It’s not very often that I write of great horses that have passed on, but Nate Shilabar (aka Hotshot) is a horse that undeniably can not be ignored. The fact is that all of us have had horses that have touched our lives, some of them won a lot, some won a little, and some of them didn’t win at all. It is the special place in our heart that makes them special. I don’t think that one person’s loss is any greater than another’s, just because one horse has won hundreds of thousands of dollars while another just took his owner on a trail ride once a week. It is with this in mind, that my expressed feelings are generally kept at bay and aren’t voiced any greater than, “My thoughts and prayers are with you.”
But… Hotshot is different.
In my lifetime, I have yet to see a horse that was run by so many people and consistently a threat to every great barrel horse in this country. In the years that he was running at the NFR, it was great to hear the stories of the short statured renegade gelding. With over $1 million dollars in earnings, he was a force to be reckoned with and he continually acted as a threat for years after his 1997 debut with Peyton Raney. In that year, they won the WPRA Rookie of the year. In 2001, Janet Stover won the WPRA World Championship after winning more than $126,000 in earnings at NFR. That same year the Steinhoff’s bought him for their daughter, Tanya as a Christmas present. She won $180,000 the next year. Hot Shot went on to be a “kids horse” for their family, winning multiple world championships and enough money to pay off what the equivalent of EVERYTHING I have possession of, year after year after year. What has your kid done to make a couple hundred thousand dollars lately?
Many great barrel horses have died this year and we all suffer our feelings of loss. It’s amazing to me because I know that there are so many people who this horse influenced in his lifetime, that will never be mentioned in any of the articles that speak of his death. I loved the 90’s and early 2000’s because I really feel that the “little” horses prevailed in that time. It was just a coincidence that the dominating horses of this time were mostly under 15 hands. It was great to see Sherry Cervi’s Hawk, Kelly Yates’ Fiesta and Hot Shot barreling down the alley with sheer determination of a win that was just beyond the horizon. I too rode a small horse, that many knew as not of a threat, but as the “consistent” horse. It was Hawk, Fiesta, and Hot Shot that gave me hope and made me push my horse to be the greatest he could be. I know there are other girls out there doing the same to this day, going over the memories of those times. One year at the Salinas PRCA rodeo in California I rode my small horse up next to Sherry Cervi to see if Hawk was shorter or taller than my horse. Hawk was actually smaller which I would have never guessed in a million years. It was a great feeling and still to this day gives me a sense of joy when I head out to run my barrel horses. In the past few years, I have realized that I should be as kind and accepting of myself as much as I am the horses. I may be small, but my heart does not acknowledge the limitations that are unjustifiably set in my head.
They said it best in Seabiscuit, “It’s not in his feet, it’s in his heart.”
The Steinhoffs say they found Hot Shot, 24, in his stall today (12/28/11) in the place where he always laid down to sleep. It appears that he passed away in the night. There were no signs of struggle.