At age 8, Carli Jae Miller begged her parents for a horse. Corn and soybean farmers who also raised beef cattle on their farm outside Lewistown responded to their daughter’s persistent pleas with a firm ‘no’.
So what does a child do when mom and dad aren’t moving? Ask Grandma and Grandpa.
Hancil and Wilma Miller effectively relented and bought their granddaughter the first of many horses. She adorably named the horse Patchy.
“I started out in 4-H horse shows and got into barrel racing when I was 15,” said Miller, a member of the Fulton County Farm Bureau. “Then I turned 16 and went with a truck and a trailer for all the rodeos.”
Now, at 26, Miller attributes those excursions to finding future career opportunities.
“I got to know so many different people in so many operations and so many people who had an interest in horses and agriculture, and I guess I can go back to when I was 16 and traveling alone a lot,” she said. . “I kind of had to make new friends and discover people from different fields.”
The 2017 University of Illinois graduate stays busy these days as a project coordinator for the Data-intensive farm project (DIFM) at the university, as well as an equine photography business that Miller started about a year ago. She and her fiancé, Wyatt Jones, also sell and train horses — from trail horses to working ranch horses to rodeo and show horses — under Equine WRJ. She also earned her real estate broker’s license last year and Miller continues to train and compete on her barrel horses at the local, state and national levels.
“We’re very busy and I think that’s part of the reason a lot of these opportunities have come my way,” Miller said. “I ended up taking a lot of those opportunities because I worked with so many different people.”
His photographic adventure, CJM Equine Photography and Marketing, began as a result of the couple’s horse-selling business. Jones was taking pictures of the horses with his phone, but Miller didn’t believe the photos captured their true spirit. So she grabbed her sister’s camera and bought a lens. After a semester of photography in college, Miller remembered some basics, but set about learning how to take quality photos of horses in particular.
“I started going to shows or sales or wherever we were and I’d have people asking me, ‘Hey, can you drop by the house? And I would and it got more popular and I got more customers.
Miller specializes in black-field portraits, which she says show more of the horse’s personality.
Professional photos have become an essential part of the equestrian industry, which has grown in popularity during the pandemic.
“People wanted to go out and more people wanted to do things at home,” Miller said. “People had to find different hobbies and different ways to stay interested. And that’s part of the reason why I think horses have become so popular.
Miller, who majored in agricultural communication at the University of Illinois, worked full-time at the university for four years with the DIFM project. The project involves working with participating farmers, using precision technology to inexpensively design and execute random agronomic field trials on entire commercial agricultural fields to provide insight-based agricultural input management advice. data and site-specific, thus providing economic and environmental benefits. She also participates in communications with farmdoc.
“I really appreciate being able to go out and work with the farmers. It’s just more closely aligned with what I grew up with and (I love) getting out and working with people and seeing what they’re doing and knowing that our research is helping them make more profitable decisions at the future,” Miller said.
Being the fourth generation on the family farm and growing up in this environment taught Miller to be a hard worker and dedicated to the task at hand.
“I think it always gave me the mentality of ‘I’m going to finish something even if it’s not something I’m interested in.’ Once I started, I was going to keep going,” she said.
His grandparents and parents, Jeff and Traci Miller, continue to support Miller’s equine endeavors, often traveling to his events.
“I don’t think my family would have ever imagined that horses would be such an important part of my life,” Miller said. “But everything we do is pretty much centered around whether we go to sales, go to a show, or train horses at home. We pretty much base most of our lives on what we do. with the horses.
Although Hancil took heat for buying his granddaughter’s first horse, he continues to be Miller’s right-hand man.
“He’s always cleaning stalls, checking horses or jumping in the truck with me when I have to go to the vet,” Miller said. “He’s still very involved.”