Valentine, a poorly put together 19-year-old Thoroughbred with knee chips and early stage navicular, is blowing the socks off the competition in Preliminary cross-country throughout the Area 3 Eventing world.
The unlikely sport horse, who once won a race under Jockey Club name R Motel, by “running in terror from the other horses” is never so happy as when he is plunging into water, and soaring over obstacles with his owner Kayla August.
“His thing is Cross Country. He falls asleep before dressage and showing jumping. But put him in a start box and he goes wild,” she says. “At our first one-star, just before the starter said go, he reared and screamed” and they took off running, and haven’t looked back since.
August purchased Valentine, who some deemed dangerous, when he was a scrawny 15 years old. Said to require two hours of lunging before each ride, with August he fit hand-in-glove.
Race name: R Motel
Show name: Valentine
Barn name: Red
Dam: Chaka Zulu
Foal date: May 21, 1995“We clicked right away,” she says. “I remember getting this feeling like I was sitting at home in my saddle, and I had this snapshot in my head of how it would be. It was like he knew what I was asking without me needing to ask.”
Though X-rays on his legs have revealed bone chips in his knees, hocks and ankles, and navicular changes are starting in his front feet, her older gent has only taken two un-sound steps in his life; simultaneous abscesses in both front feet sidelined him once, and a stone bruise, picked up while running a course after throwing a shoe, sidelined him a second time.
“I had no idea the time he threw a shoe. I didn’t find out until we got to the Vet Box, and he was still fine on it and did Stadium Jumping the next day,” she says. “It wasn’t until we got home that he let me know he was sore.”
He has done so well climbing the ranks that last March 30 he cleaned up against very fancy Warmbloods at the Full Gallop Farm event in Aiken. “We won it all,” she says. “I was riding against a woman who had a young horse, who was much fancier than my Red. I don’t know how we pulled it off!”
She considered dropping Valentine back down from Preliminary, where he is campaigning now. But he is not a horse who wants to be pulled back, she says. “He jumps Preliminary fences like he’s jumping Intermediate. He just loves it.”
Though the pair is riding out the summer heat away from the competition fields, she plans to enter him at Full Gallop in August or September, and other events in the Area 3 region. Age, to this horse, is a state of mind.
“He’s usually one of the oldest horses and he is not put together well at all, but when he moves, he’s amazing,” she says. “And he shows all those young horses exactly what perfection can look like!”
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12 responses to “19 year old T-bred is Eventing rock star”
Your horse reminds me so much of The Gray Goose! Gray, too, had awkward conformation, and was deemed dangerous. He LIVED for XC! And Red and Gray also shared that same look of utter Joy when running XC. Interesting that they also share names that are colors. Thanks so much for sharing your wonderful story.
I love this story, I have an 11 year old that was diagnosed with Navicular last summer and I have been contemplating whether or not to move him into the Eventing discipline. Rebel is an eventing machine, always looks for the next jump and gets upset when it’s time to leave. I think it’s time to stop messing around and put a number on our backs and see what we can do. Susan, you mention Area 3 Eventing, where is that? I’m located in Virginia. I want to watch this horse run!
I found this nifty map offered by the USEA! Valentine competed at Full Gallop Farm in Aiken, but here’s a link to a map with a fuller description. Good luck with your horse. http://useventing.com/competitions
I think that some of the people that disapprove of older horses just “doing their thing,” whether it be cross country, jumping, or racing, may not realize that they are perhaps disrespecting the horse as a sentient being – as well as their fellow horsemen and women. No one knows what is good for a particular horse unless they have spent time with that horse and LISTENED to that horse. Horse whisperers aren’t just people, you know. If one listens carefully and honestly, and makes sure not to put one’s own words into that horse’s mouth – nearly any one of us can hear it too. It’s a sacred communication – and it shouldn’t be tread upon. Respect your fellow horsemen and women. And always respect the horse.
I LOVE IT!! Valentine clearly loves his owner. They are a great pair. Keep it moving, you two!! Show us how it’s done!!
Way to go Valentine 🙂
This kind of article and comment thread is exactly why we started a group on Facebook called “Senior Animals Rule” (http://www.facebook.com/senioranimalsrule)
Valentine is just more proof that it’s not about age and body type; it’s about heart, excellent care, and being genuinely happy. He’s clearly passing the vet checks at the events, and if he wasn’t having fun doing it, he’d just keep refusing jumps.
With horses like this, sending them to retirement is sure to send them to an early grave…they WANT a job and a purpose.
My great grandmother shoveled her own driveway until she was 93 years old and she lived to be 99…my grandmother who basically sat around and just “took it easy” only lived into her 60’s….
Just curious about something … The article says he is not well built. How is he able to do so much? I am curious about his conformation and what is different/not typical about how he is built and how it could be helping him or what he is overcoming … A lot of times when TBs are for sale they show conformation shots and everyone looks for ideal conformation out of a book, but maybe ideal is not really ideal always … It would be fascinating to see a conformation shot photo. If anything, it would let people realize that ideal conformation is not necessary …
She explained to me that he has a long back and neck. And combined with his not-great X-rays, he did not initially seem like the ideal sport horse. But, she describes him as being on fire when he gets to a cross country course. You asked about a conformation shot, and unfortunately I don’t have one. Thanks for writing in.
There are older horses that are fox hunting. In the picture I see a horse that is enjoying his job. My 26 year old still goes out and helps with the younger horses. He still jumps, crosses water and gallops with the youger horses. He clearly is not happy when he is not doing something. If properly managed, the older horse can be productive and have fun well into their later years.
I am just wondering if this is a good idea?? The horse is older. Is reported to have many physical issues, and is being ridden in eventing? Are you not concerned that you are setting him up for a lot of pain and problems as he continues to age? I would be concerned that he will have to be put down early due to those problems being made worse. Wouldn’t it be better for the horse to have a little easier job? Just because he can do it – doesn’t necessarily mean he should.
This horse obviously feels good. As stated in the article he has only taken a lame step twice in his lifetime, once due to a double abscess and the other after a stone bruise from throwing a shoe. He is being very well cared for, and is taking the whole summer off to laze around in the heat. I’m sorry the article didn’t make it clearer. It’s my opinion that if a horse is enjoying his work, he should do it. She tried to ease him back a level and he didn’t like it. But, rest assured, what I didn’t mention is that she is planning to bring another OTTB along too. So, don’t worry.