I purchased Cali, a sorrel quarter horse, in 1988, while I was still in college at UC Davis - she was not quite 4 years old and green-broke. Sami, my future wife, agreed to date me because I had a horse. Between the two of us, we bumbled through Cali's training - she became much more than a green horse.
After college, I went to work for the California Cattlemen's Association. Through the friends I made in that job, I had the chance to gather cows, brand calves and go on pack trips in the Sierra with Cali. Despite my inexperience in these activities, Cali became an incredibly trustworthy horse. She became my pal.
My Mom had never ridden a horse. When we lived in Penryn, I convinced her to try it. Cali took great care of her!
The last time I rode Cali, my daughter Lara and I rode through our ranch and a neighboring ranch to look for a bull that had disappeared. Even though Cali had developed navicular disease (a degenerative condition in the lower front legs), she loyally carried me in our search. This was about 2 years ago.
Last fall, Cali became severely lame in a rear leg. After treating her and testing her, we determined that she probably had a tumor in her hip. Last Sunday morning, I found her dead in her paddock - she was 24 years old.
Horses and mules live long enough to become part of a family. Despite my inexperience, Cali had allowed me to train her. When we had kids, she was the first horse to carry both of our girls. She was as loyal an animal as I've ever owned. I miss her terribly.
If we choose to "own" animals, I think we're blessed with only a handful of exceptional partners during our lifetimes. Cali was one of those exceptional horses that few people have a chance to ride. Thank you, Cali.