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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Tears of joy as Cheryl proves age is no barrier to doing what you love

ABOVE: A special win for Cheryl Miller and Honky Tonk. Picture: LISA GREEN of MANE MEMORIES

IT’S not polite to ask a lady her age, but when Cheryl Miller won the best presented Appaloosa class at Camperdown show last week, she realised it was an anniversary.

“I was overly emotional for such a fantastic day, my 55th year since showing at my first Camperdown show, this time with my precious Honky Tonk,” she said.

“Dreams still come true at an advanced age.”

An Arabian fan all her life, as a child she was entranced by the local Ennerdale Arabian stud run by the great Jean Luckock. The breed still remains her favorite.

Like most farm kids she was, “plonked on Clydies from about 18 months old before being given a tough little Timor pony that knew every trick in the book.” She rode him to school with her dog at her side.

Cheryl rode track work from age 12 for Camperdown trainer Vic Maloney and Aussie and Margaret Bant, and even rode some of Sir Chester Manifold’s horses.

Determined to race ride, she thinks that the Victorian Racing Club secretary Ken Cox must have got sick of the constant letters of requests to ride in races and finally gave her a start in 1974 alongside Pam Baker and Liz Aalders.

ABOVE: Cheryl Miller (third from right) and her contemporaries paved the way for female jockeys.

“I left school at 15 as it interfered with my trackwork and worked as a lawyer’s clerk,” Cheryl said.

She competed in racing and eventing but loved Arabians best and rode and showed for Joyce Edwards’ Kananook Arabians.

Once married and a mum she became chief strapper to her children showing minis and Arabians, but she continued to ride herself and competed (and won medals) at Masters Games and Arabian championships.

Nowadays, her daughter Kristen shows a coloured derivative Arabesque Storm Storm Bird and granddaughter Isabella, 15, is riding the part-bred Fenwick Celebrity (on loan from famous Fenwick Stud’s Vicki Maclean) in showing and dressage.

When Cheryl’s current love Shanell Honky Tonk appeared on sale this year, he proved too much to resist.

“I know my body is writing cheques my body can’t cash but I couldn’t resist it,” she said.

“He’s a leopard Appy by a pure-bred black Arabian stallion, the best of both worlds.

“He hadn’t done a lot so Kristen and Carly Loughnan and her girls handled him.”

This was mainly because Cheryl is time short as she works with the children at Timboon school in the canteen and with the school equestrian teams.

“The family encourages my plans, although my husband did say ‘aren’t you getting a bit past it?’ I just gave him a look.”

Cheryl wants to win another Western Buckle and to try out the three-phase equitation that is becoming more and more popular.

At Camperdown, Honky Tonk still hadn’t seen an arena and Cheryl said she had hold of a kite until he finally settled.

“I was so excited I could have jumped up and down like a kid when he won best presented Appy … it was 55 years since the first Camperdown show I rode at with the Timor pony, I still have the third ribbon I won at that time.

“Hopefully, it won’t be the last.”

ABOVE: Cheryl Miller on Sambo 55 years ago at Camperdown Show.


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