Wilmington, Ohio – This weeks Wilmington Sunday Spotlight shines on 26-year-old Devin Milan of Ann Arbor, Michigan. The talented young professional spent four years at Michigan State University before turning her focus back to the sport, where she now produces young horses through the jumper ranks, training out of multiple sport-horse operations. Milan brings a unique enthusiasm and dedicated energy to the industry and channels it in her riding and training program. We caught up with the determined young athlete to learn more about her journey.
WEC: How did you get started riding?
When I was big enough to ride at seven years old, I remember my mom calling Julie Agar at the office. Julie was my mom’s first trainer and I remember driving around in the car and my mom called her and asked for a recommendation. We found Huntington Ridge Farm and I end up riding there with Kim Carey for eight years and the rest is history.
I started doing the hunters on a pony in the short stirrup and children’s ponies. I didn’t do the jumpers until I was 21. When I started riding for Garo Kazan was the first time I really did the jumpers. When I was a junior, I did a couple of hunters, and I did the equitation. I went to Maclay Finals and Medal Finals and did all of those kinds of things.
WEC: Tell us about riding while you were in college at Michigan State University.
My freshman year, I wasn’t doing so much riding. I did a little too much partying and lost focus on school and riding. I realized when I was in school that the horses always kept me on track and focused. So it was springtime of my freshman year, a woman who I met from Huntington Ridge and rode with for about eight years had bought a farm. It was only 20 minutes away from Michigan State. Go Green, Go White! She was teaching some lessons and needed a professional rider and I started riding for her and felt like myself again. So, I worked with her until I was 21 and then I got introduced to Garo [Kazan] through Dorothy Campbell. She called me and told me it would be a really great opportunity, so now I ride for him, and I do all the barn work and the office work.
WEC: Tell us about a typical day in your life.
I am currently riding for the Gajoch family at Sugar Run Farm in Columbus, Ohio. I also ride and train with my clients at a few barns up in Michigan. So, I do a lot of driving and listen to a lot of Spotify! When I am not at a show, I drive down to Columbus two or three days a week and then I go back home to ride the other horses in the afternoon and teach some students. When I am here at WEC Ohio, I have been able to school my horses, my client’s horses, and the horses that I have been riding for Garo [Kazan] on Tuesday’s. I will go to Sugar Run in the morning or after I school and then come back here.
At the shows my alarm goes off and it usually gets snoozed a couple of times! I typically do most of the work myself. They all get hay first thing in the morning, and then breakfast and then I get stalls done. I get my young hunters in the ring in the morning and then I flat my jumpers. Last week at Winter Classic #5 my first horse, Conquest aka Hot Dog, went third in the Welcome and my second horse Karlina T went 11th in the same class. Garo was training another rider, so I ran back to the barn and got my other horse tacked up. It just goes how it goes!
WEC: Can you tell us about how WEC Ohio has played a role in your riding career?
I came to WEC Ohio when the Sanctuary warm-up arena was still the main hunter ring! I feel like I am more attached to it now because I started coming before it was such a large, premier equestrian facility. I feel like I am at home and I get super excited to come here. Management cares about the people, the horses and the sport and that is the most important thing.
I am always bringing up young horses, so I feel like coming to Wilmington specifically has been really helpful in the training of some of my horses because I can school and it so good for the young ones to get to see and have good experiences as they progress. Along with the young horses, I have also been able to do horses in the open jumper classes, so it is all around so friendly to the industry.
WEC: What does 2023 look like for your riding career?
We’ll be coming here for the remainder of the winter. We will come here for two weeks in February, March and April. We will be in Michigan in May because they have two weeks that are HJAM [Hunter Jumper Association of Michigan] and it’s their first welcome series. I have been doing that for 15 years now so I’m going to go again, and I’ll be there for two weeks. In June I will probably go up to Traverse City and then hopefully down to Kentucky for the rest of the summer!
WEC: Tell us one short term goal and one long term goal.
I think a short-term goal of mine that I feel like a lot of riders struggle with is how to find better focus before a big class. I want to work on really being able to get into a zone before I go into a bigger jumper class since I am starting to do more of it.
A long-term goal of mine is to be able to compete in the WEC Grand Prix. Ultimately, I want to be a grand prix rider and have clients that support me as much as I can support them! I would like to have my own barn some day as well.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, Devin! We wish you continued success in your incredible career!