3500 Mile Cross Country Journey With 2 Off Track Thoroughbreds Ends Sat. Nov. 19 In Middleburg

Two off-track Thoroughbreds attempting to cross the United States in a 3,500-mile trek arrived in Ohio yesterday after a months long “epic milestone” journey, now nearly complete.

Ambling over busy city bridges with cool confidence, then standing calmly amid youngsters who’d swarmed “like bees” from a city apartment complex to come and pet them, OTTBs Primitivo and Solar Express did what they’ve done since the trip began in May: they took it all in stride.

Looking fit and healthy, the pair of bay Thoroughbreds carried riders Valerie Ashker and her boyfriend Peter Friedman past whizzing cars and looming buildings and into an ebullient crowd of children as they came within 500 miles of their journey’s end.

Sire: Monashee Mountain
Dam: Siberian Shamrock, by Siberian Summer
Foal date: May 6, 2009
Solar Express
Sire: Bold Badgett
Dam: Proper Look, by Properantes
Foal date: May 18, 1999
“They’re amazing horses,” says Ashker, 60.

Valerie Ashker & peter Friedman will cross the finish line Saturday in Middleburg, VA with Primitivo & Solar Express after a 3500 mile journey
Valerie Ashker & peter Friedman will cross the finish line Saturday in Middleburg, VA with Primitivo & Solar Express after a 3500 mile journey

Roughly six months after setting out on the cross-country odyssey to raise awareness about OTTBs, Ashker says the trip, filled with more than a few setbacks, has turned a page. After arriving in Ohio, Ashker was promptly interviewed by two television stations and an online publication as word of the journey spread.

A highlight was the moment a large group of boys and girls scampered from their apartment building to meet and pet the beautiful horses. “Many of these kids had never been near a horse before,” she says. “I tried to talk with them, to ask them about Halloween, but they couldn’t have cared less. They just wanted to know about the horses.”

Children took Selfies with the obliging animals and peppered questions at Ashker before the Thoroughbred goodwill tour moved on.

With 480 miles to go until it ends in Middleburg, Va., Ashker says she is so close to the finish line she can almost taste it. Once she crosses into Middleburg, Va., Ashker plans to reunite with her daughter and four-star Eventer Lainey Ashker.

Ashker left her California farm on May 9 with the goal of raising awareness about OTTBs and their worth after their racing careers end. The weather has been in their favor throughout the long months, although Ashker sustained injuries, including broken ribs and a clavicle, along the way.

All in all, however, the trip has proved to be a momentous adventure, one she hopes has built awareness.

“I think we’ve done good in getting word out,” Ashker says. — Please check out Valerie and Peter’s progress on Facebook page 2nd Makes Thru Starting Gates.