ESNZ Patron, Jennifer Millar receives Sir Eion and Jan, Lady Edgar Lifetime Achievement Award
The annual New Zealand Sport and Recreation Awards were held last night in Hamilton. The awards ceremony brings together leaders from across the sector to recognise the top achievements and to acknowledge leadership and lifetime achievement.
It is great to see one of our own, in ESNZ Patron, Jennifer Millar CNZM honoured with the Sir Eion and Jan, Lady Edgar Lifetime Achievement Award for her contribution to equestrian sport.
In keeping with the spirit of this award, Jennifer has devoted her life to the sport she loves, equestrian.
Jennifer was born in Christchurch, the oldest of six children. As with most young people with an interest in horses, she began her involvement at the local Pony Club – Riccarton Fendalton Pony Club – competing in Showjumping, Dressage, and Hunter Jumping; she was also a keen hunter.
She married her husband Bruce in 1960 before they moved to the Bay of Plenty. Alongside her farming commitments in Te Puke and raising a family, she has dedicated her adult life to equestrian sport and in particular the Olympic discipline of Eventing.
From cross-country course-designer, to technical delegate, to steward, to New Zealand team trainer and team manager, Jennifer has been appointed to innumerable high-level roles across the globe over the past four decades.
Highlights were her appointment to officiate at pinnacle events such as Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky, as well as several Olympic Games, World Equestrian Games and Asian Games.
A moment of immense pride for Jennifer was being the first woman, as well as first Australasian, to be appointed as the Technical Director for Eventing at an Olympic Games, in Sydney 2000.
Jennifer sat for several years on the FEI’s (the International Equestrian Federation) Eventing Committee and was also appointed as the FEI’s Olympic Solidarity Development Officer for Eventing during which time she taught, coached and mentored technical delegates and course designers from developing nations all over the world.
This role took her to many countries where she made life-long friends and she derived particular pleasure from seeing many of these nations improve their competitive standards and go on to qualify for the first time for Olympic Games and world championships.
Alongside her technical roles, Jennifer served on the Board of Equestrian Sports New Zealand for many years, including as President and Chair, during which time she supported all of the sport’s disciplines and was instrumental in the establishment of the new Para-Equestrian discipline.
The National Equestrian Centre near Taupo is a special place for Jennifer. She’s been the course designer for many national championships and has worked tirelessly on the centre’s committee for many years, including playing a key role in the development of the new indoor arena which opened in 2018 and which includes the sport’s national high performance centre of excellence.
She also remains a trustee of the Charisma Trust, named after Sir Mark Todd’s famous horse, which supports the international development of talented riders.
Jennifer was made a life member of ESNZ in 2012 and has been the Patron since 2014.
Jennifer has played a leading role in the international success New Zealand has enjoyed in Eventing over the last four decades, starting with Sir Mark’s gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.
Blyth Tait, himself a gold medallist in 1996, publicly lauded Jennifer’s contribution, saying:
“The international experience and exposure she brought to cross country course design undoubtedly raised the standard of courses in New Zealand to world class levels, which led to the production of many Olympic and World Championships medals for New Zealand riders.”
These words from Catrin Norinder, the FEI’s Director of Eventing, sum up Jennifer’s global contribution:
“Jennifer Millar has been highly instrumental in the development of today’s International eventing sport worldwide. Her enthusiasm and personal skills in sharing her knowledge and motivating Course Designers, Technical Delegates and Officials around the world to engage and become high level officials has been invaluable. All these officials are forever grateful to her mentoring. Jennifer has certainly helped to put New Zealand on the map of the main Eventing nations of today together with a string of amazing athletes.”
In 1998, she was awarded the Companion of the NZ Order of Merit for services to equestrian sport, and in 2001 was recognised by the International Olympic Committee for her contribution to the development of Sport, Olympism and the promotion of friendship and solidarity among peoples.
Jennifer’s was joined at the awards evening by husband Bruce and daughters Wendy and Debbie.