Sierra Steigerwald and her off-track Thoroughbred Betcha Know Me Now finished sixth in the $2,500 USHJA National Derby at Lamplight Equestrian Center during HITS Chicago Spring Spectacular.
“He never looks at the jumps and jumps whatever you put him in front of without a peek,” says Steigerwald. “I always go into a big class with no expectations, I just want to have fun and put in a nice round. It is in the judges hands after that, but if I think he jumped his best and I rode my best that is all I can ask for.”
Betcha Know Me Now, affectionately known as “Ace,” is a 2003 Thoroughbred gelding by Giant’s Causeway. After the gelding raced under the name “Parade Route” from 2009-2010, Steigerwald’s parents bought Ace in 2014 as Steigerwald’s Christmas gift.
“I was only 12 years old at the time, but Ace and I’s bond was almost instant,” says Steigerwald. “I have owned Ace for over seven years and he will always be my forever horse.”
From the start of their journey, Steigerwald says she knew Ace had huge potential.
“I never would have believed we would be where we are today. Being only 12 years old and training an OTTB to become a hunter horse was an unthinkable task, but I knew there was something special about Ace,” says Steigerwald.
The pair started in the novice children’s hunter and moved up to the junior hunters with the help of Lynda Zema of Bull Run Equestrian Center. From Lamplight to Devon, Steigerwald and Ace have brought home several classic wins, championship ribbons and derby placings over the years.
“He loves traveling and does well in new environments, I think being an OTTB helps,” says Steigerwald.
In 2019, they placed 13th in the 3’3” 16-17 Small Junior Hunters at the USEF Junior Hunter National Championships—East Coast. Steigerwald says that is a moment she will never forget.
“It has been an incredible experience to grow up together and watch his transformation over the years,” she says. “I would like to specifically thank Lynda Zema […] for believing in us and helping us accomplish so many amazing things. We would not be where we are today without [her] guidance, patience and expertise.”
Steigerwald was told by many that if she wanted to compete on the A/AA circuit, Ace would not cut it due to his breeding.
“Hearing these absurd and hurtful comments just pushed me to try harder and prove the doubtful people wrong, and that is what I did,” says Steigerwald.
Steigerwald’s advice to her fellow OTTB owners is, “Believe in them and they will believe in you. Never let anyone tell you that your dreams are too big.”
Ace just turned 19 but is showing no signs of slowing down. Steigerwald is currently showing in the Adult Hunter 18-35 division as well as in USHJA Hunter Derby events. Eventually, she hopes to make Ace a “derby-only” horse.
“He will tell me when he is ready to take a step back, but he is loving his job still,” says Steigerwald. “He will live with me through his retirement years, and we will grow older together for the perfect end to our perfect story.”
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