Behind the Slide – Allison Thorson

Allison Thorson is passionate about every aspect of her life: her horses, her dogs, her family’s business, and her reining.

Especially her reining.

“This is my sixth year in the sport of reining,” Thorson said. “It always starts with one horse, and then you get the bug, and all of a sudden, you have four.”

That fits her experience at the 2023 National Reining Horse Association Futurity, where Thorson had three horses entered in the CINCH Non Pro Futurity. Thorson grew up riding gaited horses, so she knows about setting goals and making progress toward them.

“I’d be on the road 30 weeks out of the year with my mom and dad,” Thorson said, “from hauling trailers to mucking stalls to saddling and grooming and everything. I’m actually still with the same trainers that I started out with when I was 6 years old.”

She chose to add reining to her horse activities because she was looking for an equine discipline that would really challenge her. Reining fit the bill. Thorson was Toyon Ranch Rookie of the Year in 2020 on Smart Cowboy Whiz.

“I would say Craig and Ginger Schmersal have been an integral part of me growing to where I’m at,” Thorson said. “They just set the bar. Learning under someone like (NRHA Five Million Dollar Rider) Craig Schmersal – practicing is really hard. It’s really honest and truthful. I don’t want sugarcoating. I want to know what I need to do.

“It has made showing so much easier because when we practice, we have to practice. If we can’t figure it out, then that’s all we’re going to work on that day.”

Thorson is quick to credit other trainers who have helped her, including NRHA Million Dollar Rider Gennaro Lendi, NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider Brian Bell, and Jake Ballard, the resident trainer at the ThorSport Farm in Tennessee.

Thorson wants to progress as quickly as possible without rushing.

“I feel like it’s important to enjoy the journey,” she said.

She’s happy to share her journey on social media, seeing it as an opportunity to educate about the industry.

“I’ll post maybe an Instagram video of me riding one of my 2-year-old horses around,” she said. “And someone might comment, ‘Well, I don’t understand why you’re riding a 2-year-old horse. In jumping, we don’t start them until 5.’ I break it down to, ‘We’re setting a foundation. It’s like the 2-year-old is in kindergarten or preschool.’”

She goes on to explain health care, veterinary care, nutrition, and bone structure, whether she’s showing someone through her barn or chatting on Instagram.

“I think it’s important to show people (what we do), and we’re more than likely to grab a new fan,” she said. “That’s what I grew up doing with gaited horses, and I hope to just keep doing that with reining.”

Thorson is as proud to share the story of reining as she is to share the story of her family’s businesses, including NRHA Corporate Partner Tenda, which develops and manufactures horse health products; Farm Paint, a fence paint company; Thor Turf, a dustless footing company; and Equine Surgical Center at ThorSport Farm, an equine veterinary hospital.

“If I’m not doing reining, I’m in the office looking at purchase orders or sponsorship requests,” she said. “I’m working with our sales group or our ambassador program for our products. I usually start the day with exercise, phone calls and emails, then ride horses. Then I’ll end the day with phone calls, emails, and all that stuff again.”

Even when she’s at a show like the NRHA Futurity, she said, she can create commerce for other companies or businesses.

“I’m making relationships with people that can evolve your brand, and you can maybe give something back to them, too,” she said. “This show particularly is fun because, yes, it is a long show, but you can see the waves of people come in and out: Sliders Night Out, the corporate sponsor reception. It’s fun to mingle. I talk to these people on the phone or through email a lot, but I like to actually get together in person. It’s fun.”

Thorson’s parents’ primary business manufactures an asphalt coating called SealMaster. They have also become involved in the NASCAR Truck Series.

“Horse-showing and racing people are the same kind of people,” Thorson said. “Hardy and hardworking. My mom and dad actually raise all of our (young horses) in Ohio at our farm, but it’s right across the street from all our offices and race shop and everything. Our race car drivers, when they come into town, at night they go over to the horse barn, because my dad still feeds the horses every morning, every night. They’re mucking stalls, sweeping aisles, helping bring in horses from the pastures.”

The tightly-knit group won the Series championship for 2023 earlier this month.

“Our racing team, ThorSport Racing, has been the longest-running team in the series,” Thorson said. “It started in 1994, and we started in 1996.”

Thorson is proud of the impact her parents have had in the motorsports world, and she hopes to make that kind of difference in equine sports herself.

“It has definitely gained a lot of hype and hoopla,” she said. “I think it’s up to us as the exhibitors and people in the sport to make sure we’re portraying that message of the passion behind it and why we love it.

“It means a lot, you know? To work as hard as you can. If it doesn’t go your way, there’s always tomorrow.”