USDF silver medalist Chesna Klimek and off-track Thoroughbred Solar walked away with the win at the Emerald Downs trainer challenge last month after she rode the beautiful black horse over a jump— bareback, and without a bridle.
The pair took first place in the 100-day Trainer Challenge, after outperforming other competitors in two divisions— the in-hand demonstration, and a three-and-a-half minute freestyle completion, which featured the daring jump.
Says Klimek, “Three minutes isn’t a lot of time to showcase what they’ve learned. But I knew he seemed pretty calm at the show, so I decided to do the bridle-less jumping.
“I was so glad I got to showcase this because poor Thoroughbreds get the reputation of being hard to control, even dangerous, and I was so glad Solar could show how safe and willing they really can be.”
Dam: Desert Liaison
Foal date: March 30, 2006Klimek started riding Solar bareback and without a bridle, about mid-way through their 100-day training. It was nothing she planned. She just did it unexpectedly one day in the schooling ring, and according to Klimek, it just felt right.
“While I was still in the saddle, I reached forward, after bending his head around, and unhooked the bridle and pulled it off. I had a neck rope on his neck” as a safeguard “and we just went about our ride as we normally would.”
She took him through his paces, and when it came time for the first whoa, his initial confusion cleared up when she sat deeper and gave a little pull on the neck rope. After that, working free of tack was another skill to which Solar quickly adapted.
“When you take the bridle away, you get to know their personality better. You see how he responds without those tools. And he continued to be very willing,” she says.
The duo took home a $1,000 first prize check for their win, and Jack Hodge, who owns Oak Crest Farm, where Solar was bred, presented it.
Finishing a close second were fan favorites Dakota Demon and rider/trainer Mark Bolender, who won a $500 prize. As fan favorites, they were also awarded a special halter at the prize ceremony.
A retired veterinarian in Ohio, who followed Solar’s progress in blog posts, snapped him up. “His new owner flew out to Washington to meet him, and last week she took him home,” says Klimek, noting that his new owner plans to ride him in dressage and on trails.
The 26-year-old Rainier, Wash., native was thrilled to win the trainer challenge, but she was even more pleased to have a hand in finding the 7-year-old gelding a new home.