Happy 20th Birthday!

Please join me in saying happy 20th birthday to my horse, Shiloh!

According to Shiloh’s MFTHBA (Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association) registration papers, Shiloh was born on May 15th, 2003.

I thought it was a fun coincidence that the May 2023 issue of Horse Illustrated Magazine features the Missouri Fox Trotter as its featured breed profile of the month.

“In addition to its smooth gaits, the Missouri Fox Trotter is celebrated for its gentle and willing temperament. Known for being relaxed and for enjoying human company, they make great companions and unflappable trail horses.”

From the May 2023 Horse Illustrated Missouri Fox Trotter Breed Portrait Written by Audrey Pavia

I’d say the quote is a pretty accurate description of Shiloh. The trait I most appreciate about Shiloh is in fact his personality. He’s very amiable. Pleasant to be around. He emits this casual vibe that is very endearing. Both on the ground and under saddle. I definitely feel fortunate to have him in my backyard.

Attached to those previously mentioned registration papers is the only photo I have of Shiloh as a foal.

For comparison purposes, here is a photo of him today at twenty-years-old.

Shiloh’s papers got me to thinking about the history of the Missouri Fox Trotter breed and how Shiloh’s ancestry intersects with it.

I’ve long been a history buff, especially when it comes to horses. Due to that interest, I’ve really been enjoying the “history of horse breeds in the USA” feature that’s been running the last few years in Equus magazine. The articles are all written by Dr. Deb Bennett, Ph.D.

The last couple of installments were centered on how the Saddlebred came to be. I remember reading about the Thoroughbred contribution to the Saddlebred breed through Denmark and his sons like Gains Denmark. I just didn’t realize at the time that I had a Denmark descendant in my own backyard!

Yup, you read that right. I discovered that Shiloh has Thoroughbred and Saddlebred ancestry way back in his pedigree.

With the help of the All Breed Pedigree database, I was able to trace Shiloh’s ancestors to the following horses whom I have previously read about in historical contexts:

Old Fox (Missouri Fox Trotter born 1913)
Black Squirrel (Saddlebred born 1876)
Gains Denmark (Saddlebred born 1851)
Denmark (Thoroughbred born 1839)

Through continued online digging, I realized that a great-grandsire of Shiloh, Zane’s Charming Lad, is one of two horses buried at the MFTHBA’s showgrounds in Ava, Missouri. He was interred in an unmarked grave 100 feet from the main gait. Zane’s Charming Lad is himself a son of Zane Grey, one of the most if not the most famous MFT sires. Zane Grey shows up at least three more times in Shiloh’s pedigree.

Another of Shiloh’s great-grandsire’s was Go Boy’s Royal Heir. He was a well-known Tennessee Walking Horse stallion and a grandson of Roan Allen F-38, one of the foundation sires of the TWH registry. In fact, Shiloh goes back to Roan Allen at least twelve times. Apparently, inbreeding was not historically uncommon.

Along another line, Shiloh goes back to the famous TWH stallion, Midnight Sun, who was made into a Breyer horse that I used to have in my bedroom as a child.

Missouri Fox Trotter enthusiasts will likely note that the crossing of MFT’s with TWH’s was not without controversy. The MFTHBA was founded in 1948, but by the early 1980’s, the MFTHBA registry closed its books, meaning that a horse had to have two registered MFT parents in order to be registered as a MFT henceforth. No more outcrossing.

One point that hit home to me in all of Dr. Deb Bennett’s Equus articles is that the history of breed development is not linear. There are a lot of twists and turns that occurred to have us arrive at the breeds we see today in the USA. The Horse Illustrated article I referred to earlier reflects this process as it pertains to the Missouri Fox Trotter.

“The Missouri Fox Trotter is a culmination of the breeds Southern settlers brought to the Ozars with them in the early 1800’s. Arabians, Morgans, Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walkers and Standardbreds all accompanied the farmers that settled in these mountains. They used their horses to clear forests, sort livestock, and work the fields they planted on the plateaus common in the Ozarks.”

From the May 2023 Horse Illustrated Missouri Fox Trotter Breed Portrait Written by Audrey Pavia

We like to think of our horses as individuals, but it is fascinating to think about the long lines of horses that existed before them. Shiloh’s ancestors made him who he is. It is a fun history to think about on this milestone birthday occasion. Happy 20th, Shiloh!

Addendum- I had written this post a few days ago in advance of today’s planned photo shoot on Shiloh’s actual birthday. You know what they say about best laid plans, right?

First, the weather ended up dark and cloudy, making for washed out photos. Then, both Shiloh and his herd mate, Piper, were full of antics today. Shiloh was, in fact, NOT emitting a casual vibe despite what you just read about him.

Much to my chagrin, Shiloh cavorted around on the end of the line like a young race horse. Oh, and that flower vine you see draped around his neck in the lead photo (the only decent photo I got, by the way)? That vine ended up in two pieces. First, Shiloh munched on it. And then, when I had Shiloh tied on the other side of the fence from Piper, Piper reached over the fence and plucked the whole thing right off of Shiloh’s neck!

I wish I had that whole episode on video, but the only media I captured right then was this photo as I dived between the fence railings to try to snatch the flower vine back from Piper.

Sometimes with horses, I guess you just have to put your plans aside, lay your exasperation down and have a good laugh at it all.

4 thoughts on “Happy 20th Birthday!

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