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Remembering Valley Venture

The American Saddlebred in general has an electric persona and then there are those few special horses that exude the “look at me” attitude which breeders, trainers, and judges crave. One such horse was CH Valley Venture who died late this summer at the age of 28. Vern as he was affectionately known, had been living the life of leisure at Bent Tree Farm with his friend and former caretaker Lee Hudson.

Bred by Robert Boettcher, the father of trainer Dick Boettcher, Valley Venture first came on the national scene under the direction of Nelson Green who had heard about the horse from fellow trainer Lonnie Lavery.

“Lonnie [Lavery] told me about this horse Frank “Walk Trot” Thomas had in Ohio,” explained Green. “He said he was a horse that would really excite me. I went up there to see him in the middle of the winter and his barn was the coldest I have ever been in. He did excite me but he had so much hair on him I didn’t realize how beautiful he was until I bought him and we got him home and trimmed him.”

With a majestic head set and hook ears that nearly touched Valley Venture was bred to be a grand show horse as he was sired by Dutch Commander, a Wing Commander stallion that stood at Silver Lining Stables in Danville, Ky., who died before his time in a tragic barn fire. The female side of Valley Venture was even better as both his first and second dams were members of the Broodmare Hall Of Fame. His dam, the Genius Bourbon King mare, Lifetime Affair, also produced CH Roz and CH Lifetime Memory. His second dam, the Beau Peavine daughter, Marie Bosace, also produced Stonewall’s Beau Peavine, Stonewall’s Crescendo, Our Anne Marie, and Sweet Deception.

Trainer at Happy Valley Stables in Rossville, Ga., at the time, Green had purchased Valley Venture for a group of owners known as the Valley Venture Partnership. That group included Elizabeth McGowan, Mary Jane Gregory, Steve and Brenda Epple, Dr. and Mrs. Simon Fredricks, Carl and Georgia Holden, farm owners Mrs. John L. Hutcheson, and Bit Hutcheson as well as Green.

“It hadn’t been long since daddy had died and none of us were in a mood to jump up and buy a stake horse alone, but as a group it was really fun,” recalled Bit Hutcheson. “He was such a cool horse. He was from that Lifetime Affair/Marie Bosace family and they all had lots of expression and charisma. A face you always remembered. Valley Venture was very precise and balanced. He had incredible drive off his back end.”

Green channeled all of that drive into an extremely popular five-gaited stake horse. They swept Five-Gaited Championship after Five-Gaited Championship at such places as Pro-Am, Pin Oak (when it was a nationally renowned show), Southeastern Charity, and Music City. That same year Valley Venture and Green were reserve to Imperator in the Five-Gaited Gelding Stake at Louisville where the crowd went wild for them. Later that week they were third in the Five-Gaited World’s Grand Championship which was the now famous first meeting between Sky Watch and Imperator.

Valley Venture wouldn’t make it back to Louisville the next year for another shot. He developed a fungus in his right eye, a problem which eventually cost him that eye.

“We took him to the University of Tennessee to treat it. It is a 225 mile round trip and Nelson [Green] made that trip every day for at least a month to check on him,” said Bit Hutcheson. “Nelson's dedication showed how much he loved that horse.”

At the time horses could not be shown with a prosthesis, but Green and his fellow owners pushed to get that rule changed once Valley Venture was comfortably back to work.

“He [Valley Venture] is the one that changed it,” said Green. “There was no reason a horse couldn’t show with a prosthesis. He had the attitude to do it.”

About that time John Conatser was looking for a walk-trot horse that would suit his talented juvenile rider Cackie Loughlin. It was a gamble buying a high powered stake horse with one eye but it was one Conatser was willing to take.

“We bought him to trim,” said Conatser. “He was one of those one in a million horses that could do anything because he was so beautiful and conformationally correct. He had star appeal and we needed a walk trot horse so we trimmed him.

“Our biggest obstacle was getting him to slow down. He was really game and go forward. We had to get him to where a juvenile could ride him and when we got it put together we had a juvenile horse with a stake horse mentality. As high powered as he was, he never had a temper. In fact, he was very kind hearted.”

Loughlin and Valley Venture were just as popular in their new division as he had been as a gaited horse. Stars of the juvenile division in 1984 they won the Juvenile Three-Gaited World’s Championship.

Next, Valley Venture joined the impressive string of world class horses owned by Bettina Bancroft and Elisabeth Goth and trained by Mitchell Clark. Shown by Elisabeth, Valley Venture was the 1987 Ladies Three-Gaited Under 15.2 Reserve World’s Champion and Ladies Three-Gaited Reserve World’s Grand Champion, his last appearances in Freedom Hall.

“I told Elisabeth when they bought him that I would love to have Vern back whenever she was finished showing him,” said Lee Adams Hudson who had been his caretaker when he was with Conatser. “I didn’t know if it would ever happen but I hoped he could come back here to Bent Tree where I could take care of him for the rest of his life. One day I got a call and they said he was on a truck headed to Virginia.”

The horse with a big heart and one eye had left lasting impressions on everyone who was ever close to him. He gave and he gave and he gave. In return he was loved and treated like royalty at every stop along the way. Even for those who weren’t close to him but had the privilege to witness his show ring performances, the image of Valley Venture coming out of a turn with his chin on his chest and his ears forward always looking for more ground, is something that we will cherish forever!

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