There might not be a “Hall of Fame” for helping horses, those unsung heroes of horse sports, both on the racetrack and in the arena, but Silver, owned by the late Greg Welch, received special recognition for years of service during his last day on the job, at the 1991 National Cutting Horse Futurity.

Although he belonged to Welch, an NCHA Hall of Fame trainer, NCHA Futurity champion, and NCHA World champion, through the years, Silver served hundreds of owners and riders. “Jillions of people used him,” Welch told me during an interview following Silver’s retirement. “I think just about everybody borrowed him at one time or another.”

“He was good for anything you wanted to do on him, but not great at anything except as a turnback horse,” added Welch, who acquired Silver as a 3-year-old, when the bay colt didn’t pan out as a cutting horse. “Retired cutting horses are usually too cowy to be turnback horses. It takes one with not quite enough cow to make a turnback horse. It’s hard to find a good one.”

A calm disposition is an asset in a turnback horse, and Silver passed the test for Welch in a dramatic way.

“I had roped a calf in the pasture and when I got off to tie it down, the rope wrapped around me and Silver and I was jerked upside down,” Welch remembered. “I just kept talking to Silver until I got cut loose. That’s when I decided to buy him. I figured if he was good enough to stay there during that wreck, I’d keep him.”

Welch called the colt Old Bay. It was trainer and equine sculptor Jim Reno who dubbed him Silver. “Everybody in the country has a horse that looks like this that is named Bay,” Reno told Welch. “But nobody has one that looks like this and that is named Silver.”

Although Silver was a registered Quarter Horse out of a Poco Pine mare with “a lot of cutting points,” Welch kept the gelding’s registered name and pedigree to himself. “He’s just Silver,” he said. “That’s how everyone knows him.”

Silver assisted countless winners. The first NCHA Futurity champion he helped was Doc’s Diablo in 1979, all-time leading cutting trainer Bill Freeman’s first Futurity winner. “I think he went four or five years in a row helping a Futurity champion,” reckoned Welch.

While he served all four corners of the cutting pen, Silver was at his best as a herd holder. “That was the one thing he was famous for,” Welch noted. “He was pretty automatic. You could sleep down there on him just about.”

Silver worked in the days when NCHA Futurity go-rounds continued late into the night. Many cutters of that era remember him standing in the corner with his lower lip hanging slack, a reflection of everyone’s sentiment.

“He had a habit of popping his lip when he got tired,” Welch recalled. “That was when he was ready to go home.”

It wasn’t easy for Welch, when he made the decision to retire Silver at the age of 18. The old gelding had begun to show signs of wear and tear from years of use, yet he hated to be left at home.

“When I’d go to load the trailer, he’d try to get out of his stall,” Welch remembered. “He wanted to go. But I think it bothered me worse than it bothered him. I thought about letting my daughter ride him, but I was afraid if I put those shoes back on him, I’d be tempted to haul him again.”

Silver is shown in photo with, from front to back, Chubby Turner, Greg Welch, Mike Mowery and Gary Bellenfant.