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 Three-Day eventing was the direction that her riding would take. At the age of 14, Gina found Sir D’Artagnan, 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 Champion-ships, 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 Three 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 sucess lead them to be selected for the USA team to compete at the Pan American Games in Rio de Janerio, 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. McKinaligh once again was named the 2008 USEA Advanced Horse of the Year.
Gina and McKinlaigh wave to the crowd