about horses. I arrived and was fascinated, we ended up sweeping the children’s jumpers and were champion. As a kid this was the most exciting thing to me to be at a show like this and even have a result!
When I was 15, I switched to online school to put my full focus into riding. I had always grown up with only one horse, however Taylor presented me with many opportunities to make me a better rider. Any chance I got to ride another horse, do another chore, or learn something new, I was ecstatic. I would arrive to the barn early every morning and ride about 4-7 horses. Taylor’s husband, Nick Granat, being a professional course designer, we would arrive to the barn early to help set, measure, and understand the courses he was building and the correlation it had to prepare for showing or just training at home. This gave me a great feel to ride a variety of different types of horses and helped me understand how to improve horses with areas they lacked. I loved feeling the progress with my own riding and any horse she gave me the chance to work with. I was thrilled to be able to ride this many horses a day even if it was just at home or training at the shows, as I only ever had one horse of my own to show.
WEC: Tell us about your current horses, Conreu and Chaning Tatum.
We went to Wellington to search for a young prospect. Going to buy a young prospect definitely had a different outcome than we had planned. We had bought Conreu as a 12 turning 13-year-old as the “older experienced horse” to get me back in the swing of jumping the high amateurs with not much expectation for more. Oh boy, were we wrong!
Conreu has quite an interesting story. He has almost no record in Europe, according to videos I’ve seen I don’t deem him as the impressive young horse anyone batted an eye at. I had got in contact with the guy who had found him in Europe and he had told me he found him at a local show in Germany, seeing his impressive bloodlines including Chacco Blue x Cassini he knew he found something special. He truly is a diamond in the rough. He is a very sensitive horse, as relaxed as he seems I’d say he’s quite the opposite, it has taken me quite a minute to learn a horse like this. I knew I had gotten this super scopey horse that will jump the moon for me, but I didn’t want to keep making green mistakes on him.
Before I went to college I found my newest partner “Chaning Tatum” aka Mike in the barn. He has influenced my riding a ton. We bought Mike as more of a horse that has jumped bigger classes to take the pressure off of Conreu. Mike isn’t necessarily everyone’s type of ride, which I absolutely love. He’s uphill, very hot, a bit quirky, and at times challenging in the ring, which is exactly what I was drawn to. We picked up second place in the $7,500 1.45m High Jr/Ao Classic in Traverse City, which was a great start to our partnership!
I then I started my second year of college and decided to do online at Purdue. I was in a position I’ve never been in before. I had amazing horses and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity and put my full effort into improving my riding knowing I may not have the opportunity to have horses like this again. All of my horses have improved my riding in different ways, they are all very different from each other. Having to mentally switch my riding on horses in the show ring is also something newer to me. Most importantly I have now become very comfortable with Conreu at the national grand prix level, recently picking up third place in a national grand prix at HITS Chicago. We have developed quite a good relationship with some respectable rounds and our results starting to show.
WEC: What are your goals for 2024?
My goals for this upcoming 2024 season are to step into the U25 series at Wellington with Conreu and Mike. I’d also love to attend NAYC. I never had the chance to during my junior years. Depending on where things are after that I’d like to start getting more experience at the international level. My future goals are to step into the CSI2* and CSI3* with more time and development.
WEC: Tell us about your experience as the youngest rider in the $75,000 Grand Prix.
Being the youngest in the $75,000 Grand Prix here or anywhere never really intimidates me, I use it as a learning curve, watching and being apart of something with riders this experienced is inspiring to me. I went clear on Conreu in the grand prix last week, it was a 14 horse jump-off. Knowing Conreu and I had only recently started going quick in jump offs at this level, I took a shot at it. I went quite fast in the welcome and ended up double-clear and sixth, so I knew I was going to have to be quick with 14 other riders. I thought it was great practice, I don’t think many would say three down in the jump-off is great but I was very pleased! It was great practice for us and I thought I went quite fast! I was very happy with Mike, our partnership has developed a lot in the past two weeks. He jumped amazing in the Grand Prix this week with just one down, which is huge for us.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to have these horses right now. I will continue working hard to show my dedication to my horses, this sport, and the team of people that have continued to support my riding. I am excited to see where things go from here.