Aaron Vale will get a different kind of warm-up competition before the start of the grand prix show jumping season. He’s entered Torino Q in the Ocala Horse Properties Horse Trials in Ocala, Fla., Jan. 7-8.
Vale has amassed more than 165 grand prix wins during his career, but he’s not a complete stranger to the galloping lanes. Back at the beginning of the decade he transitioned Oslek, whom he had been show jumping, to eventing, campaigning through preliminary, before handing the reins over to Samantha St. Jacques (née Taylor). He also joined good friend Buck Davidson on the winning Pro DerbyCross team at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (Fla.) earlier this year.
“Buck and I will regularly take a group of babies to school some little cross-country jumps, to do something different,” said Vale, who lives in Ocala. “We thought it would be a good fit for this horse, so I told him to go ahead and enter me.”
Torino Q, 7, is a Selle Français (Iowa—Edhy de Conquerie) who spent last year showing mostly in the 7- and 8-year-old young jumper classes with Vale. He and Vale are entered in the open preliminary division, which according to Vale is the highest division he’s qualified for.
“He’s a quick-footed horse, not real big, and light on his feet,” he said. “He has plenty of good energy and blood. I don’t know if he’s going to be a 1.60-meter horse, but you can jump some big jumps on him. For me, to do a preliminary event, he’s got to have plenty of ability and be athletic enough. I’d be pretty picky about what I’d event, and he has enough quality to feel very safe out there.”
“Buck just told me about Marilyn, and I think it’s great,” said Vale. “What we do in the jumpers to get to the grand prix level means we have to have some serious flatwork going on there. It’s not too hard to pick up on the dressage, and I don’t take that too seriously anyway. The skill set we have to jump our classes means we can make the adjustments [to ride cross-country.]”
Torino Q is for sale, and there’s always a possibility that he might not be in Vale’s barn by the time the event rolls around. But Vale’s interest in riding across terrain has been piqued.
“I like to do different things, to keep it fresh and exciting,” he said. “Who knows—if he sells, maybe I’ll find someone else to ride.”
Read a great tribute  to Vale by one of his biggest fans.