MARTINSVILLE — On Thursday, a remarkable equine resident of Martinsville is celebrating a milestone that few horses ever reach — her 35th birthday.
“Shoshone,” a retired Civil War horse, has spent much of her life working alongside her owner, Rick Williams. Williams is a seasoned performer who has spent many years portraying General George Armstrong Custer, with first-person speaking presentations, as well as commanding forces in battle reenactments. He has appeared as Custer from California to New York, in Canada and Germany, and is still the official General Custer of his hometown historical association in New Rumley, Ohio.
Shoshone, who is half quarter horse and half appaloosa, has been Williams’s personal mount and has pulled cannons and ammo wagons during reenactments. She has also appeared in local movies, a testament to her well-trained nature.
Despite being blind in her left eye for the past 20 years due to a cataract, Shoshone’s spirit remains unbroken. Williams told the News Journal an anecdote about Shoshone’s blindness in her left eye, explaining that a friend of his, a General Lee performer, rode a horse that was blind in the right eye. They learned that Lee had to ride on his right so that the horses could see each other; otherwise, they’d run into each other.
Despite her age, Shoshone’s spirit remains strong. She’s recently battled arthritis in her upper shoulder, which is being treated. This is likely a result of their sabre-fighting years during Civil War reenactments, where riders would hit their blades back and forth. But the goal, Williams said, was to get behind the other rider and cap the rider in the side with the handle of your sabre — that’s considered a “hit/kill.”
However, “Shoshone would ram her shoulder right into the other horse’s flank and turn around. She loved it,” said Williams. It goes to show that she truly loved the reenactments as much as him. Shoshone is a very well-trained horse and, according to Williams, “the best sabre-fighting horse he’s ever ridden.”
Now that Shoshone is retired, Williams said that “a typical day in Shoshone’s life involves strolling around the pasture and munching on treats, with her favorite being flavored horse cookies from TSC.”
When asked what he will remember most about her, he quickly answered, “Her gentle nature, but also her eagerness to charge into battle during our reenacting years.”
She has even fallen asleep during artillery fire, a testament to her unflappable spirit, according to Williams. Her love for the thrill of battle was evident in every charge and every maneuver she executed on the field. Shoshone’s remarkable legacy is one of endurance, strength, and a bond between a rider and his horse that has lasted for decades.