City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More
One of Valerie's foals. Photo by Valerie Dailey

Featured Article

For the Love of Horses

“A lovely horse is always an experience.... It is an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words.” Beryl Markham

Jennifer Cash and her Dales pony Ellie

How long have you been in the community?

I moved here in 1999 to attend UF. I obtained a degree in Animal Science with an equine specialization. I have been around and loved horses since I was a child and wanted a career in the horse industry. I did my internship at a local thoroughbred farm in Micanopy. I met my husband there and we built a life here in Micanopy // Gainesville. 

How did you land with an interest in Dales ponies?

The farm across the road from us was for sale for a long time. A couple from England bought the farm and imported a small herd of Dales Ponies. I had never heard of the breed. I began riding her Dales Ponies and instantly fell in love with the breed. They are a large drafty type pony that has a wonderful calm disposition and they are a great all-around horse. The couple has since sold the farm and moved back to England, but they left a small pocket of breeding ponies with a few of the locals who also grew to love the breed. I bought my mare as a foal and have had her for almost 5 years now. 

Favorite story about your ponies.

I was there the day Ellie (my mare) was bred. I rode her mom when she was pregnant with her and I saw her within 24 hours of her birth. I bought her when she was 2 months old, though I did not bring her home until 9 months at the time of her weaning from her mom. I have been around Ellie her whole life!

Is there a connection between Orkin and your love for your ponies? 

I never could have imagined I would be running an Orkin Branch. I always pictured myself having a job in the horse industry, but Orkin is a family business and it has allowed me to have much more freedom (financially and otherwise) with my horses that I treasure. 

If someone was looking to get a pony, what would you recommend? 

Do the research on the breed. Understand the breed. Get connected with the Dales Pony Society and with our local chapter here in the States, the Dales Pony Conservancy North America. Always register your horse with the Dales Pony Society. We are trying to breed these ponies and bring awareness to the breed. They are on the critically endangered list and there are a mere 300 ponies in the US and less than 3,000 worldwide. 

Quote or favorite message that you live your life by or that explains who you are and your journey.

My love of horses has brought me to many different places and met some incredible people. I always say I met my favorite people in the Barn. (I met my 2 best friends as well as my husband in a barn). LOL!!

The Dales pony is one of the United Kingdom's native mountain and moorland pony breeds. The breed is known for its strength, hardiness, stamina, courage, intelligence, and good disposition. With population numbers low the breed is considered "critical" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and "threatened" by The Livestock Conservancy.

Valerie Dailey was a youngster in kindergarten when she got her first pony in a negotiated deal with her parents: If she made straight As, she could have one. That was motivation enough for her. 

“His name was Red,” she recalls. “And the most important thing I learned from him was how not to get scraped off the saddle. He loved running back to the barn and getting as close to the side of it as he could to try and literally rub me off his back.”  

She laughs about it now. “He was ornery, but staying in the saddle is a valuable lesson to learn.” 

Her second horse, Yankee Doodle Dandy, was a half-Arabian, half Quarter Horse who was much friendlier and more patient. “He really taught me the basics of riding and gave me confidence,” she says.  “He was the first horse I showed at 4-H. He was my friend all the way from 3rd Grade to when I graduated from college. I have so many great memories of him.” 

As any horse person will tell you, there is nothing secret between a rider and a horse. These animals are much more than simply pets or breeding livestock. Humans have special bonds with our animal companions, and each one is unique and singular. What they share in common is that we come to see our animals as individuals in their own rights – they have intuition, empathy, and agency, regardless of the fact that they have four feet and fur; that part is irrelevant.  

Valerie’s early love of horses evolved into an active commitment in helping facilitate and develop the equestrian industry; she’s been a knowledgeable thoroughbred breeder since 1992 and currently has 20 horses and 8 broodmares at her farm. Her dedication to the horse community and its ongoing improvement have seen her collaborate with other breeders, industry professionals and entrepreneurs, advocating for equine and agricultural development in the region, and just last year she was named the first female president of the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association. 

Winston Churchill once said that there was “something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a person”, and generally you’ll find most horse people agree with that. If you have a good relationship, a horse can teach you not only how to become a good rider – but in very real terms, they can teach lessons about motivation, commitment, trust – and even letting go. 

Just this past year, Valerie and her daughter Sam relocated Mel, a beloved 20 year-old Quarter Horse to the therapeutic riding program Stirrups n’ Strides, because they knew they wouldn’t be able to ride him as often as they used to. 

“We knew we would miss him, but it wasn’t about us.” Valerie explains. “It had to be about him and what he needed. Mel’s a people person; even at his age, he’s so smart and energetic and curious. We knew he’d be happy there. You do everything you can for a friend to make sure they’re happy.” 

  • Ellie's Mom & Jennie on a ride
  • Ellie
  • Valerie and her husband Hugh  operate 3D Farm in Anthony, where they breed and raise thoroughbreds. Photos by Showcase Properties.
  • Valerie and her husband Hugh  operate 3D Farm in Anthony, where they breed and raise thoroughbreds. Photos by Showcase Properties.
  • One of Valerie's foals. Photo by Valerie Dailey
  • Samantha Dailey with family Quarter Horse Roy. Photo by Valerie Dailey.
  • Ellie
  • Ellie
  • Ellie & Jennie
  • Ellie & Jennie