by Hatcher Hurd /Appen Newspapers
October 14, 2010
Milton – Hunt Tosh should be considered the quintessential resident of Milton, a town whose logo is a horse.
Tosh capped perhaps his most successful year by competing in and winning the $100,000 Chronicle of the Horse/USHJA International Hunter Derby in Lexington, Ky. Just to make the field, you had to be one of the top 75 riders of the year.
The 32-year-old Tosh is a professional rider who says he has been riding "forever." Since he first began riding as a boy, it has been all he wanted to do. But to be successful, it takes more than a "good seat."
Riding at this level is demanding and it is expensive. Horses can start at $20,000 and go right up to the sky. So in addition to his time in the saddle, Tosh must be a good judge of horses to buy and sell. He has to be a good trainer, because that is what makes the horses worth more than he paid for them.
Like their cousins, the racing thoroughbreds, Hunters are valued for what they can do in competition. Tosh also trains horses for others and trains riders, too.
"People invest in their horses, they want to see them win," Tosh said.
Tosh has a stable of 16 horses, some he owns, others he trains. His favorite horse right now is Lone Star, the million-dollar Hunter owned by Dr. Betsee Parker of Middleburg, Va. He is the Hunter Tosh rode in the Hunter Derby in August.
Another horse he is training is owned by Hollywood actress Michelle Pfeiffer. The owners span the breadth of the United States from California to Florida, Mandy said. But most of the Hunters are bred in Europe.
The Derby is only in its second year. But Tosh says the organizers have done a good job of promoting it, so that it is expected to be the crowning event of the year,
After a year-long qualifying period, Tosh was one of the 75 top riders chosen to participate in the Derby's first round. Twenty-five were invited to show in the second round. Tosh amassed a huge lead in the second round and never looked back in the third and final round.
"Lone Star is an amazing horse for me, the horse of a lifetime. Every time you call for him to do his best, he steps up and does it," Tosh said.
Tosh has also won the 2009 Hunter World Champion Hunter Rider Professional Finals where the top six riders are expected to show their horses, and then show on each of the other riders' mounts. The best overall score is crowned.
"There is no practice, you just walk right into the ring," he said.
Being a professional rider means spending a lot of time on the road. And you have to take everything with you. Tosh takes a string of 10 to 20 horses with him, which means two semi-tractor trailers, and he drives one of them.
For now, leaving their Freemanville Road home and going on the road is still a family affair with wife Mandy and 4-year-old Madison. Mandy, a former rider herself, says she loves the life too. Not surprisingly, she and her husband met at a horse show.
"I was a rider, but now I am more like the cheerleader. We show two weeks out of every month," Mandy said. "We try not to overdo it. We could show every week if we wanted. Winter is in Florida – at Ocala and Palm Beach. In summer its Atlanta, Nashville and Lexington. In the fall we go to Washington, D.C., Harrisburg [Pa.] and Syracuse [N.Y.]"
It is a seven-days-a-week job, but Tosh says he is indeed living his dream.
"I love it. It is a great life. I get to travel, I have my family along and I love being around horses," he said. "The lifestyle is incredible, and to have my whole family involved is incredible."
Tosh said he likes the competition but that is not all.
"It's fun to bring along a young horse and turn it into a winner that can produce at the top level," he said. "It is the same with riders. They can start out raw, but then they come along and can produce too."
But the special time is that two minutes in the ring when all the work between horse and rider comes together. That is a special thrill also – perhaps the thrill.