And they’re off!
Sixty-year-old equestrian Valerie Ashker set off Monday morning for a 3,500-mile ride on her off-track Thoroughbred; raising awareness about OTTB’s from California to Maryland.
After doing interviews with major media outlets and making final preparations, Ashker and her boyfriend Peter Friedman saddled up and departed from her property, Crow’s Ear Farm, in the foothills of Sierra, California, covering 13 miles in the first day.
Speaking from horseback, with the sound of hoof beats echoing in the background, Ashker sounded optimistic as she and her 7-year-old OTTB Primitivo embarked on the second day of what is expected to be a five-month journey.
Sire: Monashee Mountain
Dam: Siberian Shamrock, by Siberian Summer
Foal date: May 6, 2009
Sire: Bold Badgett
Dam: Proper Look, by Properantes
Foal date: May 18, 1999“I want to raise awareness about off-track Thoroughbreds,” says Ashker, the mother of four-star Eventer Lainey Ashker, and an expert horsewoman in her own right. “So far, it’s all been so good, and the horses are doing really well.”
Accompanied by her boyfriend on 17-year-old OTTB Solar Express, and by driver Willy Gass, the trio was aiming to arrive in Camino, Calf. by nightfall to make camp.
“Already, this trip is starting to get people to look at Thoroughbreds, and to think about them,” she says. “I hope this ride helps call even more attention to OTTBs so these horses” and their welfare “can become a really high priority.”
Ashker decided to embark on the cross-country trip as a means to raise awareness about the value and worth of Thoroughbred sport horses. Following a map that will take them along old Pony Express routes, and as near as possible to the Route 50 corridor, Ashker says she hopes to conclude her journey at a racetrack in Maryland. (Please see earlier story: http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2016/04/06/woman-60-to-ride-her-ottb-3500-miles/)
In an earlier story with Off Track Thoroughbreds.com, Ashker explained:
“This is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time. Horses off the track have put us (Lainey and me) 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.”
Her daughter Lainey Ashker, a four-star Eventer who just finished in the top 20 at Rolex aboard OTTB Anthony Patch, adds that she’s thrilled for her mom. “I feel really great seeing her fulfill a lifelong dream!” she says. Valerie’s progress can be tracked via her Facebook page 2nd Makes Thru Starting Gates.
This blog is made possible through the support of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, the nation’s oldest and largest Thoroughbred charity.