Pets have unmistakably become a very important part of our family and our hearts. Pets are our best friends, our therapists and our true companions in life. Much like in the case of Leslie and her beloved horse, Cola. This story isn’t just about a girl and her equine confidant, it is about true love, determination and an iron-clad promise.
Cola, a pure bred quarter horse, was bred to two champion cutting horses; however, his days of cutting were short-lived due to his profound fear of cattle. After a few failed attempts at cutting, he was shipped to a hunter/jumper barn in Vancouver where he was set to be sold to one lucky little girl. That lucky 11 year old was Leslie Norton; as soon as Leslie met Cola she knew she had to have him. With lots of hard work, an agreed upon arrangement with her trainer and family, she was able to purchase the 3 year quarter horse. From that day in October 1990, Leslie made a promise that she would be Cola’s guardian for life, a commitment she took very seriously.
Instantly the two became inseparable, both were very young, and resilient, for the first year Cola bucked Leslie off nearly every lesson. Leslie loved him and was determined the two would be a team, after all aside from his sweet ground manners, Cola was a true and natural hunter/jumper, with incredible scope and conformation. After that first bumpy year, the two were a real team, and for the next six years, the pair competed all over British Columbia in hunters, jumpers and equitation classes.
Aside from showing and lessons, Cola taught Leslie the importance of hard work, sacrifice and commitment. Leslie took the bus one hour each way to work at the barn where he was boarded. Every weekend for the entire seven years she worked for him, cleaning stalls, grooming and teaching entry level students.
After seven years of lessons, shows, hard work and lots of carrots, Leslie had to keep a promise to her family that she would sell Cola when she went to college. At the age of 18, Leslie sold Cola, but when she did, she made another commitment– she would keep track of his life and career throughout his various owners. That she did. Every 6 months she would contact the current owner to check in on her first love. Cola was loved by many owners, traveled throughout North America, fulfilling a successful hunter/jumper career.
Sadly, there was a time when Cola went to a sale barn, where he was malnutrition and nearly starved to death. When Leslie found this out, she immediately set in to motion a plan to rescue her horse, bring him to her new home in the San Francisco Bay Area and never let him go again. After 13 years of being separated, Leslie had her equine friend back. Since Cola had helped Leslie through troubled teen years and it was Leslie’s turn to help him.
Cola has made Leslie who she is today, without him, she likely wouldn’t be working as an assistant horse trainer and equine massage therapist. It wasn’t the sport of riding that gave Leslie her career, it was her connection to Cola.
Cola is a very happy, healthy 26 years young, and resides in beautiful stall/paddock in Portola Valley, CA. Leslie sees him every single day.
Story written by Alison Borris, Ariat Community contributor