Shiloh & I started competing at AERC rides in 1999. He passed the 3,000-mile mark at the 2006 Biltmore, then needed annular ligament surgery just after reaching Decade Team status in 2010.
|The Grumpy Old Man doing what he loves.|
In March 2013, just after he turned 21, Shiloh was pulled of retirement to loan to Laura Horst of North Carolina for the Rabbit Run AERC ride in New Jersey. (She hoped to compete in as many Eastern states as possible before moving back to California.)
In Sept. 2014, my husband and I moved to a great new home. North Carolina friends were caring for Shiloh and my other two horses stayed with a friend in Louisa County while we built fencing and horse shelters. By November, I was able to bring everyone home to ample pasture and the kind of TLC you can only give when your horses are just a few steps away in the front or back yard!
Watching the glow in Shiloh's eyes as we headed off to each weekend's hunt, I realized the "grumpy old man" (as he is affectionately known) still loved to get out and go places. Despite the occasional age-related stumble, he never took a lame step, and his strong topline belied that he was now in his early 20s.
|Laura Horst expertly managed Shiloh's pace to ensure he completed.|
"Shiloh's been having a great winter," I said, "I think I can get him fit enough in time!"
As foxhunting season wrapped up, I rode him several times a week on short local training rides, warming up slowly before adding speed work and as many "hills" as I could find around my flat section of Virginia. A friend and I were able to sneak away on a weekday in mid-March to squeeze in a proper mountain training ride at Graves Mountain, where Shiloh handled the Upper Dark Hollow climb with great recoveries. He completely knew what was up, and seemed calm but happy as we loaded him and Gryphon for the 6-hour haul to basecamp.
On Good Friday afternoon, Laura and I took Shiloh and Gryphon out for a test ride to check saddles (Laura opted to use the sturdy Boz I'd inherited from my friend Brenda). We agreed that I'd do all Shiloh's trot outs, and walk all the steep uphills. (Shiloh had a bad case of pharyngitis from being fed bad hay as a youngster, and I noticed he had a bit more labored breathing on long climbs than my other horses.)
Easter Saturday, which happened to be Shiloh's 24th birthday, dawned cloudy and fairly cool after several warm days. We patiently waited until most of the 50 or so 50-milers were out on trail ahead of us, and sedately plodded through the first loop, taking the better part of 3 hours to cover the 16 miles. I was thrilled when Shiloh pulsed quickly and earned all "As" on his vet card.
The second loop was 19 miles and took just over 3 hours, with some flatter sections near the end that helped us make up a bit of time. The sun came out briefly, and so did our sponges, but mild breezes and clouds returned in time for the second vet check, helping Shiloh pulse quickly. (I was on my 15-year old gelding Gryphon, who was pulsing in the 40s but needed to take it easy as I have several more rides planned for him this spring).
|Shiloh's 24th birthday vet card - nearly all A's!|
Three more friends from Maryland passed us near the finish, which we reached about 10 hours after we'd started that morning. At his completion trot out, Shiloh took a few bad steps and received a B on gait, the only non-A score on his vet card all day. Boy was I grateful to Laura for having the wisdom to slow up or Shiloh just might not have been sound enough to earn that completion!
When he was younger, Shiloh wanted nothing more than to be left alone after finishing a tough ride, and especially disliked being poulticed. But back at home, I saw that Shiloh's legs had stocked up a good bit overnight. After church on rainy Easter Sunday, he stood quietly munching his breakfast as I applied a thick layer, then wrapped each sturdy leg and scratched the extra white hairs away from his broad white blaze.
I'm humbled to be the owner of this one-in-a-million horse, who has touched so many lives in our sport.