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Miller Quarter Horses Comes Home to Host PQHA All Around Clinic

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Keith Miller and Diana Ginitz – Photos by Elizabeth Arnold

By Elizabeth Arnold

Keith Miller and Kennedy Harper

On Saturday, May 18, the Pennsylvania Quarter Horse Association hosted AQHA Professional Horseman and Judge Keith Miller for an educational clinic focusing on hunter under saddle, equitation, and showmanship. Miller originally hails from Pennsylvania. From humble roots he has become one of the industry’s top hunter under saddle riders and has coached non-pro exhibitors to much success, including multiple world and congress championships and year-end titles.

Riders for the day included Diana Ginitz, Kennedy Harper, Addie Anstine, Kylie Miller, and Julia DiNapoli. Miller began the day by sharing his background in the horse industry, which began in Pennsylvania. Miller’s story echoes many horse-crazy kids who are willing to do whatever it takes to spend their life with horses. After years in 4-H and open shows with mounts he and his family saved to purchase, Miller began working for AQHA trainer Ray Carmean in Pennsylvania before eventually going out on his own.

Throughout the clinic, he took the opportunity to go back to basics in many of the disciplines, ensuring that both participants and auditors had a strong understanding of the foundations for each class.


Keith Miller and and Julia DiNapoli

For Miller, showmanship is a class that is all about balance. Both horse and handler need to be balanced through each maneuver to be prepared for the next. He also emphasized that the attitude of the handler is critical in the overall effectiveness of the presentation. “You have to look like you want to go in and win,” said Miller. “Some of the best showmanship exhibitors exude charisma; they demand a lot of themselves and present with a sense of professionalism.”

In addressing the often-misunderstood form and effectiveness or F&E score in showmanship, Miller noted that from a judge’s perspective, this score is about more than a first impression. “It’s really about your effectiveness as a handler,” said Miller. “Meaning, could you take another horse and be just as effective?”

Several of the horses were new to the showmanship arena, and Miller offered several suggestions and tips on schooling at home. He said, “When you’re practicing the showmanship, you don’t want to go until they make a mistake. It’s important to keep going until they get it right. That’s when you reward them and move on.”


For Miller, equitation is all about connection. As a judge, Miller noted that what most impresses him is when an exhibitor presents their horse through the pattern with true English gaits. He said, “Quarter Horses are very versatile. We see a lot of western type horses enter the equitation. But jogging and loping through an equitation pattern are not credit earning. Equitation requires connection, pace, and proper body position from the rider.”

He emphasized that judges want to see riders who are effective in the saddle. “You don’t have to sit perfectly still. Be dynamic and have the conviction to execute the pattern as well as you can.”

One area where many equitation riders struggle is with diagonals. Miller offered some helpful tips from a judge’s perspective. He reminded participants that, with AQHA rules, missing a diagonal is a three-point penalty. But looking for a diagonal is a five-point penalty. “You would be surprised how many times, as a judge, I give an eight-point penalty for diagonals. So, if you’re going to look, you better get it right,” he laughed.

Joking aside, Miller noted that judges acknowledge the difficulty in nailing a diagonal on the first stride. “It’s okay to sit the trot to get your diagonal. You have to get the diagonal as the horse is trotting. You have to feel it. Sitting to do that is okay.”

Hunter Under Saddle

Miller took the opportunity to ride each participant’s horse and demonstrate many of the lessons discussed throughout the day.

Miller is perhaps best known as one of the country’s top hunter under saddle trainers and riders. Throughout the hunter under saddle portion, Miller worked with participants to improve the quality and rhythm of each horses’ gaits. “Start right. Stay right,” said Miller. “You have to focus on the quality of the gait from the point of the transition.

By working through exercises to improve the cadence and length of stride in several horses, Miller showed how subtle shifts in the rider can make a big difference in their horses.

After working one-on-one with each participant, Miller had them take part in a mock class to show different techniques for rail placement and effective arena presentation. “You have to highlight a game plan going in,” said Miller. “It’s important to be methodical and know you and your horses’ strengths.” Above all, he urged riders to enter the arena focused on doing the best you and your horse can do on that day.

At the conclusion of the clinic Miller took the opportunity to ride each participant’s horse and demonstrate many of the lessons discussed throughout the day.

Youth participant Kennedy Harper rode her new horse My Best Thinking. She said of the experience, “Ever since I was younger I have watched Keith show at the Congress. I have always admired the way he rides and his success. So when I had the opportunity to ride with him at the clinic, I was really excited but also nervous to ride in front of him. It ended up being a great experience and I learned a lot. The best part was when he rode my new horse Marty.”

“When you’re practicing the showmanship, you don’t want to go until they make a mistake. It’s important to keep going until they get it right. That’s when you reward them and move on,” Miller recommended.

Select participant Diana Ginitz rode her mare Kissed By Chrome. She shared, “this clinic was a terrific opportunity to be critiqued and instructed by one of the nation’s leading hunter under saddle trainers. One of my biggest takeaways was the discussion about practicing smooth transitions for each gait. I’m grateful to PQHA for offering this education opportunity.”

Miller was happy to return to Pennsylvania and partner with PQHA for their annual clinic. “It’s always good to come home,” he said. “Especially when you’re helping those who are seeking the opportunity to learn. It feels good to give back to the industry in that way. I want to help people in similar situations to me as a youth. I can remember reading the AQHA Journal cover to cover. I had huge aspirations and I feel so fortunate to have the career I’ve had. It seems surreal. I still feel like that 10-year-old horse crazy kid.”


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