Gina Miles – 2008 Olympic Silver Medalist & Head Trainer

Chanel and Gina and Ron

Gina Miles won the Olympic Individual Silver Medal in Equestrian (3-Day Eventing) in 2008 with McKinlaigh, an Irish Sport Horse owned by Thom Schulz and Laura Coats of Creston, California. Other accomplishments include the Pan American Gold and Bronze Medals in 2007, Bronze Medal at the 2003 World Cup Final, 2006 USEA Gold Cup Champion, 2006 USET Fall Champion, 2006, 2007, 2008 USEA Advanced Horse of the Year and the 2008 Chronicle of the Horse Overall and Eventing Horsemen of the Year. 

Gina operates a full-service equestrian business – Gold Medal Equestrian (GME) – which offers training for all ages in 3-Day Eventing, Hunter/Jumper, and Dressage. 

She is a member of the USEF Eventing Technical Committee, past Chairmen of the USEA Professional Horsemen’s Council, a Pony Club national examiner and Level IV USEA certified instructor. 

Gina graduated in 1997 Cum Laude from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a degree in Crop Science and Ag Business and was recently inducted in to the Davis Senior High School Hall of Fame. Gina has two children Austin and Taylor.

Click to Read More About Gina Miles

Winning the Individual Silver Medal in Eventing at the 2008 Olympic Games with her longtime partner, McKinlaigh has been the highlight of Gina Miles career to date.    Gina and McKinlaigh enjoyed a 10 year partnership that started when McKinlaigh was 5 and took them to numerous state and national championships, Rolex Kentucky 5 times, Badminton, Burghley, Gold and Bronze Medals at the Pan American Games, Bronze at the World Cup Final, World Equestrian Games and culminating in the Olympics.  Equestrian Eventing has been a part of the Olympic Games since 1912 and is one of the few sports where woman and men compete as equals.  Gina’s Individual Olympic medal is one of 12 that have been won by U.S. riders in the history of Eventing in the Olympics and the only Eventing medal won by a rider from California.

What is lesser known about Gina, is her expertise in re-training spoiled or difficult horses and her extensive dressage background.  Coming from a family that had no association with horses and limited financial means, Gina’s early riding education developed through riding every sort and style of horse that she could get her hands on.  Picking up cheap prospects from killer yards, off the track and other’s rejects, she never turned down an opportunity to ride.  Through working with this assortment of horses she learned how to maximize each horses potential through clever and varied training methods.  After years of experience with difficult horses, when finally presented the opportunity to ride the uniquely talented McKinlaigh, Gina applied the same work ethic and determination she had learned and the results were remarkable.  

As part of the journey to Silver at the Olympics, Gina made it her quest to study and become the best in all three of Eventing’s disciplines.  This involved traveling to Germany to study intensely with the legendary Hubertus Schmidt and training with specialists in both Dressage and Jumping.  She makes it her mission that the dressage and show jumping elements of her program are on par with those that compete exclusively in those disciplines. 

While Gina still has goals and aspirations of repeating her Olympic performance and has several exciting new horses in her stable, she has an intense love of sharing her passion for riding and training with others.  She has been teaching since the age of 15, and finds helping others to achieve their goals as fulfilling as riding herself.  She has coached several Young Riders to medals at the NAJYRC and excels at matching new horse and rider combinations. She enjoys teaching pony clubbers at the introductory levels and adult amateurs to be safe and confident as much as riders with ambitions to reach the top levels of the sport. 

 

Click to Read About Gina's start in eventing

Gina Miles began riding at the age of 7 in Davis, California at Happy Horse Riding School. Owning her first pony three years later allowed Gina to ride more frequently and begin competing in local schooling shows. A trip to the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles confirmed in Gina’s mind that 3-Day Eventing was the direction that her riding would take. 

At the age of 14, Gina found Sir D’Artagnan (Dar), a seven-year-old Arabian gelding and became a member of Hobby Horse Pony Club. Together with Dar, she achieved her “B” rating, participated in USPC Championships in both Dressage and Show Jumping and Evented at the Training level. Patches, a 10-year-old Appaloosa/Thoroughbred cross was Gina’s next mount and together they again tackled Training level courses throughout California as well as joined the U.C. Davis Equestrian Team. Gina also got her start in teaching during these years, becoming Panache Pony Club’s regular Saturday instructor. 

Following High School Graduation in 1991, Gina became a working student for David Adamo in Petaluma, California and earned her H-A rating in Pony Club. With Southbound, an eight-year-old Appaloosa/ Thoroughbred gelding, she again competed at the USPC Championships, this time in Combined Training. 

In the next two years, with the help of Brian and Lisa Sabo, Gina and Southbound successfully moved up to the Intermediate level, never incurring a Cross-Country penalty. In 1993 they landed a spot on the Area VI Team for the North American Young Riders Championships where they placed 6th individually. Gina also gained experience riding a variety of different mounts, earned her “A” rating, and obtained her B.S. in Crop Science at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. 

In 1997, Gina attended the inaugural Four Star Event at Rolex Kentucky as a spectator and firmly set her sights on reaching the Four Star level. Upon learning of these aspirations, friends and owners of Rainbow Ranch, Thom Schulz and Laura Coats, imported McKinlaigh, a five-year-old Irish Sport Horse. The unlikely partnership of the 17.2 hand gelding and the 5′ 3″ rider began a winning streak that led them to victories at the Area VI Training Championships, the Western DeBroke Championships, the Area VI Intermediate Championships and numerous other competitions on the West Coast. The pair reached the Three Star level in 2001 at the Fair Hill 3-Day Event where they earned the Amanda Warrington Award for the highest placed pair competing in their first Three Star. Success in 2001 earned McKinlaigh a spot on the United States Equestrian Team’s Winter Training List for training with US Coach Captain, Mark Phillips. 

The start of 2002 found Gina packing her two horses, her three-year-old son, and her sister for a trip to the East Coast. The trip provided the opportunity to train with three-time Olympian and Canadian Team Coach, Jim Wofford of Upperville, Virginia. Gina made a good showing against seasoned Olympians in competitions along the East Coast, culminating in an eleventh place finish at the Rolex Kentucky Four Star. The pair was then selected to train for the U.S. Team in England and sent to the World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain as an individual. McKinlaigh, only 8 years old, put in his best Dressage test to date, jumped clean Cross-Country, and was one of only eight horses to put in a clean Show Jumping round. 

McKinlaigh started out 2003 with a bang, winning the World Cup qualifier at Galway Downs and scoring another good finish at Rolex, this time finishing inside the time on Cross-Country. Gina opted to spend the fall season competing in Europe; focusing on intensive Dressage work with Sandy Phillips and Hubertus Schmidt of Germany, and gaining valuable experience in International competition with a 3rd place finish at Gatcombe, 2nd at Varsseveld and an Individual Bronze Medal at the World Cup Final in Pau, France. 

After being named as Short-List Alternates in 2004 for the Olympic Games in Athens, McKinlaigh was sidelined with a necessary surgery to repair a wind condition. During McKinlaigh’s down time, Gina found time to develop a new prospect, Philippa, who followed in her stable mate’s footsteps by winning the Intermediate at Twin Rivers Spring Horse Trials in 2005. Gina and McKinlaigh returned to their winning form in 2006 capturing wins at the CIC*** World Cup Qualifier at Rebecca Farm, Woodside Horse Trials, Twin Rivers Horse Trials, and the United States Equestrian Federation Fall Eventing Championships awarded at the Fair Hill International CCI***. The successful year earned them the title of USEA Gold Cup Champions and the USEA Advanced Horse of the Year. 

In 2007, Gina and McKinlaigh made the trip across the pond to England, competing in the CCI**** event Badminton. Gina placed 15th at Badminton and their success lead them to be selected for the USA Team to compete at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Gina and McKinlaigh finished on their Dressage scored and earned the Team Gold Medal and Individual Bronze Medal. The pair finished out the year winning the Twin Rivers CIC*** and McKinlaigh was once again the USEA Advanced Horse of the Year. 

Gina and McKinlaigh started out 2008 by winning the Galway Downs CIC*** and then traveled to England to train and prepare for the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong. After completing Barbury Castle, they were selected for the 2008 United States Olympic Team. Gina, McKinlaigh, and her family packed up and shipped out to Hong Kong. The long trip was worth it and they earned the Individual Olympic Silver Medal. McKinlaigh performed the test of his life and jumped clean around Cross-Country and Stadium Jumping. McKinaligh once again was named the 2008 USEA Advanced Horse of the Year.

 

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