Woman, 60, to ride her OTTB 3,500 miles

Valerie Ashker, 60, and 7-year-old OTTB Primitivo will set out to cross the United States May 8.

Valerie Ashker, 60, and 7-year-old OTTB Primitivo will set out to cross the United States May 8.

A 60-year-old equestrian plans to ride her off-track Thoroughbred from California to Maryland in a five-month journey meant to raise awareness and respect for the Thoroughbred sport horse.

Valerie Ashker, an Eventer, horse trainer and mother of four-star Eventer Lainey Ashker, plans to set out on the 3,500-mile journey on May 8. Leaving from her home base at Crow’s Ear Farm, Calif. Ashker will ride her 7-year-old OTTB Primitivo roughly 10 miles a day along old Pony Express roads, looking to cross the United States following the Route 50 corridor.

Sire: Monashee Mountain
Dam: Siberian Shamrock, by Siberian Summer
Foal date: May 6, 2009
“This is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time,” says Ashker. “Horses off the track have put us (Lainey and her) on the map. We’ve taken three OTTBs to Rolex and I’m doing this to raise awareness. These horses worked their bums off to be breadwinners for their (race) owners. And after they’re done with racing, usually at a young age, many people think they’re “done” altogether. What I’m hoping to demonstrate is that for a lot of these horses, the end of their race career is just the beginning.”

The Ashkers competed Eight St. James Place (Jockey Club: Catch the Sand Man) and Frodo Baggins before Lainey Ashker and her Thoroughbred Anthony Patch (Jockey Club: Alex’s Castledream) competed at Rolex four times, in addition to an entry at the Burghley Horse Trials. Although the Ashkers lost Fodo in an accident at Rolex in 2008 and Eight St. James Place to an aneurism, the heart and grit of their Thoroughbred sport horses has been something to be celebrated.

Valerie stands with OTTB Anthony Patch (JC: Alex's Castledream) and her four-star Eventer daughter Lainey.

Valerie stands with OTTB Anthony Patch (JC: Alex’s Castledream) and her four-star Eventer daughter Lainey.

“In many cases, a Thoroughbred’s second career is more illustrious than their career on the track,” she says. “By riding cross country, I hope to make more riders stop and think. Typical horse owners don’t need to go to Europe to buy these Warmbloods. They’ve got their own (prospective) sport horses in their own backyards.”

Plotting a route based on the cross-country ride navigated by endurance rider Matt Littrell on an American Mustang, Ashker and her boyfriend Peter Friedman, who will ride 17-year-old OTTB Solar Express, plan to start off at a leisurely pace and make camp along the way. “My mother bought me a beautiful trailer with living quarters and a (corral) system for the horses,” she says. “We’ll come into the trailer at night, and set the horses up outside.”

Ashker has already received warm welcomes from officials in Colorado and Utah, and hopes her journey, once underway, builds a following in the horse and OTTB world.

Ashker adds, “I’m aware of the horse slaughter pipeline, and if this ride can raise a little bit more awareness that these horses are not done in after they race, then I’ll be a soldier for that mission.” Follow Valerie Ashker’s progress via her Facebook Page: 2nd Makes Thru Starting Gates.

*This blog is brought to you by the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.

20 responses to “Woman, 60, to ride her OTTB 3,500 miles”

  1. Peggie Norton

    Ya know, if you come back thru Nevada, you better come stay with us again. It was my pleasure to be your host for those two wonderful days. We had so much in common and a bond that will be forever.
    Keep On, Keeping On.

  2. Tina Farrell

    Valerie and Primitivo – safe travels. I would love to cheer you on and provide any support you need along the Pony Express route in Utah. I just rescued my handsome and loving TB from a Texas killpen in December. He lives with me and my family in Utah now. We love him so much. There aren’t many TBs in Utah. I can’t wait to follow your adventure and I will be there along the route to support you.

  3. Patty

    Ride on, Valerie! I fully support you. Some friends and I have supported 2 OTTB’s in the past few years and I couldn’t be happier that you are doing this to make aware that they must not go to slaughter and can have a fantastic second career, even if it is as a pasture pal.

  4. Diane Krasznay

    Thank you for doing this!! Maybe you can solicit sponsors per mile to raise money for horses that need good homes after racing, or maybe for horses rescued and prevented from going to slaughter?

  5. Denise

    I wish you safe travels on your adventure. An OTTB owns the heart of our family. They are truly a special bread of horse. I’ll be following your adventure!

  6. Giovanna ( Jennie ) lepore

    What an inspiration. I am 62 and hope to compete my OTTB NOBOX WINE in a competitive ride in two weeks ( just 15 miles ). She is challenging to ride but fun and forward and quite high strung. It will be our first competition ever. Knowing you are doing this cross country ride gives me tons of encouragement. Thank you for advocating for these wonderful, sensitive and athletic American bred equines. It takes time and patience to bring them along but well worth the reward and bond I feel towards my lovely little mare.

  7. Linda Gurnee

    So impressed that you are going for the ultimate challenge! Hope you and your horse have a great, injury free journey! I am sure that you will make many friends along the way. Good luck and “Happy Trails”!

  8. kyhorse

    Well, I (age 64) and a friend (Age 72) rode 140 miles in one trip and that was exhausting enough! (www.crosskyride.com) Kudos to you and may your horses stay healthy. Hopefully you’ll take Rest days each week, I know we really needed it! And be sure to have a happy hour too!

  9. Dana Dickinson

    Good for you and your grit undertaking this awesome endeavor. I ride an OTTB and it touches my heart to know that I rescued my beloved 17 year old gelding and of all the other OTTB’s out there who have also been given great second chances.

  10. Jean Molnar

    It would be even more spectacular if you extended the invitation and were joined by OTTB riders all along the way. There is such a story to tell of the second chances being given. Celebrate them all across America. Maybe some higher recognition will save many more of them from the slaughter pipeline that is so terribly active everywhere. Good luck and safe travels!

  11. Geri

    You Rock Val! This will be an epic journey and all of us at “home” will be rooting for you. We know where Lainey gets her talent and drive from!

  12. Lynne Gavan

    A “Bucket List” experience for sure! Wishing you safe and exciting travel for all people, horses, and dogs!

  13. Lisa Suphan

    Omg how exciting!!!! I am so looking forward to reading about the progress made and the adventures along the way! Good luck and post on your page often!!

  14. Dory Munder

    How brilliant! I wish safe travels to the team, and look forward to following your journey!

  15. Bev

    Have a great ride, Valerie, stay safe and thank you for making this journey to help us all promote the versatility of the magnificent OTTB’s!

  16. Lisa thomas

    Valerie you are a super Mom extraordinaire to Lainey and all your 4 legged children. This is just so awesome!!

  17. Deb Barry

    Safe travels to Valerie and Primitivo!

  18. Sharon

    I wish you safe travels.

  19. Gloria

    Good luck. This is awesome. Love the boldness and heart of the thoroughbred. Keep us posted on your journey.

  20. Celeste

    That’s pretty awesome! Good luck! I hope someone keeps us up dated on your progress!

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