Cook Peak Review, 2005 | By Liz Cook, Edited
Every girl should own a horse. Before we moved to Cook Peak, the only horse I owned was made of plastic. My wildest dream came true when my grandparents gave me their horse; an Arabian named Silverado. I was the happiest girl in the universe because I owned a horse.
My grandparents had Silverado for over ten years before I got him. He was born on the Californa coast, trained at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and spent the majority of his working years as a pack horse in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. My Grandpa met Silverado on the trail and the two eventually retired together.
When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to visit my grandparent’s house so I could see Silverado. He lived in the corral in front of their mountain cabin. I would pet his giant head through the bars, and he let me as if he sensed the innocence of my size and intentions. My Grandpa would get nervous, thinking Silverado could easily step on me.
My Grandpa was surprised the day I asked if I could ride his horse. I was in Jr. High. He said Silverado had not been ridden in a very long time and he wasn’t sure how the horse would react to a saddle. By the time he put on his boots and came outside to saddle Silverado, I was already done. Months of riding with my neighbor and learning how to care for her horses had paid off. Silverado was saddled and ready to ride. I think that was the turning point when my Grandpa knew I was ready to own a horse.
A couple of months later, my grandparents offered Silverado to me. I was so excited and counted the minutes until he was mine. On a warm summer evening, Silverado arrived at Cook Peak in a horse trailer. We put him in a small pen in the back pasture to help him get used to his new home. I will always remember the first time we let him into the big pasture. As soon as he cleared the gate, he galloped for the first time in many years, up and down the pasture. It was a beautiful sight, watching him do what horses were meant to do, run. Because Silverado was an Arabian, he held his head up high and arched his long silky tail. There was no doubt in our minds that he needed me as much as I needed him.
I showed Silverado how to be a horse again. Together we traveled every road and trail in our valley and visited every horse and along the way. We didn’t have television or video games. Instead, we rode horses and went on adventures. Silverado took good care of me and kept me safe. Our Ferrier, once told me that if you take care of your horse, your horse will take care of you, and it’s true.
One day, Silverado and I rode to the lake with Corrine and her horse, TC. We loved to ride in the wide open spaces and gallop. When Silverado and TC were tired, we took them to the shoreline to cool down. Usually, you cool down a horse by walking him slowly, but Silverado had other plans. He sat down in the lake with me on his back and took a bath. Watching us was an amazed audience of tourists.
Silverado and I had some difficult times. My mom had left to go to the store one day while I saddled Silverado next to the chain link fence like I had done many times before. We were going on an early evening ride with Corrine and TC around the neighborhood. I did everything as usual. I put on his blanket and then his saddle. Strangely, when I put on his bridle, he reared and landed on top of the fence and crushed it. Half of his body was on one side, and his back end flailed on the other as he screamed. There was nothing I could do except wait for him to calm down. I could see his halter caught in the fence. Somehow I managed to get his saddle off and noticed his leg was bloody and caught in the wire. Without adults around, Corrine and I had to think fast. We found wire cutters and cut Silverado’s foot away from the fence. Just before I freed him, I thought to myself; this horse weighs 1,500 pounds, and one wrong move could send me to the ER. In this frightening time, I remembered the Ferrier’s words.
At the end of a summer evening, Silverado got sick. It wasn’t his first bout of colic, Grandpa said. Within hours he went from bad to worse, and by morning, he stood in the pasture, weak and hopeless. He tried to ease his pain by walking a few steps back and then forward. Mucus dripped from his nose and mouth like a faucet. All I could do was pet him and cry. He knew I was there. He leaned his body into mine and laid his head on me. I think he knew he would die.
The vet said there was nothing he could do but end the suffering. As the vet’s wife walked Silverado into the middle of the pasture, he looked at me for the last time, and I cried. The vet said he didn’t want me to watch my horse die and asked me to leave. I went inside Cook Peak and up to my parent’s balcony and watched the whole thing. I had to. The vet’s wife lovingly held Silverado’s head, as I would have, petted him and gently comforted as Silverado collapsed and left the earth.
Tulsa, our other horse, unfortunately, had to watch his friend suffer and die and get buried only yards away. Once the backhoe left, Tulsa walked over the grave and laid down. After Silverado’s death, Tulsa became more affectionate. I gave him all of my attention, and together we processed the loss of our friend.
I have learned that death is a price you pay when you live on a ranch or farm or whatever Cook Peak is. I’ve experienced the joy at the beginning of life, and I’ve experienced the bitter end. Living with loss is difficult, but I will always remember Silverado with fond memories of my childhood.
Yesterday I walked out to the pasture and stood on Silverado’s grave. I wanted to spend a few quiet moments thinking about the good times and our adventures. Tulsa saw me and walked over and nuzzled his face against my back. I turned and said, “Come on boy, let’s go. Today is a good day for a ride.”
Liz is now 27 years old and a cosmologist in Phoenix, AZ. During her childhood at Cook Peak, she loved Silverado, Tulsa and Amber, all older horses who lived out their lives at Cook Peak.
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Yes, every girl should own a horse (or two)