After 100 days of training, a spirited ex-racehorse said to possess a “fighting spirit” went from the backside of Mountaineer Race Track to “diving around” barrels and leaping a flaming jump.
No More Rings and his rider and trainer Nicole Valeri, 20, of Pinnacle Stables in Pennsylvania, decided to do something with a “wow factor” when they competed Sept. 5 at the annual Ultimate X Showdown, a trainer competition for Thoroughbred ex-racehorses.
Valeri and Rings burst through mock saloon doors at a gallop, swooping into a boisterous arena where country music blared, and as Valeri fired off her gun, Annie Oakley style, she urged Rings to leap over a small jump, which had already been set on fire.
No More Rings
Sire: Where’s the Ring
Foal date: April 22, 2009
Earnings: $41,862, 28 starts“I really wanted to do something with a wow-factor,” Valeri says. “In the five-minute freestyle we had certain maneuvers that were required, including cantering left and right on the correct lead, side passing over ground poles, leg yielding left and right, stopping and standing and backing up straight. But I got extra points for creativity: I had big saloon doors built that we burst through; I shot a gun and we jumped over fire!” (Please see the You Tube video below).
The event, which was held at the Simmons Equestrian Center in Negley, Ohio, challenged trainers like Valeri, who competed for a slot in the competition, to take an untrained racehorse right off the track and teach him to barrel race. Organized by longtime barrel racer Jackie Harris of charity nonprofit Dreaming of Three, the competition highlights the versatility of Thoroughbreds in a sport that traditionally favors other horse breeds.
But No More Rings took to barrel racing with an uncanny aptitude, Valeri says.
“We started off a little rocky. I was a little intimidated by him because he was super strong, and if he got cranky, he wouldn’t mind taking off with me,” she says. “But once I got over my intimidation, we started to click, and by the time we started training with the barrels, I realized he really loved it. He wanted to hunt those barrels; he showed he really wants to be a barrel horse!”
Valeri had no inside tip when she chose Rings for the job.
She went shopping at Mountaineer Race track shortly after learning she’d been selected from 50 applicants to participate in the trainer challenge. And she chose Rings for his short, stockier build and “good fighting spirit.”
At the beginning that fighting spirit translated into a difficult personality. He took off with her when frustrated, and quivered and tried to bite when she tried to brush him.
But the pair soon eased into a nice arrangement as she worked him from the ground up, teaching him first to respect her space, before working on lateral flexion and getting him soft and supple in her hands; not bracing, as many racehorses can be.
“I rode him six days a week. We weren’t drilling barrels all that time. I also took him out on trail rides, and by the end of our time together, we were riding as one entity,” she says. “The night before the challenge, I was riding him bareback in a ring with other horses, and I slipped his bridle off and rode with just a string.”
Since training the plain bay in her sport, Valeri has had a lesson herself. “I never really thought about using Thoroughbreds for this sport. But since working with Rings, I’ve bought two more off-track Thoroughbreds. It was an eye-opening experience, and I’ve fallen in love with the breed!” ♥