Former Louisiana racing horse gets second chance

Story and photos
by Callie Sterling

Hot Ace, an 8-year-old thoroughbred, spent the early years of his life racing. Today, he is still competing against other horses, in a slightly different manner.

“Last year, Ace and I competed in the United States Eventing Association’s American Eventing Championships,” said Melody Pruitt, 18, Ace’s owner. “And we won first place in our division. We compete in the Junior Young Rider Beginner Novice for ages 15 to 21.”

Competitors travel thousands of miles each year for the AEC competition.

“There are competitors from all across the United States at this event as well as some competitors from Canada,” Melody said. “In 2015, there were approximately 25 other competitors in my division.”

Melody, along with her family, purchased Ace in May 2012. Since Ace joined the Pruitts, almost four years ago, Melody has formed quite a bond with the retired racehorse.

“I have loved getting to see Melody grow so much since Ace has joined us,” said Nancy Pruitt, Melody’s mother. “I have seen her mature so much and become more selfless because of Ace. They are truly a team now.”

The Little Rock family describes Ace as a quirky, high maintenance diva.

“He is so loving, but he is so high maintenance,” Melody said. “He does not like his feet to get wet, and he hates puddles. He also likes to have his stall open so he can see out during competitions. He sometimes takes his jacket off. Overall he is a big diva, but we love him.”

Although receiving an invitation to the 2014 USEA’s AEC national competition, Ace was unable to compete due to a torn suspensory ligament. Ace had another medical issue the same year, a tumor that needed to be removed. Melody patiently waited while Ace healed while missing one of the most prestigious events in the country for her division.

“Ace needed a lot of downtime while healing, and training would prolong his recovery,” Nancy said. “Melody was really selfless and gave Ace the proper amount of time he needed to heal. She didn’t rush the process and understood why he shouldn’t compete that year. At that time, I could see her maturity and how she had grown as a person since getting Ace.”

The injury in 2014 was not Ace’s first major injury. Soon after the Pruitt family purchased Ace, he broke his coffin bone.

“We were told by a vet that it would be a very expensive procedure to repair his bone,” Nancy said. “We also were told that he would never be the same again and most likely would not heal properly. He recommended that we put Ace down. We were all heartbroken to hear the news.”

The Pruitt family did not give up that easily on Ace. They got another professional opinion from a second veterinarian. The second opinion renewed their hope.

“We took Ace to the vet that we now use regularly for a second opinion,” Nancy said. “We were thrilled to hear that this vet had hope for Ace. He believed Ace was worth saving and that his quality of life would be restored with surgery. We prayed a lot for Ace; he is probably the most prayed for horse in the entire world.”

After many months of recovery and a lot of care, Ace is back to competing alongside Melody. The pair competes in dressage, cross-country and show jumping while at the AEC competition.

“My favorite is dressage, which is usually everyone’s least favorite,” Melody said.

Dressage is Melody’s favorite because it is when she feels most connected to Ace.

“Dressage looks very simple, but it is actually very difficult,” Melody said. “The rider has to communicate with their horse by only using their lower body. Dressage requires a lot of leg technique. The goal is to do the movements and routine as perfectly as possible. You can’t speak or use your arms. Dressage is also the first leg of the competition. It sets the tone for your overall score throughout the competition.”

Melody intends to continue riding Ace throughout college. She will attend Ouachita Baptist in the fall.

“We want to try to get an invitation back to AEC this year,” said Melody, who plans to continue working closely with her two trainers in preparation for competition.

“I will be working with Alex du Celliee Muller of River City Training Stable and Natalie Smith of Caney Creek Farm,” Melody said. “Alex trains us specifically in dressage. Natalie trains us in cross-country and show jumping. I am looking forward to this year and working with Ace.”