Lexington, Ky.—Nov. 12
You wouldn’t have been able to miss The Spy Next Door when he trotted down centerline in the adult amateur first level championship at the U.S. Dressage Finals.
The colorful 11-year-old Appaloosa gelding (The Next Detail—Agates In My Hand) makes a splash wherever he goes with his rider Valerie Decarlo. On Saturday, he and Decarlo finished 10th in their championship class with a 68.79%.
Bought as a yearling to compete on the hunter under saddle Appaloosa circuit, “Boomer” had a bit more animated movement and was hotter than what’s preferred for that ring, so Decarlo started dressage on the advice of her vet Tracy Brown. She started training with Nancy Sharpless, and the pair have risen through the levels with hopes of competing at third level next year.
“He loves it,” said Decarlo, of Reidsville, North Carolina. “He likes to be alone in the arena. It’s kind of his thing. He’s doing great. He’s goofy. He loves people and attention, but he’s a major herd boss. He’s very people-oriented and loves to be loved on and scratched. He’s just about 17 hands.”
The pair got a wild card to attend Finals from the GAIG/USDF Region 1 Championships (Virginia). They also won the USDF All-Breeds award for 2022 for Appaloosas.
“I am super excited and feeling really confident. He is going better than he ever has,” she said. “I’ve had lots of judges comment on my tests or just in passing, commenting how pretty they think he is and how nice of a horse they think he is. People always ask me about his breeding, and they’re shocked he’s an Appaloosa and not a warmblood cross.”
Decarlo had her first child, daughter Chloe, last year, so she’s been adjusting to motherhood while also working towards her riding goals and working full-time as a nurse anesthetist. Her husband, Craig Decarlo, also has a trail horse at home, and the couple enjoys doing camping trips in the mountains with their horses.
“I definitely have to schedule time to get my rides in,” said Valerie. “The first year of having the baby was hard trying to figure everything out, but we’ve got it together now, and we’re in a good routine. I always tell new moms who are worried how they’re going to get back into it that it can be done. It just takes some more planning.”