Ortega Mountain Ranch

Silent – In Memorium

Somewhere…somewhere in time’s own space,
There must be some sweet pastured place
Where creeks sing on and trees grow,
A place where forgotten horses can go.
—author unknown

Silent was one of the forgotten horses—discarded because he could no longer work. He had been a working cow pony on a cattle ranch and had been ‘rode hard and put away wet’ too many times. He was lame, so he was going to be sent for slaughter. But good fortune stepped in and he ended up being given to a family to be used as a recreational riding horse. Prior to us buying the ranch he was brought to Ortega Mountain Ranch for boarding. The problem was, he could only be ridden if he were drugged to mask the pain.

The family soon decided that they didn’t want horses anymore so they wanted to sell Silent. Who would buy an older lame horse? No one. We knew that the outcome wouldn’t be good…so we adopted him… IMG_752_2

Silent was one of the wisest horses I have ever met. He was older—about 20 years old—so he had been around the block a few times. An appy Quarter Horse, he had the gentle calmness that comes from breeding and experience. He was terribly lame, though, so I began a wellness program for him that over time produced excellent results.

We discovered through x-rays that he had a calcification of his flexor tendon due to an old injury. That was partly responsible for his lameness, but he had other problems as well.

His wellness program was extensive. He was too lame to ride, so it was a priority to get him sound and healthy. We started at the beginning and put him on an herbal detox to rid him of the toxic residues from all the drugs he had been given. We designed a vitamin/mineral/supplement program that we continually modified as he improved. He was treated with various herbal remedies, and he was given a series of homeopathic remedies to stimulate his body’s healing response. As lame as he was, he went barefoot, and his trim cycle was initially every 5 weeks, then when I started trimming his feet it went to every 3 weeks.

Holistic healing is like peeling away the layers of an onion. When one problem is solved, more underlying problems will usually surface. This was true for Silent. Later problems weren’t noticeable early on because there were bigger problems IMG_1014masking them. I could see that as Silent became healthier and more vibrant, he was also stiff and out of balance. So we did some bodywork sessions on him, and that made a huge difference. His fluidity noticeably improved. His hind legs had always been stiff and he couldn’t raise them very high, but after his first bodywork session, he could raise his hind legs as lightly as if he were a youngster.

The results of his wellness program were next to miraculous. It took a while, but he had a lot of serious problems that hadn’t developed overnight. He became sound, healthy, and could finally run for the first time in at least 3 years. He was happy, and he was such a wonderful horse to be around.

In his wisdom, he was a great mentor and teacher to young Sophie. Sophie loved him, and she looked to him for leadership. He always gave it to her, too, in the right way and at the right time. One time in particular sticks in my memory. We were ponying Sophie on Silent, and for the most part, she was well-behaved. She kept her head at his flank on a loose lead, but occasionally she would speed up and get her head almost to his head. Whenever she did that Silent would turn his head toward her and give her that ‘get back where you belong, kid!’ look and she immediately retreated. Silent never broke stride when he would discipline Sophie. It always made us laugh because we didn’t teach him to do that nor did we ask him to do that. He just did it. He knew what his job was and he knew what Sophie’s job was as well.

IMG_1790Life was good in our little herd. Each healthy step that Silent took made my heart soar. All of our hard work had paid off and had given Silent his life back. Then it happened. On Sunday, August 2nd 2009, we lost our beautiful Silent. It was a tragic accident. He broke his neck. We don’t know how…it was a clear, warm, dry day…we can speculate forever but we will never know. The bottom line is that he was gone. Dead. Our hearts were broken.

As a ranch owner, it is my job to contact others to tell them that their horse needs a vet, or, in the worst cases, to tell them that their precious and beloved horse has died. I have been there to give love and support to horses whose lives were being terminated. I love all the horses, and I take my responsibility seriously. Each loss is also a personal loss to me. I often wondered how it would be when it was our turn—when it was one of our horses. Sadly we found out, all too soon and very unexpectedly.

After losing Silent I asked myself ‘Why do we do it? Why do we have horses?’ I look at what it takes to keep a horse. They are huge animals requiring huge quantities of food. Bales of hay, 100-130 pounds per bale. It takes giant tractor-trailer trucks to bring enough hay to the ranch to support the horses for a few months. Feed comes in 50-pound sacks. It is an enormous task to trim feet. Grooming them, cleaning up after them—all require tremendous effort. Moving them requires big trucks and big boxes to put them in. And when they die…burying them requires heavy equipment, as does removing their bodies…And the vets? They are the unsung heroes. They spend most of their time driving in trucks stocked with everything they might need in the field. The good ones have no lives. The dedicated ones are on call 24/7. On the day that Silent died, we were our vet’s 6th emergency, and it was his wedding anniversary. And it was Sunday. Most people would be spending their Sunday relaxing or doing something for fun. We spent the day watching our beloved horse die.

I look at what it takes to keep small animals. I can clip my 3 cats’ claws in a total of 5 minutes. Feeding them is easy, and the logistics of everything else are simple. So why do we do it? Why do we have horses?

I don’t know. I wish I knew the answer. The amount of work is ridiculous, and the reward is personal—it’s not financial, except on rare

Silent's Memorial Garden

Silent’s Memorial Garden

occasions with very few people. Kent and I jokingly ask ourselves instead of a ranch, why didn’t we buy a cottage in Oregon overlooking the ocean where we could sit on the porch and watch the sunsets, take vacations, and lead a comfortable life? We could have, but we didn’t. There is some sort of otherworldly attraction that draws us to these huge, graceful, and beautiful creatures who are strong enough to kill us, yet are willing to do what we ask of them. I don’t know why we do it, but we do. And it doesn’t look like we’re going to stop any time soon.

We love you, Silent, and you are deeply missed.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us at ortegamtnranch@cox.net