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Dunbarton horse trainer seeks town’s approval to build barn

  • Ashley Rioux stands for a portrait near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Ashley Rioux stands for a portrait near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Ashley Rioux's horse Echo nibbles on grass near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Ashley Rioux's horse Echo nibbles on grass near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Ashley Rioux stands for a portrait near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Ashley Rioux stands for a portrait near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Ashley Rioux's horse Echo nibbles on grass near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Ashley Rioux's horse Echo nibbles on grass near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses on Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Ashley Rioux stands for a portrait near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Ashley Rioux's horse Echo nibbles on grass near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Ashley Rioux stands for a portrait near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Ashley Rioux's horse Echo nibbles on grass near the part of her land where she hopes to build a six stall horse barn she plans to use to rehabilitate old race horses on Tuesday, May 13, 2014. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Since she was in high school, Dunbarton resident Ashley Rioux has retrained retired thoroughbred horses to give them a second life after the racetrack.

“I think there is a stigma with them, that they are too much, too hyper,” she said. “That is not the case. They just need a little time and you have yourself a wonderful animal.”

Nearly two years ago, Rioux and her husband, Justin, relocated from Manchester to Dunbarton with hopes of constructing a horse barn on their property where she could rehab old racers, and also train new ones.

Now, the couple is seeking the town’s approval. The six-stall barn they plan to build next to their home on 85 Stark Highway South would sit within 100 feet of the property line – a violation of town ordinances.

At a public hearing this week, the Dunbarton zoning board didn’t issue a final decision, but asked the Riouxs to return to a meeting next month with more information about the property and placement of the barn, Rioux said. Several town officials declined to comment on the hearing. The chairman of the board, John Trottier, did not return a call for comment.

Right now, Rioux houses two of her horses – a 17-year-old quarter horse and a 1-year-old thoroughbred she’s training to race – in three temporary stalls erected on the property.

The proposed 1,500-square-foot barn would have a corridor separating three stalls on each side, Rioux said. One stall would be used as a tack and feed room, two could be rented out to boarders to offset expenses and the others could house horses Rioux is rehabilitating or training for the track.

Since the couple’s 5-acre property is long, narrow and bordered by wetlands, achieving the 100-foot setback from the property line is difficult, Rioux said. And it is important to put the barn next to the house, off an access road, so veterinarians and delivery trucks have easy entry.

“We’re not trying to do a commercial outfit, just a small family horse barn,” she said. It’s “something I have always wanted to do.”

The operation, called Twist of Fate Farm, focuses on both sides of the racetrack: training both new and retired thoroughbreds. Rioux has been doing the latter, on and off, since she was a teen growing up in Bedford.

Each year at the end of race season in the fall, she said, roughly 80 to 100 retired thoroughbreds go up for sale at a showcase held at Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston. Some may be hurt, too old or just not fast enough.

“When a horse’s career ends as a racehorse, it has no value to its trainer anymore,” she said. “Some people will give them away. The majority are priced between $500 and $1,500.”

But it can have great value to someone else, she said, if she spends a little time retraining it.

The process begins by giving the racehorses, used to running full speed or staying put in a stall, a few months to unwind, she said. Then, she starts working with them.

“All they know how to do is gallop fast,” Rioux said. “You have to get on their backs, teach them how to walk, trot, stop, because a lot of these basic things they don’t know.”

Then, Rioux sells them for enough money to recover the investment costs. Some have gone into dressage or jumping, she said, while others have become trail horses or family pets.

“The market is almost flooded with them because so many need homes,” she said. “I am not looking to do it to make money off it.”

She is hoping to build a business around the thoroughbreds she trains and races. Rioux began racing her own horses at Suffolk Downs last year. Her horse, Francesco Spun, won a 5½ furlong race at the track last August. This year, Rioux has two thoroughbreds training at the racetrack.

“It’s a way for me, if they win, to build the barn and keep all this going,” she said.

If all goes according to plan, the Riouxs hope to start construction on the new 30-by-36-foot barn this fall.

“We’re not looking to get big, we’re just doing our own thing,” she said. “We just need the town of Dunbarton’s approval.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)

Legacy Comments3

same thing in Loudon...I subdivided my property..had to tear down the barn because it fell in the buffer zone between the 2 properties. town would not issue a variance. thats the way it goes.

100 feet of buffer zone is outrageous, but this is Dunbarton. Let's see if the beautiful people of Dunbarton dislike horses as much as chickens.

Don't you just love it when you have to ask the town if you can build build a barn, on your own property, on 5 acres?

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