Behind the Scenes…Mark Miller Part 2!
Last week’s interview with Mark Miller was SO good, we had to come back for more!
Here’s the inside story…Part 2
Eileen: Where do you get the horses that perform in the show?
Mark: Many of our horses are multiple times regional and national champions, and we have already added 2 of the principle sires of Al-Marah, Al-Marah Ben Dream and Al-Marah Good Oldboy, to our show. Within the next two years, Al-Marah senior sires Bremmervale Andronicus and Al-Marah Power Raid will also be added to the show.
The other 9-12 breeds that are represented in any given show, are all high quality horses and have come to us in many ways. Most of the draft and chariot horses we actively seek. We know what we are looking for and we put out the information to our friends in the horse industry and they tell us where the horses we are looking for are.
For the drill horses, they are mostly offered to us by their owners. People love the idea of having a horse that represents the breed, they love being seen by so many people and being a true representative of the wonderful horses in those breeds.
As for the breeding stallions coming to the show, that isn’t a problem and never has been. It’s not new; Al-Marah Beau Triomphe, one of the best of our show horses and a Top Ten producer of winners and the Nationals several years in a row, performed in the show for years. He is also the model for the running horse that is on our signs. Saika, an Arabian Stallion I imported from England in the early 80s, performed in the show for years, too.
Of course we always put our best riders on our most beautiful and talented horses, but they really don’t present any big problems. Stallions are always among the horses that are seen on our VIP tours. Often we let children kiss them on the lips!
Eileen: Who is the Princess’ horse in the new show?
Mark: Good OldBoy is joining his half brother, AM Horatio and performing in the Native act. Ben Dream is the other major sire with Good OldBoy. Ben Dream will be the Princess Amirah’s horse when the new show opens next week and is featured in the new advertising campaign and brochures.
Eileen: What do you look for when artists audition to work at Arabian Nights?
Mark: Good looking, talented, outgoing men and women. If they don’t know how to ride, but bring other talents to the table, we don’t hesitate to teach them. Csaba had never ridden when he came here, but was a great performer. He came to America to perform with Ringling as an acrobat, performing on silks, which we now do at Arabian Nights. Csaba teaches the art of silks on his own, and he’s taught so many of our performers for the new show. It features four people performing on silks at one time. They are brought in by four unicorns! He and Ricky Suarez are now the two best acrobatic riders in the world, and Csaba performs in many other acts as a rider.
Ricky first performed here when he was 15, and while he was an accomplished acrobatic rider, we taught him to ride in the traditional manner. Kacin is another example. Both Csaba and Kacin were gifted acrobats and tumblers when they started here. It was worth spending time teaching them to be core performers in our show. I anticipate that Kacin will be the first woman to do a somersault on a horse.
You’ve got to ride the Arabian Nights way. We look for performers that can adapt to our way of doing things while also bringing their talents to the show.
Eileen: Many well-known equestrian entertainers launched their performing careers in the Palace here. Would you name a few you discovered?
Mark: Tommie Turvey & Caroline Williams worked here very early in their careers. Caroline Williams is the granddaughter of the founder of the Williams Circus in Europe. This is where she started as a performer. I wouldn’t say we “discovered” her but she started here.
Ricky Suarez, along with others have become more well known since working here. Ricky was a child acrobat, and Arabian Nights was the first place where he performed in a leading roll in an act. Along with our other performers here, Michael, Csaba, Tomar, Carly…
And If anyone has ever left, usually they’ll come back. It’s best for us to always leave each other gracefully, because they always come back and are happy to do so. I always leave the door open when people leave, when they come back they’ve learned something new in their lives, and our show has matured too, so they benefit each other.
Eileen: Have you ever performed in the show? What acts?
Mark: Yes, the opening act, the finale, Quadrille, Squaredance and flag drill for a long time-7 or 8 years. In terms of getting a horse to do what it can do with someone sitting on their back, I rank in top 3 of the best riders at Arabian Nights. I’m an accomplished horseman, but I’ve never thought of myself as being a star, so I have never been in the show as a star. Also I was 40 when Arabian Nights opened, so even then I was a little long in the tooth to be a star.
I’ve done everything except for participate in the chariot race. I’ve also worked in the kitchen washing dishes, served tables, reservations, ticket booth…everything.
One night we had some problems with our waitstaff so I took over serving, even though I was scheduled to be in the show. One of our servers covered me while I performed, and then I came back. Our guests loved that. I was also the genie on 3 different occasions, we try not to let that happen though anymore. Haha!
Eileen: What do you like most about what happens here?
Mark: How the show effects people for the good. Our show means a lot to people. It’s profoundly moving to them. We have the ability through the performances to move people, and evoke the emotions that we have about our horses in the guests. If we do it right, that is what happens.
For example, a girl from Give Kids The World died during our show one night…her parents had brought her here, and she died after the Native Act. Her parents said she stayed alive to see this show..this was her dream come true.
Eileen: What do you do on your days off?
Mark: My stepdaughter, Keeley, and I practice Dressage, Sport Horse Under Saddle, Reining and jumping, daily. She is Regional Champion in the last three and National Champion in dressage. I am also very involved with Austin, my stepson’s football schedule. I was his home announcer for his football team last year. Between Austin and Keeley, I spend about 20 weekends each on horse shows and football!
My daughter, Hanna is helping with the transition with Al-Marah. Last year I spent 2 months visiting my mother who was in failing health. I love my family, I’m a family oriented person and it’s most important to me. I also love the beach, so I try to spend some time there when I can.
Eileen: And, you’re now chairman of the West Kissimmee Redevelopment Authority? Why this?
Mark: I’ve always tried to be able to do what’s best for the common good of organizations that I’m involved with, as well as the community, so I continue to be active in things like this.
It became obvious to us that we were behind on keeping up with the times in Osceola county, in the West 192 corridor, the heart of west 192’s economy. I was asked to be on this Authority, and then asked to be chairman by others who agree with me. You can’t go into it requesting what’s specifically good for your business, it’s more for what the community needs. If I make the community better for tourism, Arabian Nights will do better, and I know this is where I plan to live the rest of my life. Anything I can do to help to the county, via public service, I believe in. My family has for generations, it will make this an even better place for us to live.
I believe in stepping up to do what needs to be done, to benefit what’s good for the community. Don’t think about what’s good for you first. It’s good business to do that.
I’m active in education, not only with the Literacy project, but schools that I’m partners in education with. I try to stay active in what needs to be done. Other examples of organizations that I’m involved with are: Horsemanship For the Handicap, Heavenly Hooves, and Rollins and the Alumni Association.