Reaching the Summit
Solar Partner finds second career as an elite endurance horse
Standardbreds are consistently showing their versatility, whether it’s for riding or driving, for show or pleasure. Hoof Beats is happy to share stories from readers about their favorite retired Standardbreds. This month, Megan Rider writes about retired pacing gelding Solar Partner, who now goes by the name Trooper.
Bruce Weary has been an endurance rider for more than 35 years and has traveled over 13,000 miles in competitions. When he first began, Weary rode mostly Arabians.
“The sport of endurance is dominated by Arabians because they are desert-bred animals,” he said. “They are efficient with hydration, have denser bones, handle the heat well, and are bred to run like the wind across the desert.”
Weary, however, began to experiment with gaited horses about 15 years ago and has enjoyed success with them, including one by the name of John Henry, a Tennessee Walking Horse.
Hundreds of miles and many competitions later, John Henry and Weary conquered the Tevis Cup Ride and earned Weary his very first buckle in 2009.
Instituted in 1955, the Tevis Cup is the world’s best known and most difficult equestrian endurance competition. It consists of 100 miles of historic trails ranging from the Sierra Nevada Mountains to just east of Squaw Valley in California. Weary has continued to search for endurance prospects who have a chance at conquering this event yet again and he may have found a new partner in a Standardbred by the name of Solar Partner, who is now known as Trooper.
Trooper is an 11-year-old roan gelding by Shark St Partners, out of the Admirals Galley mare Solars Lady B. He was bred in Michigan and earned $22,020 on the track with a record of 35-4-4-3.
“He raced between the ages of 2 and 4 and he just started to slow down,” Weary said. “He was bought, and the new owner (James Coke) attempted to race him again, but Trooper did not appear to want to continue to race. He was converted to saddle and shortly thereafter, I found him on Craigslist. He was structurally sound and an easy-going, athletic horse.”
Weary took many steps in rebuilding and conditioning Trooper to prepare him for endurance riding. He was also very pleased with Trooper’s overall demeanor.
“Trooper is very calm and not skittish at all,” Weary said. “He is focused and very much concentrates on his rides; he’s good like that.”
An Equicizer is one method Weary utilizes in conditioning Trooper because it saves saddle time and helps the gelding’s legs and feet. Weary also implements heat training and acclimation so that Trooper becomes accustomed to working in the high temperatures.
“I put a thermal blanket on Trooper and then saddle him in preparation for a hill workout on a hot day,” Weary said. “After the workout, I check his core temperature every half hour. He is packing over 240 pounds and climbing 2,000 feet in four miles and his core temperature barely goes past 100 degrees.”
In just their second year of participation in rides sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), Weary and Trooper recorded more than 500 miles together at nine different events in Arizona and Utah. Two of those rides were back-to-back days for a total of about 80-85 miles. Back-to-back rides are typically used in preparation for the longer, 100-mile rides, such as the Tevis, as there is little rest and the rider is able to determine how their horse recovers.
Trooper now has a total of about 900 miles on him, and his performances have merited recognition. He earned the AERC High Mileage Standardbred award for 2018, which honors the Standardbred who records the most miles ridden during the season, which runs from Dec. 1 through Nov. 30. All rides are considered, including the limited distance rides (24-35 miles) and the standard endurance rides (50 miles or more).
Since its inception in 1955, thousands of horsemen have attempted to conquer Tevis.
“In the 64 years that Tevis has been in existence, more people have summited Mount Everest than completed Tevis,” Weary said.
It took Weary six attempts before he was able to complete the entire ride without being placed on the sidelines. There are multiple veterinary checks across the span of the 100-mile ride to make certain the horses are sound and able to continue, as the race is extremely taxing. It takes a special rider-horse combination to conquer what is considered the “crème de la crème” of endurance rides.
The 2019 Tevis Cup took place on Aug. 17. Weary and Trooper entered the ride with hundreds of people rooting for them, as Weary has a vast social media presence and has promoted Trooper’s progress.
The duo rode alongside Weary’s wife and her horse, and at the 30-mile mark, Weary and Trooper’s Tevis experience concluded.
“Trooper likes to follow other horses and we thought it would be strategic to have him follow another horse on the ride,” Weary said. “Trooper had to play catch-up most of the ride and we couldn’t get his pulse down in time. The time clock just wasn’t on our side and he was in hurry-up mode. Had we ridden alone, I think the result would have been different. But he is sound, happy, and will take a few weeks off. Then we will work up to do another 100-mile ride. We had a great day and it was tons of fun.”
Weary and Trooper plan to conquer many more miles and many more rides together, including future Tevis Cups.
“I want to teach Trooper to be more independent,” Weary said. “He is very durable, and I don’t believe there is anything he can’t do.”
Megan Rider is a freelance writer living in New York. To comment on this story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.