Since they set off on May 9 we have been closely following Valerie Ashker and partner Peter Friedman’s coast-to-coast journey on retired racehorses. They are now on the homestretch, set to “cross the finish line” in Middleburg, Virginia, this Saturday, Nov. 19.
Samantha Clark met up with the pair and their horses at the end of October in downtown Cincinnati. She detailed the story of what will ultimately be a 3,500-mile trek in a feature for EN: An Inside Look at Valerie Ashker’s Incredible Journey.
We’re sure there are some aspects of the trip that Valerie won’t miss. “My bum will never be the same!” she memorably exclaimed in her interview with Samantha.
In the same breath, however, she lament that it is drawing to a close.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it’s been such a mission, and so many people behind it,” she said. “For it to end is like being dropped out of the sky into nowhere-land. To have so much support has been incredible, and we’ve all been through so much together, and we’re here and we’re healthy and we’re ready to go on to the next 300 or so miles of the trip but then what? It will be tough saying goodbye to this.”
As their journey nears its finale daughter Laine sounds proud — and unsurprised that her tough, determined mother is soon to achieve her ambitious goal.
“Valerie Ashker set out on highway 50 aboard her 15.1 hand OTTB Primitivo in early May with two goals in mind: to make it clear across the country and to raise awareness for the versatility, soundness and overall character of the American Thoroughbred. Rehoming these Thoroughbreds from our nation’s racetracks to our show rings has been an unpopular movement to the masses as many import warmbloods from Europe for their movement and temperament instead,” she said.
“However, when seeing my mother ride on the shoulder of a three lane highway with tractor trailers whizzing by, or stopping at a traffic light to hold a light conversation with local neighborhood kids who have never seen a horse in real life, one must seriously question the outdated mindset of those ‘crazy Thoroughbreds.'”
Incredibly, Valerie and Peter have ridden the same two horses, Primitivo and Valerie’s 17-year-old retired OTTB prelim eventer Solar Express, the entire ride.
“These two horses have gone clear across the country with their own four hooves and if that isn’t a testament to OTTB soundness and true grit, than I don’t know what is!,” Laine remarks.
The pair’s ride will conclude on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Middleburg Training Center on Route 611 (St. Louis Road). The welcome home celebration is open to the public, so please come on out to cheer them on! Many thanks to Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation for its support of the event.
“Being as both of these horses began their careers on the racetrack, she figures that she will end a legendary ride with the very institution that gave them the unbridled will to run,” Laine says.