Battling locusts, health issues and occasional setbacks, a 60-year-old California woman on a mission to cross the USA on her off-track Thoroughbred arrived in Kansas this week.
Some 1,500 miles into a journey that began in California in May, Valerie Ashker and her OTTB Primitivo rode like the wind toward lush grasses of the last “big state” they’ll cross on their five-month trek.
Ashker and her boyfriend Peter Friedman, who is riding alongside Ashker on OTTB Solar Express, were en route to Dodge City, Kan. yesterday afternoon, building up “million dollar experiences” on the trip that is easily the hardest thing she’s ever done, she says.
But her two Thoroughbreds are thriving.
Learning to “be comfortable in the uncomfortable” of their new normal, Solar Express and Primitivo have carried their riders eastward along the famous Santa Fe Trail, where wagon trains once headed west.
“We’ve hand galloped and we’ve cantered on un-level footing,” she says. “And there was a point where the locusts were everywhere. They’d take a step, and about 50 grasshoppers would fly up. The horses’ heads were flipping in the air, but they just kept on going. I’m totally floored with how well they’ve handled this.”
The longtime OTTB trainer, and mother of four-star eventer Lainey Ashker, together with Freidman, set out in May from her ranch in Georgetown, Calif. Ashker and accompanied by a van driver, have now covered 1,500 miles in a ride to raise awareness about the virtues of the OTTB. She posts updates on her trip via Facebook page 2nd Makes Thru Starting Gates.
And though tensions have flared, and a few bones have broken—Ashker broke her ribs and clavicle in two separate incidents—the Thoroughbreds have been sound as a bell, and game to face every day.
“They are fab-u-lous,” she says for emphasis. “I make sure I take full body pictures of them, and they look better today than the day we left. Their legs and feet are doing great, and we’re riding them in bitless bridles,” she says.
Once the horses hit the Missouri border, the states should start “flying by,” says Ashker, noting that they’re on track to complete the 3,500-mile ride by late October.
“This has been the ride of a lifetime,” she says. “And the Thoroughbreds haven’t taken a wrong step.”
6 responses to “OTTBs make it to Kansas on 3,500-mile journey”
I am hoping to join her for a day with one of my OTTB’s when she get closer.
I love that you are riding them bit-less. Best of luck as you continue in your ride.
Wish you could hit DC by Sept 22 for the SAFE Food SAFE Horse Rally at the USDA Bldg and march to the Capitol to help pass the SAFE Act.
Our OTTBs can do anything!!!
How very awesome! Wish you were coming to Florida! We would love to have you visit our Equine Rescue and Adoption Foundation facility! We have several OTTB’s!
I have to laugh how the words were changed… I double checked the spelling, too… It did say your “darling” daughter
Hi Val! I think about you EVERY DAY. and include you in my daily prayers. So proud of you drive to set this enormous goal and love watching your progress. I always thought toddling daughter was amazing, but “sit down Lainey, your mother is in the saddle!!!!!!” Keep safe and keep going, I can’t wait to catch up with you when you get to VA, and well spend some time at the TB Makeover in October! If she comes again this year, I want you to meet Trudy Midas, the developer of Espanna Horse grooming products, I think you two would really hit it off. Cheers my dear <3