Friday, June 14, 2013

The Grumpy Old Man

There's a 1970 photo of me as a three-year old, petting a chestnut horse with a white blaze in Colonial Williamsburg soon after my parents moved back to the U.S. from London, where my dad had earned his doctorate degree.

After many years of my begging for a horse, the year I turned 13 our family's eccentric but kind friend Lila Young offered me a gangly, slightly lame old chestnut Thoroughbred with a white blaze.  I dug post holes and strung electric wire in the field behind our house while my dad converted an old smokehouse to store hay and provide shelter. No trailer was available, so I rode "Wether" the seven miles from Lila's to our house. In the years that followed, we covered miles and miles together in all weather -- especially on evenings before a big test, which I found helped me study better. When I left for college, Wether was retired to Mr. Huber's farm near Smithfield.

For most of the next decade, horseback riding was an elusive pursuit. I took a semester of jumping in college and borrowed some Indian ponies to a ride around the mesas of Northern Arizona the year I lived in the Southwest, but otherwise focused on finishing graduate school and being able to provide for myself.

By age 27, I accomplished two major life goals: landing a "real" job with benefits and purchasing my first home in Richmond, Virginia. I turned my focus to a lifelong dream of purchasing my own horse. This was in the days before the internet, so I bought a February 1995 issue of the 79 cent "Trading Post" and my eye immediately fell on a brief ad for a flashy chestnut half Arab, "e/on trails."

My first glimpse of Shiloh was love at first sight. I didn't bother looking at any other horses before buying him for $1,100 and getting Trish (his breeder) to haul him to my first boarding barn, near New Kent Courthouse. Shiloh was barely three and only green broke, his wise, kind disposition was already in evidence and we went on to survive many adventures over the next two decades. This blog is dedicated to my "Grumpy Old Man," the horse who helped me discover how wonderful the sport of endurance riding can be.

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