Nearly three years ago dedicated Warmblood owner and dressage trainer Linda McDowell made a flying lead change of a different sort.
“I decided to take a horse from Camelot,” she says. “At the time, I was leasing a 20-stall horse farm on the eastern shore of Maryland, and I decided I wanted to do a good deed and rescue a horse.”
Going only from photographs she saw on social media page Camelot Horse Weekly, McDowell chose Valentina (JC: Julia S), a dainty dark bay who, when standing next to her Warmbloods at home, looked like a yearling.
“I didn’t know what breed she was when she arrived, but I started researching her tattoo, and sure enough she was a Thoroughbred off the track,” she says. “She was so refined looking, and clearly somebody had taken good care of her. Her coat looked good, she’d been clipped; I’m not sure how or why she ended up at Camelot.”
Race name: Julia S
New name: Valentina
Barn name: Valley Girl
Sire: Tale of the Cat
Dam: Lady Danza, by Cryptoclearance
Foal date: Feb. 9, 2008She tried finding out, but never did. What she discovered, however, was that her mare had Mr. Prospector “three ways across” in her lineage, and while small in stature she was big in attitude.
Although she possessed ground manners of a saint, under saddle, she could be a devil.
“She’s a little bit of a handful, to say the least,” McDowell says. “She’s a little opinionated and argumentative. If you ask her for something, she can get really (irritated) to the point that if she doesn’t like what you ask, she kicks out or turns to try to bite my foot.”
And yet, she’s also a fantastic, beautiful mover. “I’ve watched her passage out in the field. If I can capture her mind, she’ll be an incredible horse!”
McDowell has worked with a Parelli Natural Horsemanship instructor to help take some of the “flight mode” out of Valentina. And she has adjusted her own riding style to accommodate her mare’s aversion to leg pressure. “When I first got her, I researched how jockeys rode, and started riding more from that point of view. It really helped,” she says.
Despite her quirks, Valentina is a barn favorite who is ridden by McDowell’s finer students.
“Ultimately, she’s going to be my daughter Ali’s horse,” McDowell says. “She’s been wanting a horse (project) of her own. Though I have a feeling Valentina won’t be a dressage horse, she’ll probably do Jumpers.”
Though Valentina hasn’t been an easy horse, she has endeared herself to all who meet her. “Everybody falls in love with her. She’s extremely smart, and an extremely fast learner … and even if it never worked out for her to be a riding horse, I had the room for her,” McDowell says. “It was the right thing to do.”