T-bred leaps fire with gun-shooting rider, wins

No More Rings was racing at Mountaineer about 100 days before he was doing this at the Ultimate X Trainer Challenge.

No More Rings was racing at Mountaineer about 100 days before he was doing this at the Ultimate X Trainer Challenge. A Sam Mike photo

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
Dam: Equideed
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.

At the beginning of training, Nicole and Rings were completely unsure of each other.

At the beginning of training, Nicole and Rings were completely unsure of each other.

“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.

Rings and Nicole Valeri make a grand entrance to the Ultimate X Showdown. Sam Mike photo

Rings and Nicole Valeri make a grand entrance to the Ultimate X Showdown. A Sam Mike photo

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!” ♥

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8 responses to “T-bred leaps fire with gun-shooting rider, wins”

  1. Beck

    Amazing! Well done! You and all the extreme mustang makeover trainers and horses have my utmost respect. Hats off to y’all 🙂

  2. Rebecca Fetterman Vensel

    I was there! I can assure you that all thirteen horses in the competition were willing and happy during their performances. None were under duress, and all are well cared for. Just the fact that all will either remain with their trainers or go to new homes with 100 days post-track training, instead of an auction and possibly the kill pens, speaks well for itself.

  3. Michelle Y.

    What an accomplishment for this OTTB!! Very impressive!!

  4. Suzanne Parent

    The expression on the horse’s face doesn’t lend itself to happiness with the tasks at hand; he looks tortured…IMO.

    1. Mike

      Suzanne, you don’t have a clue what you’re talking about… IMO

  5. Rebecca Fetterman Vensel

    It was such a privilege to see this pair compete last Friday night. An amazing show of just what this amazing breed can do under the tutelage of skilled horsemen and horsewomen. Thanks to all the competitors who came from as far as Dawson Creek, B.C. Canada, California, Texas, Minnesota, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio for all their time, expense and dedication. Thanks to Jackie Harris and Dreaming of Three for bringing the 2nd annual Ultimate X Showdown to Eastern Ohio.

  6. Teresa Melnick

    This is really amazing!! Thanks for sharing. I never knew, before reading your blogs, that there are so many new venues for people to show off track Thoroughbreds. I think that’s wonderful. I hope it continues to grow. They are such an amazing breed1

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