Source: Tim Epperson
It’s not often one finds an individual riding a horse across the wide expanse of America, but Valerie Ashker, of Georgetown, California, is not only traveling with one horse but two, and she’s a woman riding for a cause.
When Ashker reached Sedalia Thursday she and her thoroughbred horses Solar Express, 17, and Primitivo, 7, had rode 1,700 miles since May 9.
“These are called Off the Track Thoroughbreds, these are race horses,” she said. “They raced and then when their career was over, they were bought by me for a second career.
“My daughter is Laine Ashker, and she’s one of our long-listed Olympic riders,” Ashker added. “We owe it all to to Off the Track Thoroughbreds, OTTBs, because they have put us literally on the map in the event world.”
Ashker noted that the trip across America was something she wanted to do to “give back” to the horses.
“This is raising awareness that these horses have a better career the second time than the first one, and I’m here to prove it,” she added. “Both horses are doing incredible … we’ve gone 1,700 miles.”
Ashker began her journey in Georgetown, California and plans to trot on to Middleburg, Virginia using U.S. Highway 50. Posts about her trip are placed on her Facebook page, 2nd Makes Thru the Starting Gates, where she’s amassed 80,000 followers.
“It has 10 videos a day, all live-streaming of what I’m doing, where I’m at, what my horses are doing,” she said. “It’s all about the journey and how to manage the things that are along the way.”
Ashker said many of her posts talk about how she keeps the horses in “just as good of condition as they were when they left her house.”
“Not one step will be in a trailer,” she added. “They have walked the entire way. What makes it epic, and historical, that no one’s ever done, is that no one’s started and finished on the same (OTTB) horse before.”
She said she began riding Primitivo, and she would finish the ride on him.
“It’s quite an undertaking, and these horses have really prevailed well,” she noted. “They don’t look a bit like they’ve struggled with 1,700 miles.”
She noted that riding a horse across the U.S. is the hardest thing she’s done in her life. Since taking off in California Ashker has had two accidents where she’s fallen. She has broke both her clavicle and an elbow.
“But I’m still going strong,” she said. “These darn California women, you can’t put them down too long. We are well on our way to making it. I have a lot of people who want us to make it.”
She added that she wanted to share her journey with others and let people know about OTTB horses.
“People don’t have to go to Europe and buy their daughters a $60,000 horse,” Ashker noted “Go to your city’s race track barn and buy them for $1,000. I’m here to tell you, these horses can do more than any horse out there.
“What they have more than any other bred, is heart …,” she added. “If I save one horse from off the track, from a bad place or bring knowledge to a family who are looking for horse and they decide on an OTTB, then this whole ride was worth it. Would I trade the million dollars worth of memories on this so far? Heck no, but would I do it for two million dollars again? No. It’s way to hard.”
At the present, Ashker said she needs a driver. Ashker’s boyfriend, who usually rides Solar, is driving their self-contained vehicle. For more information about her trip visit her Facebook page, 2nd Makes Thru the Starting Gates, where she also has a GoFundMe link.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.