Meet the Pro: Genny Miller

This Team Wrangler member says it’s all about being tenacious with goals that you want to see accomplished – both professionally and personally.

Special to The American Quarter Horse Journal

Genny Miller is a member of AQHA Team Wrangler 2015, which promotes educational outreach in the horse industry. (Credit: AQHA)

Like so many who ride and show horses, AQHA Team Wrangler member Genny Miller has loved horses as long as she can remember. Her favorite show is the All American Quarter Horse Congress because it is “a complete immersion into the Quarter Horses – 24/7.” She loves introducing others to the world of horses and as a little girl wanted to be a horse trainer. Like many horse crazy kids, she did not grow up in a horse family but loved horses none-the-less.

Genny’s parents were missionaries; her father a pastor. The family traveled with their work and horses were simply not part of their lives. But God had a plan and stepped in to alter the course of Genny’s life with an unforeseen act of generosity – an opportunity Genny Miller instinctively knew how to seize.

A family friend saw how much young Genny loved horses and gave the family two ponies. The ponies were brought home in a rented U-Haul trailer and lived in a field next to their house until Genny’s father could build a barn for the duo.

Not even halter broke when they arrived, Genny and her sister learned together how to ride and care for the ponies. By the time the ponies left, Genny and her sister rode them through the neighborhood with only halters and lead ropes. The pair of ponies fed Genny’s passion and sent her headlong down a path to living the dream – a life with horses.

At 9, Genny’s family bought their first registered horse, an Appaloosa gelding. Along with the registered horse came lessons, local horse shows and eventually an introduction to Patty Baker, who at the time trained Appaloosas and became Genny’s first trainer and first employer.

Genny traveled with her family in the northwest on the road to better horsemanship and a higher education. Through her riding and showing, Genny learned to set and achieve goals. To pursue her riding goals and continue to show during the school year, Genny was home-schooled during high school.  With each accomplishment, Genny sought new challenges, more knowledge and tougher competition.

Genny and her father

The desire to succeed led Genny to the Appaloosa World Championship Show, where she finished in the top 10. During the long drive back to their Washington home, her father at her side, Genny had much opportunity to think. Upon her return, she decided to quit the job that had supported her horse habit and let the horse habit support her life. Patty Baker, her old trainer, gave her a job. Then she worked for Deerfield Farm, where she coached, trained and showed.

Life was good; Genny was engaged and making a living doing what she loved – riding and training horses. But once again unforeseen circumstances interrupted her life. This time, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma threatened her pursuit of a life showing horses.

It was August of Genny’s 21st year and after being misdiagnosed at one hospital, it would be another gift that would save Genny’s life. After receiving the incorrect diagnosis, a friend of Genny’s father recommended she see a specialist at the University of Washington. Grateful for the advice, Genny called to make an appointment but was told the first available opening was in October, 10 weeks and time Genny could not afford. 

Waiting was not an option. Calling on her experiences as a horseman, Genny tried again the next day. But the answer was the same – the first opening was in October. Undaunted, Genny called again the following day. On the third day, Genny’s persistence paid off. The doctor had a cancelation – an opening that day. Genny took the appointment, saw the specialist and received the best medical attention and treatment available.

“Having cancer has not changed my health on a daily basis, but having cancer absolutely changed who I am,” Genny says. She thanks God first, her upbringing and horses for her resolute determination and will to succeed. She believes people must “stay determined and be tenacious with goals that you want to see accomplished – both professionally and personally.”

Genny has never let a situation define her. She believes, “we are all put into situations in life and it’s not the situation, but how we react to the situation that matters. I can truly say that from that experience, I am a better person.  You do a lot of soul searching when dealing with your own mortality, and I really believe that I have developed a very positive outlook on life because of my experiences.”

After six months of chemotherapy and radiation, Genny was back in the saddle training, showing and setting goals for her future. She transitioned her business to Quarter Horses and she and her husband, a roper in his spare time, purchased a small farm in central Washington where Genny still operates her business.

More than most, Genny understands from experience that, “one simple act can change the course of your life. And I know that by just encouraging others to pursue their dreams – to follow their hearts and be great at whatever they do, is rewarding. How I encourage each is different in every situation – I try to read the situation and see what is needed with each rider and student on a daily basis.”

Janaki Swanson and Genny

Janaki Swanson can testify to that. She began riding with Genny while in eighth grade and credits Genny for her achievements as a veterinary student. Janaki says Genny is very “goal orientated, makes students write down their goals and helps each try to accomplish their individual objectives.”

Janaki believes she “owes much of her success to the skills and life lessons learned while riding with Genny.” Janaki was encouraged by Genny to shadow vets and to apply for a high school program called Running Start. She applied, was accepted and at 16 began taking college classes through Running Start. Janaki graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Central Washington University. The youngest student in her class, she will graduate at 23 from the College of Veterinarian Medicine at Washington State University. 

Jacque Huss, reiterates what Janaki says, “Genny tries to do what is in her clients’ best interests. I always feel like I have achieved something after a ride with Genny. Lessons are intense but fun. She does not try to power on or push a horse to do more than it is capable of doing.  She gives riders the tools they need to ride by themselves so they are not dependent on her to guide them every step.”

"Both these ladies' horses had just won their respective futurities, and we were all having a bit of fun!" Genny recalls. Tracy Kotlarz is on the left with Kool Movin Krymsun and Lori Braunstein on the right with Potential Zip.

Customers also remark about Genny’s willingness to get outside help when it comes to training.

“I love to learn new things, and there is a lot to learn in the horse industry. I have been lucky to have a few mentors who have really invested their time and knowledge into my career,” Genny says.

Every year, Genny brings in clinicians of various backgrounds. AQHA judge Steve Heckaman is a long-time friend and mentor. He has traveled to Washington to work with Genny and her clients, as have AQHA Professional Horsemen Robin and Jenny Frid. This year, Genny has Tim “the Trail Man” Kimura coming to give fresh eyes to Central Washington riders. Genny enjoys bringing educational opportunities to riders in the area by bringing outside clinicians to her facility.

Giving back runs in the family for Genny. It is part of who she is. When asked why she feels it is important, she says, “I feel it is very important to give back to the industry that supports me, so I am very involved in our AQHA affiliate. I am the current vice president, and I was very honored to speak at last year’s Youth Excellent Seminar.”

Genny continuously volunteers for local, regional and national organizations. Here is an excerpt from her 2014 YES speech: “Carpe diem is a Latin expression that means  ‘seize the day.’ We need to understand the importance of taking advantage of opportunities that come our way. Be them personal or professional.”

She went on to talk about having a point of view:

  • All things happen for a purpose – your life should be driven by purpose.
  • Look for the good in others.
  •  Never give up – that’s right, winners struggle through the hard times, they don’t quit.
  •  In all I do, I place God first. My belief in God has given me faith for today and the future, hope in all things and love for myself my peers and family.
  • Be hardcore – stay determined and tenacious with goals that you want to see accomplished – both professionally and personally.

More than anything, Genny Miller knows it is not all about her. Perhaps that is why giving comes so easily for this fun loving Washington trainer.  Genny Miller loves horses, loves seeing what she can teach them and loves helping her students accomplish their goals – big and small.

Her customers talk about being a team, rooting for each other, celebrating victories and being a family. For Genny Miller opportunity is all about “seizing what’s there, it is about having a point of view – but it’s also about patience and determination.”

Genny Miller lives with her husband, Jason, in Ellensburg, Washington. She is an AQHA Team Wrangler member, a judge for National Snaffle Bit Association, Appaloosa Horse Club and holds a Novice AQHA card as she works on getting her regular AQHA judge’s card. She gives about 10 clinics a year, takes outside students for lessons at her farm, travels to judge and show, and on long hauls, is fortunate to find her father still at her side. Her cancer has been in remision for years.

Genny ascribes to Sir Winston Churchill’s statement, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

Stephanie Lynn is a special contributor to The American Quarter Horse Journal. The AQHA Professional Horsewoman, judge and steward from Fall Creek, Wisconsin, serves on the AQHA Animal Welfare Commission, is the chairwoman of the AQHA Show Council and was named the 2014 Professional's Choice Professional Horsewoman of the Year. To learn more, visit www.stephanielynn.net or www.stephanielynnsblog.com.