Ellicia Edgar’s beloved grandmother Norma had a framed 1867 advertisement for a Morgan stallion named Messenger displayed in the front hall of her home. Just two hours after Norma died on May 16, 2013 at age 94, a big chestnut colt was born on Edgar’s Valleyfield Farm in Parkland County, Alberta. Edgar honoured her grandmother’s memory by naming the Canadian Sport Horse foal Messenger VF.
“When he was born, I knew he was something special,” Edgar says. “He was the one anyone who came into yard asked about. There was never a doubt that this one could do all the things.” She also knew from day one that ‘Messy’ was stallion material.
Her faith in Messy has been justified. In the past year, he’s been successfully competing in Europe in FEI show jumping at the 1.60 metre level, with several top 20 finishes in 2022. He has become one of only two North American-bred stallions to achieve full status with the KWPN and the KWPN-NA (and is a nominee for KWPN-NA’s FEI Horse of the Year). He has also proven his worth as a sire, with offspring successfully competing in sport and at keurings.
Valleyfield has been breeding and producing warmbloods for high-end sport for more than 15 years, investing in mares with performance records up to grand prix level (jumping) and breeding to top European stallions. Edgar’s goal is to produce the best that Europe has to offer in Alberta, and Messenger VF is living up to that promise. He is out of Edgar’s mare Nec Plus Ultra M-G C Leuze (Ultra) and by Monte Bellini, winner of the second round of the 2012 FEI World Cup in s’Hertogenbosch under Philipp Weishaupt. The pair was named to the German Olympic team, but did not attend the London Games in London due to the horse being ill.
Edgar started breeding horses while she was still in high school ‒ she crossed her 1.10 metre jumper Clyde-Thoroughbred mare twice with Santana, a De Niro son, producing two equitation-type horses. She next purchased a Calvados daughter in foal to Timebreaker. Edgar had been breaking and riding young horses since her teens, and continued show jumping while pursuing her breeding aspirations. In 2005, she moved to the property where she lives with husband Bryce Lueders and their children.
As Edgar progressed in the jumper ring, at age 25 she went to Europe to buy a mare to help further her riding skills, but also kept breeding in mind. “I only bought mares and ones that had pedigrees attractive to me. It was important that they had a performance history matched with pedigree. I started doing embryo transfers with them, then bred the mares and they carried their foals after they retired.” Messenger’s dam was one of these – Ultra, a Darco daughter, took Edgar to 1.50 metre in show jumping and was her best-producing mare. After producing foals via embryo transfer, Messenger was the last foal Ultra carried herself.
“My 12-year-old stepdaughter can lead him and my 72-year-old mother has ridden him. He’s one of the sweetest horses.”
“He gets his incredible hind end – it’s almost like he’s double-jointed – from her. She had a little more blood, she was saucier but kind and brave, and he gets his bravery from her,” says Edgar.
“Monte Bellini has a quiet amateur mentality and added that little extra scope. Messenger is a lamb and has been his whole life, though he bloods up in the ring. He’s like Ferdinand the Bull. My 12-year-old stepdaughter can lead him and my 72-year-old mother has ridden him. He’s one of the sweetest horses.”
Edgar started Messenger at three, rode him at four then as she had her children, she had friend Chris Surbey take the reins then took the horse back when he was seven. She rode Messenger to the 1.40 metre level and knew he had potential for greater things. She had a business relationship with Greg Broderick in Ireland and sent the stallion to Broderick’s Ballypatrick Stables where Irish team member Kevin Gallagher got the ride. Messenger’s nine-year-old year started off slowly as Gallagher was in Florida for most of the year, then got injured.
“Messenger had a quiet season until August (2022) then Dublin was his coming-out show,” says Edgar. “He had nice results jumping 1.50 metres in Spain the fall before and has been outstanding ever since. At Dublin, he jumped his first 1.60 and had top-10 placings. He went to Warsaw, Poland where he jumped clear with a time fault, then made his first Nations’ Cup appearance in Spain where the team finished fourth.”
Although Edgar had the Canadian Sport Horse licensed by the KWPN at a keuring at her farm, she was invited to have the stallion do his full approval in Holland.
“He is the first Canadian horse ever to get that approval and that’s quite an accomplishment,” says Edgar. He’s only of only two North American stallions to get full KWPN approval – the other was American Mary Alice Malone’s stallion Judgement, ridden by Beezie Madden. In mid-March, Messy was also named KWPN NA’s Performance Horse of the Year!
After his successful stint in Europe, Edgar is bringing Messenger VF back to Canada where he’ll be available via fresh cooled semen to North American mare owners this year. Before leaving for Europe, he had sired 40 foals for Edgar and other mare owners. Messenger offspring include successful show jumpers Nova VF, Navigator VF, New York VF, Maddam VF and Nevertheless VF, to name a few.
Edgar has 35 horses at home at Valleyfield, including colt Sampson VF (Carrera VDL x Notorious VF, a Messenger daughter), 2022 North American champion jumper foal for the KWPN and a stallion prospect, plus Nickelson VDL, a five-year-old stallion she’s developing in partnership with VDL Stud.