Second-Career Star: Prison Break Pilsner

Second-Career Star: Prison Break Pilsner

This successful racehorse is now a 1D barrel horse.

A sorrel horse with a woman riding turns a barrel

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By Andrea Caudill

Being a top barrel horse requires both turn and burn.  

Prison Break Pilsner was bred and raised for the burn – the raw speed of American Quarter Horse racing – and now he has added the turn, perfecting his second career of barrel racing, which combines the agility of sharp, high-speed turns with the high adrenaline rush of a short sprint. 

Bred by Corner K Quarter Horses LLC and foaled in 2015, Prison Break Pilsner shares his name with a popular beer. He is by champion and leading sire FDD Dynasty and out of the Royal Quick Dash mare Lady Knockout, a three-quarter sister to All American Futurity (G1) winner Falling In Loveagain.
Prison Break Pilsner made 20 career starts, and consistently lit the board in 65 percent of them, earning $16,983 and bringing lots of excitement to his connections. The BMAQ Racing LLC partnership, which includes Brian and Traci Bolner and Ramiro Martinez, acquired the horse in November 2017. Periodically, during his racing career, they had him exercised at the swimming facility at Byler Performance Equine in Bellville, Texas. Swimming a horse allows the horse to exercise without the physical stress of high-impact work like galloping. 

The facility’s owner, Kimmi Byler, also trains barrel horses, and when it was time for Prison Break Pilsner to find his new career, his co-owner Traci Bolner knew just where she wanted him to go. 

“She loves these horses and wanted to find him a second career,” Byler said. “She visited with me and we just kinda got started.” 

When the gelding first came off the track, he went to two trainers, including a reining/cow horse trainer and a barrel trainer, who introduced him to life as a riding horse. One of the biggest steps in that was teaching the horse the concepts of rate and turn and how to be mellow, even in new locations. 

Once Byler started patterning him more seriously, she noticed that left turns around the barrel were a little more difficult for him than right turns. 

The barrel pattern’s cloverleaf involves three turns. Traditionally, horses start to the right, which means the next two barrels are left turns. After Byler discovered his dislike for left turns, she flipped their pattern, so that he had two right turns. 

The gelding also had to learn about running without blinkers, which means a great deal more visual distraction.

“I had to teach him how to dial in and trust that wherever that barrel is, I want you going to it,” she said. 

The thing that has stayed the same, though, is his pre-game ritual. 

His racing connections explained to Byler that when the horse went out onto the track, just as they began to trot him out in the warmup, he would do a quick jump and kick before going to work.

“He has carried that trait on,” she said. “Whenever we go into the warmup, when I hit that long trot, he’ll suddenly rev his engine and jump and fire out the back. Once he gets that done, he’s all business. He softens down, lopes up into my hand, starts just being right there and flowing. It’s funny, that trait hasn’t ever left him.” 

He has also kept his determination and focus. Even in crowded warmups at the barrel race, he is bold and workmanlike. 

“You can tell he’s, like, ‘I’m here for business,’” she said. “He’s always had that dominant personality.” 

As a barrel racing trainer, Byler has thrown a leg over many horses that started their career on the racetrack. 

“I’ve really enjoyed those colts tremendously,” she said. “I like seeing these horses have secondary careers, and go on and make something.”

With patience and slow training, Prison Break Pilsner has clicked in to the sport of barrel racing, and is now proving himself as a 1D winner in the barrel pen. In that world, futurity horses can be 4 or 5 years of age, then followed by derbies at 6 or 7 years of age. So Prison Break Pilsner has a lot of opportunity ahead of him at major barrel racing events around the country. 

“We took things really slow with him. I was fortunate to have owners who were really understanding about taking a horse that has all the ability and run, but we needed to get that under control,” Byers said. “(Now) we’re going to start stepping up to the bigger events.”

Second Career Stars is an ongoing series on retired racing American Quarter Horses in new careers. If you know of a horse that should be featured, write to AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, "like" Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit