An amateur steeplechase rider, polo player, owner and race meet director, Dixon Stroud has worn more than his share of hats in the horse industry. He won the 1984 Maryland Hunt Cup aboard Bewley's Hill, a horse Stroud trained for his wife Lisa. But, Stroud's Horse Who Changed Everything is a polo pony who came to Pennsylvania by way of Montana. His name was Snort.
It was 1979 and my cousin Peter Milliken sent me a photo of Snort poking his head through the rough-hewn boards of a corral on the E/L Ranch in Greenough, Mont.
A 3-year-old, Snort was trained to rein by Louis Vero, a Filipino possessing an innate sense of horses.Snort arrived in West Grove, Pa., and took in his new home. A liver chestnut, 15-2 hands, stocky, and with a big motor, Snort was seven-eighths Quarter Horse with a touch of Thoroughbred. Curious and playful, he took to neck reining easily.
Then came the polo mallet – and the ball – which he attempted to pounce on with his front hooves whenever it appeared in front of him. Eventually, he got it and became a trusted mount and valuable teammate on the polo field.
Snort turned fast, accelerated quickly and could run with the speediest. I always played him in the fifth or sixth chukker when the polo match was on the line. Either I would get a chance of a shot on goal or thwart the opposition from scoring.
He liked to jump the white lines marking the polo field boundaries. One time, with the ball sitting on that line between the goal posts, I was just about to pop it through when Snort jumped the line. I missed the ball by about a foot and Lionel Macaire (one of the game’s all-time greats) carried it the length of the field in the opposite direction to score. Ugh.
After playing Snort for 15 years I put him to pasture. Sometimes, he was out at our house, sometimes over the hill where the Brandywine Rugby Club used another pasture for games and practice.
The playing pitch was lined, the two teams moving left or right with the play, and Snort would follow up and down the sidelines watching the play and never stepping onto the field – an unusual spectacle for anyone and duly noted by the rugby players.
Speedy, powerful, intuitive and intelligent, Snort was pensioned with my other favorite horse, Maryland Hunt Cup winner Bewley’s Hill, and died in 2013.
Stroud is the founder of the Willowdale Steeplechase, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The race meet will be run Sunday, May 14 in Kennett Square, Pa.
TIHR's Horse Who Changed Everything feature is presented by EMBRACE THE RACE, the exclusive provider of The Apparel for the Horse Racing Lifestyle® and The Official Apparel of Horse Racing.
Dixon Stroud's rendition of Snort, who would not cross the sideline, watching a rugby match.