The eldest of six children, 1994 and 1998 World Endurance Champion Valerie Kanavy was the only family member with an interest in horses. Although her parents supported her desire to ride, they couldn’t afford to buy her a horse, so she did it herself. At age 11, she got her first horse for $150. Kanavy began competitive endurance riding in 1972 after reading an article about the Tevis Cup in California. Since then, she’s ridden to the top echelon of her field. Kanavy’s 1994 World Championship horse, Pieraz (nicknamed “Cash”), was purchased through a classified ad for $500.
At the 1994 FEI World Equestrian Games in The Netherlands, Kanavy and “Cash” earned the Individual Gold and Best Conditioned Award. In 1996, Kanavy opted not to defend her World Championship title. She instead handed over the reins of her World Championship mount to her daughter, Danielle.
Kanavy won the 1998 World Endurance Championship in the United Arab Emirates with a thrilling gallop to the finish. At the 2000 Bayer/United States Equestrian Team (USET) Festival of Champions, Kanavy rode to a third-place finish in the Sooner Trailer/USET 50-Mile Endurance Championship, finishing behind one of her own horses, Bearcat O’Reilly, ridden by winner Kristen Snook. She came back the next year to win the USET Championship, and repeated that title at the 75-mile distance in 2002.
Valerie has had success in recent years with a number of different horses. With Gold Raven, Kanavy won the FEI ride at the Goethe Challenge in December of 2008. With King Ali Gold, Valerie had two wins in the 2008 season. They won at the New Years in New Mexico competition and the CEI3* Open at Fort Howes.
At the 2009 Biltmore Challenge Kanavy and her own Spectacular Gold won the AERC Open 100. Kanavy and LM Parys won the CEI2* 120 KM race at Coast Creek New Lowell CEI event in Canada.
Kanavy began 2010 with a fourth-place finish on King Ali Gold at FITS in the CEI3* 160 KM race. A month later, she placed third in the CEI2* 120 KM ride at the Biltmore Challenge with Destiny Gold. Her first win of the season came in July when she would finish first in the CEI1* 80 KM race in New Lowell, Canada, on Tuff Enough FA. Kanavy then traveled overseas for the late summer and fall, earning a fifth-place finish in the CEI3* 160 KM race at the CEI3* Florac in France.
Kanavy started 2011 on a winning note, winning the Dupuis Piney Pig CEI3* on her own Gold Raven. She then finished in second place in the FITS CEI3* 160 KM race with Destiny Gold. Kanavy picked up her second victory on Reach For the Gold at the Biltmore Challenge CEI2* 120 KM race, which would start a string of top placings for the rider and her horses. Next up, she crossed the border and finished second in the CEI2* 120KM race in Millbrook, Ontario, before traveling to the Big Sky State to win the CEI3* 160 KM race at Fort Howes. The 2011 Endurance Pan American Games in Chile was Kanavy’s final ride of the year and she went out on a high note, finishing third individually and earning the second-place team honors with the U.S. team.
Kanavy repeated her victory at Dupuis Piney Pig to kick off 2012, winning the CEI3* 160 KM race on LM Parys. In July, Kanavy and her mount, Reach For the Gold, were members of the U.S. Endurance Team for the 2012 FEI World Endurance Championships, helping the U.S. team to a fourth-place finish.
2014 started strong for Kavavy with a fourth-place finish in the North American Endurance Team Challenge aboard Just Gold. At the Biltmore Challenge, she rode AM Mysterious Mopsa to second place in the CEI2* 120 KM race. Kanavy then picked up a win in the CEI2* 120 KM race in Berwick, Ontario with Just Gold.
In addition to being a top competitor, Kanavy gives back to her sport through organizing and managing competitive rides. She has attracted riders from the United Arab Emirates, Australia, and Europe, as well as the best from the U.S. and Canada. Kanavy and her husband, Larry, also own and operate Trev-Dan Building Supply Co., in Chester Springs, Pa. They have three children.