Cosequin Presents Aftercare Spotlight: An ‘All-Around Horse’ With A Side Hustle

by | 07.11.2018 | 11:16am
Kristina and Trigger competing in the Davie PRCA Rodeo in Florida. (Photo by David Rosenfield)

Recently studies have shown that today's professionals – especially those in their 20s, 30s and 40s – often have more than one source of income. Commonly referred to as having a “side hustle,” these budding entrepreneurs do everything from waiting tables and tending bar to designing websites, starting small retail business, baking…even writing a weekly column about Thoroughbred aftercare!  :)

Humans aren't the only ones that can work a second job to earn a few extra bucks. At Belterra Park & Gaming near Cincinnati, Ohio, there's a bay gelding by the name of Trigger who, while not a Thoroughbred, is so much more than a one-trick pony.

While he has never raced in the traditional sense of the word, Trigger has taken more trips around the racing oval than most of the horses he escorts to and from the track each morning. Ridden and owned by Kristina Bair, Trigger is the trusted stable pony and unofficial mascot for trainer Coty Davidson's 23-head racing stable. Every once in a while, though, Trigger gets to do a little racing of his own, bringing home checks and buckles as a barrel racer at some of the biggest rodeos in the region.

While Trigger acts like he's been balancing the life of a track pony with being a barrel racer for years, it's actually only been in the last four years that he's learned either discipline.  At just 9-years-old, Trigger's resume is already pretty well stacked, thanks to Bair, who purchased him while in college when she decided to make a drastic change in her equestrian life.

“I've always loved horses and just had this need to be around them. I'd been showing and training hunter-jumpers and both of my own horses were Thoroughbreds, but I was starting to get tired of the political nature of the hunter-jumper world,” said Bair. “I'd gone to the World Equestrian Games in 2010 and while I'd come there to watch the show jumping, it was the reining that I absolutely fell in love with.”


Bair, who was living in Ocala, Fla., at the time, began thinking seriously about swapping her English tack for Western and started attending rodeos and shows more and more to watch, becoming both a fan and a student of the western disciplines.

“There wasn't much reining in Ocala, but there was barrel racing, so I started gravitating more toward that, training with [local rider/trainer] Poppy Moe, who was kind enough to let me compete on a few of her horses and learn the ropes,” said Bair. “We did a few fun shows, then she took me to a few open rodeos and I was hooked. Everyone was so supportive of each other. They were competitive, sure, but they'd cheer each other on, hootin' and hollerin' as riders made their runs.”

It wasn't before long Bair was looking for a horse of her own and came across a post on Facebook about a Quarter Horse gelding who was just about to turn 5. He was a cow-bred horse who, at the time, was being used for day work on a cattle ranch.

“When I switched disciplines I was still in college, so I had to get tack, clothes and a horse on a college student's budget, which was fun,” she said with a chuckle and more than a slight hint of sarcasm. “Some barrel racers are bred for speed, but cow-horse-breds have a lot more sense and are usable for a bunch of different things.”

Bair has made the most of Trigger's versatility in the four years since she purchased him. Together, they've not only ponied hundreds of racehorses (including regularly ponying the Davidson-trained Mr. Chocolate Chip, who finished a game second in the $100,000 Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs after breaking his maiden in near-track record time the race prior), they've ridden in parades, gone on overnight camping trips, gone to mounted shooting competitions and ridden countless miles of trails through the mountains.

Kristina and Trigger ponying Mr. Chocolate Chip (Coty Davidson up) at Belterra Park. (Photo by Loose Horse Photography)

Barrel racing is where the pair shines though. Within the first year the two started running barrels together, Bair got her PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) card. Last year the pair won year-end championship honors for the Flying G Rodeo Association and have been earning money on the open rodeo and barrel racing circuits throughout the region.

“We did a few small things, then I decided to just take the plunge and start competing in PRCA events, which would be like going from local shows to Wellington for the winter in the hunter-jumper world,” said Bair. “Since then we've placed a lot on the open rodeo scene and have one placing and three or four times were just out of the money in PRCA events. Those are the best of the best. A cow-bred track pony shouldn't be able to hang with the big dogs, but he sure does.”

Bair says ponying at the track in the mornings and even sometimes in the afternoons for the races is almost like cross-training for Trigger, keeping him relaxed and at a slower pace and keeping his mind fresh. It's also helped to give her a new, expanded perspective on equestrian sports.

“The track is a completely different ball game than what I grew up with in the horse show world, but I love it. It doesn't matter if it's racing, dressage, jumping or barrels. If you're around a good trainer, they can teach you a lot that you can transfer to other disciplines,” said Bair.

In the coming years, Bair hopes to get an off-track Quarter Horse or two to try to turn into future barrel racers, with a long-term goal of allowing Trigger to transition into her second-string horse as he gets older.

“I'd love to see if I can someday make it to the NFR {National Finals Rodeo) – that would be the ultimate goal for me. You need one who doesn't mind being on the road and hauling to new arenas and loud crowds and can still compete at the top of their game,” said Bair. “Trigger is worth his weight in gold. He taught me how to run barrels and he's too good to ever get rid of. He's always game for anything and is a true all-around horse.”

Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky and was recently named the Executive Director of the Retired Racehorse Project. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She is the go-to food source for one dog, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.

Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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