BERWICK -- The Seaway Valley Arabian Horse Association (SVAHA) held its annual Endurance Ride just east of Berwick through the Warwick Forest on June 28 and 29. The event in the Township of North Stormont was graced with the presence of the former two-time world champion Valerie Kanavy.
Kanavy (68) brought her team from her hometown of Fort Valley, Virginia in the United States. Kanavy finished first in the senior 120 km run at the SVAHA in the Berwick event on Sat., June 28.
Kanavy grew up in the American midwest and was around racehorses all her life. But that became boring to her and she wanted a change. She got married and moved to Virginia and admits that she and her husband, Larry, didn't have a lot of money but her love for horses still remained.
They bought a cheap horse, and one day she tried a foxhunt, discovering something that she really enjoyed. It was fun chasing the fox around all day, she said, and it was way better than going around and around on a track.
One day she took up running for herself and trained to do marathons and she thought to herself: "Why don't I incorporate the training that I do for a marathon to train a horse to do a marathon?" That is when she got that cheap horse out training to become an endurance athlete.
She also said most horses are bred to run and possess genes to run short distances with training much different than that for endurance. Kanavy started on a journey around the world that would lead her to the pinnacle in her sport.
Kanavy was the World Endurance gold medalist in 1994 and 1998. She was a silver medalist in 1996 when she was overtaken by her daughter, Danielle, by one second. In 2003 she became World Champion Master, six IAHA (now AHA such as the event in Berwick) 160 km and one 80 km championship wins.
She also won four 160 km reserve championships, seven Race of Champions in the top 10 (including one first and one second). She was also named 1999 AHSA Horseman of the year as well as her home state Virginia Horseman of the year in that same year.
She won her first World Championship in The Hague, Holland, and her second in Dubai, in a race through the desert of the United Arab Emirates.
She still competes today but also serves as a great teacher, as was in full evidence in Berwick.
She had students from all over the world on her team. They included Lila Serra from Catalonia, in Northern Spain, Nayar Vinaver from Veracruz, Mexico, Natalia Balcazar de Wasseige from Bogota, Colombia, and Kelsey Russell from Fort Valley Virginia.
When asked how she picked her teammates, she replied, "They all have type A personalities!"
Kanavy said the horses (mostly Arabian) are on a strict training regimen, consisting of four hours per day for six days per week. The horses get weighed once per week and their diet is closely monitored.
They want the horse to be at a certain body-fat ratio and their feed is administered accordingly. For example, if the horse gets over the desired body-fat ratio they would get a protein enriched diet and if their body-fat ratio is under their desired amount the horse would be fed a more fat enriched diet.
The horses are fully pastured as well. During a race they may give the animal sweet date syrup for energy, which is high in protein and calories.
The Kanavy team does approximately 12 events per year and they have 10-12 horses in training at all times. In the winter they do a circuit in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
In Berwick, they travelled with four horses that are over six years old. Kanavy says they don't race the horses in the major events such as the 160 and 120 km races until they are at least six years old. The horses used for a major event will not compete prior to their race; they would be on the ranch training instead.
However they feed them and train them seems to be working as Kanavy took first place in the senior 120 km run, Vinaver finished first in the junior 120 km run, and Russell and Balcazar finished first and second in the junior 80 km run.