When Lainey Ashker and her 15-year-old off-track Thoroughbred Anthony Patch trounced the competition at the Millbrook Horse Trials earlier this month, the proudest moments came in the dressage ring, with the perfect execution of the canter work on which they’d worked so hard, and in her own head, as she finally realized she really did belong up there competing at the highest echelons of the sport.
“I think the biggest thing for me was to be in that group of people and to be competitive,” Ashker says. “It’s great to feel you belong. I’ve always known I had the work ethic to belong, but to have the three phases (of Millbrook) come together, and to be up against people like Sharon, Boyd, Phillip, and Buck” — no last names necessary—“These are people I’ve idolized … and I realized I belong.”
Indeed she did.
New name: Anthony Patch
Sire: Castle Guard
Dam: Aimee Alexis
Foal date: May 19, 1999Ashker and Anthony Patch came roaring back after a very disappointing spring. Just steps away from competing in the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event this past April, Ashker withdrew Al he developed an “abscess from hell” in his right, hind foot.
“It took weeks to dissipate,” she says, and when it did her farrier immediately fitted his thinly soled feet with Sigafoos glue-on shoes, a move that has done wonders. “They’re wider and they affix to the hoof with a cloth that’s almost like an acrylic,” Ashker says, noting that his back feet have returned to good health.
As soon as he was ready, Ashker put Al back to work to keep his fitness up, and the pair never looked back from that disappointing scratch at Rolex.
In July, she put him over lower fences at the Maryland Horse Trial, a Preliminary Event aimed at assessing his fitness. Al was mostly bored, giving Ashker a spooky ride as his attention wandered from the smaller jumps and to anything on the periphery, she says.
“He doesn’t focus as well when the jumps are smaller, and he starts screwing around,” she says, laughing. “This is why he does so well at the upper levels. He respects those bigger jumps.”
And boy did he ever show respect at Millbrook!
In the Dressage ring, he gave Ashker his very best canter work. He balanced at that sweet spot between relaxation and brilliance, she says, noting that she prepped for this ride by working with her Prix St. George horse Diego, doing exercises that built her confidence.
“My goal was to ride for the 8s and 9s in the canter work,” she says, noting the one mistake she made was pushing too hard at the extended trot and getting a canter break. On cross-country, the pair rode fiercely toward the jumps on a course she described as “technical and gallopy.” And they went clear with the second fastest time.
The show jumping was her biggest challenge. This year, on the advice of her coach and competitor Buck Davidson, she took deep breaths and settled her nerves, and did a great job.
“When we jumped the last jump and the announcer loudly reported, ‘Clear!’ I suddenly remembered to breathe again,” she told Eventing Nation. “I felt a huge sense of relief and an even greater sense of gratitude.”
And what an honor to be riding among the greats, on her own great little T-bred: Anthony Patch! ♥