Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023

Behind The Stall Door With: Valentine


Ashley Holzer and her own Valentine have been raking in the ribbons and rocking the FEI dressage small tour in 2019. The 9-year-old Hanoverian mare (Sir Donnerhall—Renaissance, Ragazzo) was a Valentine’s Day gift from Holzer’s husband, Rusty Holzer, and although the horse-and-rider pair won nearly every class they entered during the 2019 Wellington, Florida, show season, including the Nations Cup for Team USA, it hasn’t always been a match made in heaven. Read on to learn more about Ashley’s funny Valentine.

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Ashley Holzer and Valentine. Sue Weakley Photos

• She’s patriotic.

When it’s time for the playing of the winner’s national anthem during the prize-giving ceremony, Valentine, or ‘Vali,’ won’t stand still, except for the “Star-Spangled Banner.”

“She just stands like a rock the second the song comes on, and I’m like, ‘Who are you?’ ” Ashley said. “Normally, the music will come on, and she will go nuts, but she loves that anthem.”

• If she were a human, she’d be the life of the party.

“She just has the best personality,” Vali’s groom, Nate Tucker, said. “Every time you walk out of the barn, she always has her head over looking at you and wants attention. She wants to be in whoever’s pocket.”

To beguile her admirers, she’ll curl her neck to reel them in. “Then, if you’re not giving her attention, she’ll kick the stall out.”

Ashley’s barn manager, Lila Chase, said Vali would be the girl dancing on the tables in a bar. “She’d be breaking hearts,” she said.


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Groom Nate Tucker says Valentine (left) and Havanna 145 are BFFs in the barn and can be the mean girls!

• She may be fun, but she’s got an attitude.

“She’s like a talented, spoiled teenage girl,” Ashley said. “That’s the only way I would describe her.” She tried to turn Vali out next to Pop Art, her mount for the 2008 Olympic Games (Beijing). “She turned into a ranting, raving stallion and struck out at ‘Poppy.’ She doesn’t like to play second fiddle. Vali is temperamental. She’s the queen.”

Chase said there are stallions at the barn who thought they were interested in Vali and her BFF, Havanna 145, Ashley’s Grand Prix horse owned by Diane Fellows, but they weren’t sure they were ready for the challenge. “The stallions are intrigued by them, by the mares doing their thing, but they thought again and figured it’s not worth it,” she said.

Tucker confirmed. “The stallions walk by them, and Vali is usually trying to climb over the stall door,” he said. “They just watch everybody. They are judging. They are like the mean girls of the barn.”

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• She’s a tattletale.

Valentine will tell on you in a minute, regardless of who’s watching,” Ashley said. “She doesn’t care. She’s like, ‘OK, you’re going down right now!’ Vali would so drop me in a second if someone better and a little skinnier came along.”

• She’s high maintenance.


“She’s a bit of a food snob,” Ashley said. “She’s sort of a farm to table kind of girl.”

Tucker said she has to take her blankets with her wherever she goes, as she gets chilly easily. “Vali likes her magnetic blanket because it keeps her warm,” he said.

She also makes a mess in her stall.

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Despite a bit of a mare attitude, Valentine shines in the ring.

• Her attitude is what makes her a superstar.

“Personality-wise, she’s more crazy girl, but that doesn’t mean she’s crazy to ride,” Ashley said. “It just means that that’s her temperament.”

That being said, Ashley knows her mare isn’t everyone’s favorite valentine. “I’d never put anyone on Valentine if I liked them,” she said.



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