Every year since 2014, Valinksy S has trotted into the international ring at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL with a different rider in the tack.
Some years, there were several different riders piloting the bay gelding—and often highly accomplished ones at that.
And one year, it was a rider who would take the KWPN gelding to the Olympics.
But not once during his lengthy international career has the bay gelding led a victory gallop—in Wellington or anywhere else.
Until last week.
On Thursday, the veteran campaigner captured the first international victory of his lengthy career—the $36,000 Equinimity WEF Challenge Cup Round 2 CSI 2*. It was a victory five years and seven international riders in the making.
But before we get to that story, we have to go back to the start of his international career.
According to the FEI database, Valinksy S made his FEI debut in Wellington, Florida on January 15, 2014 when he campaigned for two months under owner Michael Dorman (USA). Dorman and Wynmount purchased the horse in 2012.
After a 10-month absence from the international ring, the petite bay returned to FEI competition the following season in Wellington with USA’s Lauren Hough—for all of a week in late January 2015.
In the months that followed he was campaigned by a revolving door of elite riders.
Olympic gold medalist Ben Maher (GRB) took over the ride for February and March, posting a rail-less record over four classes. The reins were handed to US team veteran Candice King from May until August. In September, the bay gelding landed in the string of Australian Olympian Matt Williams, where he’d stay for a year.
The last was arguably his most successful partnership to date.
Riding for Australia but still part-owned by Dorman and Wynmount, Williams and Valinsky contested the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, finishing 28th individually. And thus ended their competitive career.
By November of the same year, Valinksy S was on to his sixth international rider in USA’s Todd Minikus, a partnership that spanned six months and three venues in Florida.
Come September 2017, young gun Shawn Casady (USA) was in the tack, logging back-to-back second place finishes in Crete, IL. Their final appearance was in the World Cup Thermal last February, where they posted a four fault performance to finish 12th.
Which brings us to 2019 and the return of Hough.
“I rode him many years ago for just a couple months, but this is just my second week showing him,” explained the American Olympian. “Ronnie Beard and Michael Dorman, the owners, are very good friends, and they asked me back in the fall if I had time to ride some horses for them. I knew Valinski, and I’ve always loved him. He’s a veteran, and he knows his job. I was thrilled to be able to have the ride.”
From Hough and Valinsky’s results this week, it’s likely his owners are just as chuffed.
Against a starting field of 100, Hough rode the now 17-year-old gelding to the win in the grand prix qualifier last Thursday in Wellington, FL. On Saturday, they repeated their double clear performance to finish second behind Canada’s Mario Deslauriers and Amsterdam 27 in the $72,000 NetJets Grand Prix CSI 2*.
“As I left after my round in the jump-off, I knew I left the door open a touch,” said Hough. “I slowed down quite a bit to the double. After going very fast the other day, I felt a touch on the flat side, so I didn’t take every risk there. Mario had a super round. I couldn’t be happier with [Valinski].”
The feeling appears to be mutual.