Steamboat Springs In a sunny, lush pasture in Strawberry Park, Ser Vivor is the king of his new home.
The small but hardy chestnut-brown horse has come into his own at the home of Randy and Gail White, where he lives with renewed purpose after spending nearly half the winter abandoned in the North Routt County wilderness.
“He was real skittish,” said Randy White, who has been caring for the rescued horse for veterinarian Mike Gotchey since mid-January. “But it didn’t take a couple of days before he took over. He’s a tough little guy.”
In his new home, Ser Vivor has two new companions: an old horse named Whiskey and a younger, strong trail horse named Guy. The trio rollicks in the green hay field, nipping and grooming one another playfully.
“He just fits in with Whiskey; they’ve become good buddies,” Gotchey said.
White said Ser Vivor can be tough to catch but makes instant friends with anyone bearing horse candy.
“He’s just a good, old horse,” White said fondly.
But six months ago, Ser Vivor’s world looked starkly different.
In early January, members of the Routt County Powder Riders group were out for a Sunday snowmobile ride in North Routt County when they came across the horse under a lone pine tree. He was malnourished and skittish, and he had an old saddle packed with snow hanging upside down from his belly.
A wound on his back from the cinch of the girth dripped blood. Today, it’s just a small scar on an otherwise shiny coat.
Gotchey thinks Ser Vivor probably was a sheepherding horse and could have been out in the woods since October 2011, picking at the scarce plants he found in tree wells. The lack of snow this past winter probably saved his life.
It took about seven hours for the snowmobilers, Gotchey, his fiancee and U.S. Forest Service officials to walk the horse out of the deep snow and onto a trailer. Gotchey witnessed an incredible will to live on that walk out, earning the horse his name.
Tired and weak, the horse spent the next two weeks recovering at the Steamboat Veterinary Hospital. But through his weariness, his sensitive yet strong demeanor shined through.
White sees it, too.
“He’s got a piercing, penetrating gaze,” White said. “When you look into his eyes, you know there’s someone in there that understands.”
And soon, White hopes Ser Vivor can share that gift.
As early as this fall, White hopes that his young grandchildren will get the chance to ride Ser Vivor once he’s healthy enough.
White thinks Ser Vivor has an important lesson to teach them.
“I think he’s going to be great for kids,” White said. “For our little grandchildren, to get them an understanding of what happened … that’s something Ser Vivor can pass on.”
Gotchey said Ser Vivor is like a rock star these days; everybody is excited and impressed to see him looking strong and well fed.
“It’s pretty amazing the turnaround he did,” Gotchey said. “He was in pretty rough shape. He’s just a good, little guy, and he’s a tough little sucker when you think about everything he’s been through.”
And although Ser Vivor technically is fostered at the White’s, as far as Gotchey is concerned, that’s where the old horse will spend the rest of his life.
“I’m ecstatic about the happy ending,” Gotchey said. “He deserves an easy life.”
To reach Nicole Inglis, call 970-871-4204 or email ninglis@ExploreSteamboat.com