Some horses are born for the big stage. They have the speed, athleticism and talent to make child’s play of the hardest day’s work. They possess the resolve to keep pushing when others stop short and manage to beat the odds when every single card in the deck is stacked against them. They are the horses that know no quit, and when the going gets tough, they only get tougher. Ziggy Zoomba is one of these horses.

Owned by Kelly and Danielle Bowser, “Ziggy” was born in 2013 and raised on the couple’s farm in rural Swanton, Ohio. By all-time leading barrel horse sire Dash Ta Fame and out of Danielle’s standout mare Cash N Charm, the homebred, -raised and -trained gelding was a natural from the beginning. 

“He was amazing from his first day of riding,” Danielle recalled. “There were no glitches with Ziggy.”

Ziggy’s training may have been smooth sailing, but he found his challenges elsewhere — in a series of health issues that seemed to rain down unforgivingly one after another in quick succession. The first came when Ziggy was only 2 years old.

“We wanted to keep him a stallion, but he was too stud-y,” Danielle explained. “We decided to geld him, and he ended up with a horrible case of equine protozoal myeloencephalitis. We assumed it was from the stress.”

After healing from EPM, Ziggy went on to have a successful futurity year before a chip in his left knee forced another layoff.

“We had just run sixth in the time trials at the Old Fort Days Futurity,” Kelly said. “In the Finals, he jumped out really far coming around his second barrel and ended up finishing ninth. We got him home, took him to our vet, and found out he had a chip in his knee. He had surgery to remove it as a 4-year-old.”

After surgery, Ziggy was again sound and ready to hit the ground running. Unfortunately, a kick to his right hind tendon during his 5-year-old year demanded an additional four months off. He healed well, but the proverbial black cloud hanging over the young gelding wasn’t yet ready to disperse. In October 2019, he contracted West Nile virus the day before he was scheduled to leave for the All American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio. It was a devastating blow.

“When he was in the hospital at Ohio State University, falling down and unable to take a single step, it was hard to think about him running barrels again,” Danielle shared. “I knew if he lived, he would come back 100%, because his mom was that way. They love to run barrels —you just can’t stop them.”

Although his progress was slowed by a case of strangles that he contracted while recovering from West Nile virus, Ziggy proved Danielle right — just like his dam, he was tough. And he had no intention of letting a few challenges get the best of him. Despite the touch-and-go feel of his first few competitive years, Danielle says 9-year-old Ziggy managed to add multiple futurity, derby and open championship wins — totaling more than $80,000 — to his resume over the years. But the pinnacle for the Bowsers came in October 2022, when Ziggy carried Kelly to his first All American Quarter Horse Congress Barrel Racing Sweepstakes win.

The pair tipped the first barrel in Round One but came back strong in Round Two, finishing third with a 14.715 to qualify back to the short go. Kelly says he tried to keep the pressure off heading into the Finals.

“Of course I wanted to win, but I wasn’t really feeling the pressure that day for some reason,” Kelly said. “I just tried to go out there with Ziggy and have a bit of fun.”

Kelly’s laidback approach worked — he and Ziggy topped the leaderboard with a lightning-quick 14.645, taking home the championship and making good on a dream that has long been at the top of Kelly’s list.

“Congress has always been the crown jewel,” Kelly said. “Maybe it’s because I’m a native Ohioan — I’m not sure, but it’s the one I’ve always wanted to win.”

The victory carries special meaning for Danielle, too. 

“Ziggy has come back from so many hardships,” Danielle said. “He’s been so sick that it’s changed the way looks. At times, he’s been almost unrecognizable. But he just loves [barrel racing] so much that he keeps coming back. And not only does he keep coming back — he comes back better than ever.”

All American Quarter Horse Congress Barrel Racing Sweepstakes Top 5

1st — Kelly Bowser, Ziggy Zoomba, 14.645, $2,402

2nd (tie) — Troy Crumrine, Slick Lane Ta Fame, 14.724, $1,741

2nd (tie) — Madeline Shirey, Whateva Fires You Up, 14.724, $1,741

4th — Valerie Kiphart, Seis So Sweet, 14.844, $1,201

5th — Summer Shafer, Barvatos, 14.920, $961

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