Valerie Pride owns and operates Blue Clover Eventing, born at least in part from the peculiar twist of fate that there is no option for professional women’s lacrosse as a career path.
A proud Pony Club graduate from Maryland, Val has known her whole life that she wanted to work with horses in some capacity.
“I was that kid who had my saddle in the truck and drove around from barn to barn riding everyone’s horses,” she explained. “I have been fortunate to get to work with some incredible lifelong horse people, who are now not only mentors but friends, and I really owe a lot of people for supporting me this far.”
Her mount this weekend is Favian, a 13-year old U.S.-bred Oldenburg gelding owned by Valerie. Besides being a cross-country “machine,” ‘Faves,’ as he is known, travels with an emotional support mini called Theodore, who may just be the cutest thing on four legs.
Val’s list of mentors reads like a ‘who’s who’ in the sport, including Jimmy Wofford, Jan Byyny, Holly and Marilyn Payne, Linda Zang and the legendary, multiple medalist Karen O’Connor.
“Karen knew that I didn’t have sponsors or big money behind me, and she would let me show up every week for a 7am lesson to be able to drive back to MD to be able to teach and work every day. From the beginning she has been nothing but supportive. When I was working on Favian’s fitness before his first 4*-L (he’s the most ‘warmblood’ horse you’ve ever seen) she stepped right in and helped make it happen. I really owe my trajectory to her and a lot of other people.”
While this is their first five-star together, they competed at the Horse Park for Favian’s first two-star in 2016. It left an impact on Val that she has carried as an omen since then.
“The horse inspection was held on the same laneway as Kentucky,” she recalls. “He got all puffed up and at the time I was surprised, it was as if he knew this was a big deal. I remember thinking ‘way back when’ that this was a good sign, and someday we would be ready to come back here!”
I asked Val what pieces of wisdom she is bringing with her this week, from her list of illustrious supporters.
Here’s what she said:
Karen O’Connor—Karen is so disciplined and systematic about everything. Every little detail. She’s a thinking rider and has made me a thinking rider. This is what gives you a solid technical background.
Jan Byyny—Jan is always going to tell you what she thinks, whether you want to hear it or not! But that’s what makes you confident in yourself.
Linda Zang—Linda is such a mentor. She came to my farm last week to go over everything. From my position to the movements to pre-ride and warmup strategies. The best way to keep him fresh but not too fresh knowing we have a Friday afternoon dressage test.
Val also ‘moonlights’ as an FEI eventing judge, and when I asked her what she was most looking forward to about this weekend she replied, “Getting my dressage test done!
“We’re all here because of Saturday. Favian is a cross-country beast and that is really his moment to shine. That’s what he wants to be here for—and in truth it’s what we all want to be here for. Yes, the first time I walk the course it will be daunting. But at the end of the day, you have to tell yourself you CAN do this. You can answer these questions. As soon as you hear the word ‘accepted’ at the first horse inspection it will be Game ON.”
Follow Val online at @blueclovereventing.