OTTBs set off on 3,500-mile trek across USA

Valerie Ashker and her boyfriend Peter Friedman set out Monday on a 3,500 trek across the USA.

Valerie Ashker and her boyfriend Peter Friedman set out Monday on a 3,500 trek across the USA. Photo by William Gass

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
Solar Express
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:

William Gass photoIn an earlier story with Off Track, 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.

19 responses to “OTTBs set off on 3,500-mile trek across USA”

  1. sage41

    Safe travels 💓🐴💓

  2. Cynthetics

    Love it and good luck!!

  3. Carol

    Will you be going threw Nebraska,if you are it would be nice to know to see you and support you on your journey. Let know your route please. Thanks

  4. dale

    Safe travels Val! Hope to see you in MD!
    Prayers daily for you all along the way. <3

  5. Edward McNamara

    Thanks for doing this. I’ve ridden them as polo ponies for 40 years. You can’t beat them!

    1. Carol

      Wishing you both a safe trip and your horses also. What a beautiful journey it will be. Will look forward to your emails to see how you are all doing. Prays are sent your way for you both and your horses.🙏🏻🙏🏻👍😃🐴🐴 Happy trails!

  6. Ilona Rule

    Love, love OTTBs and grew up galloping them at the track and then riding them in their new careers. I hope this marathon ride is successful in raising awareness of the TB’s incredible versatility and willingness to work with their riders. But I just have to say one thing – this ride could be so much more. Yup. Talking about Minding Your Melon. Wear a helmet. Every ride. Every time. My helmet saved my life 15 years ago when the quietest, most bombproof horse tripped and I went arse over tea kettle. I hope Valerie & Peter see this comment and change their headgear from straw hat to helmet with a sun brim. Wishing you safe travels.

  7. Mary McLeod

    Please let me know if you plan to pass through NC. I would love to be there to applaude the OTTBs and the baby boomers!!! Bon chance, Mary in Boone

  8. Tonya

    Safe travels to them. Hope someday they’ll come through Iowa. Would love to cheer them on their journey.

  9. Karen Cox

    This is awesome! I am one of those rare folks riding an OTTB in endurance rides, so far our max is 50 miles but others have done 100 mile rides! They are not always for everyone but I love them and they certainly are versatile! I will also be interested in hearing out the Easyboot Trails work over longer distances.

  10. ShopForPuppy

    I look forward to reading about their journey. It is awesome that they are willing to do this to help bring awareness to the versatility of the OTTB. Thank you for another inspirational story!


  11. Ellen Brayshaw

    This is fantastic! Thoroughbreds have been my blood for 60 plus years. They are the most versatile, athletic, smart, sensible, loving horses of all. I’ve promoted off track, OTTB’s for a lifetime. I’ve owned over 250 throughout my career as an owner, breeder, trainer of sport and racing in New York and have promoted 2nd careers and rehoming besides being a field physician for catastrophic injuries with the goal of loving homes. Have a safe and enjoyable ride to Maryland, my best to you both..!!!

  12. R.A.C.E. Fund, Inc.

    What and adventure and journey for both riders and the horses. Stay safe and happy trails.

  13. Denise

    For so many years OTTB’s got a bum rap. Too hot, hard to control, untrainable – all misconceptions! I have ALWAYS had OTTB’s. They have a work ethic like no other horse on earth. They love to work, love to learn, and are easy to train, and love to please. I look forward to following this journey and wish them the best of luck! Wish I was with them…

  14. lexi63

    thoroughbreds are the VERY BEST they can do anything any other horse can do but they will do it better , a thoroughbred can do 6 different disiplins at the same time and do all well , they are the smartest, quickest thinkers, so athletic , kind and intuitive. get a thoroughbred today, find your nearest livestock auction and go save a thoroughbred from slaughter today .

  15. Cheri

    Wonderful…. take care and we’ll see you when you get here to Maryland!

  16. Kathy/Canter Haven Farm

    Love her dedication to OTTBs. There is a group of us in Utah with OTTBs ( and some of us are very close to the pony express trail) who would like to come out and cheer her on! Is there a tentative schedule to follow?

  17. Martha Foster

    This is so wonderful to see on so many levels! The Thoroughbred has such a huge heart and makes such a great partner! I look forward to following their journey!
    Thank you Susan for another heartwarming story!

  18. Carol

    Good luck and happy trails

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