FORT HUACHUCA — For two decades, the beloved and feisty Monte served the U.S. Army with dignity and aplomb.
Thursday afternoon, it was time to say goodbye to this majestic equine member of the storied B Troop, the 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial), as he was literally put out to pasture to signify that his military service has come to an end.
In a unique ceremony at Fort Huachuca’s stables, the elegant, chocolate-brown quarter horse — decked out in complete tack and accompanied by horse holder and CW4 Ty Riemann, USA (Ret.) — was given accolades as he readied to quit his stint with the Army at the ripe old age of 30.
The ceremony began promptly at 5 p.m. as the sun began to wane and it grew a bit chilly. It was led by Maj. Eddie Gonzalez, commander of B Troop.
Gonzalez and other B Troop members spoke about their moments with Monte, describing a horse who often tested his riders.
Monte began his service with the installation’s B Troop in 2001, Gonzalez said. He was only 10 years old at the time.
“He’s a really great horse,” Gonzalez said in his remarks about the gelding. “He’s part of those great horses like Zeus and like Chili and Cochise, they’re all part of that generation of horses that they got back in the day and they really have put in their amount of work over the years and there are a lot of great memories.”
Gonzalez kicked off the ride down memory lane for those who know Monte. Other members of B Troop on hand for the event chimed in with their own stories of the regal animal.
“He’s a great horse, “ Gonzalez said at the end of his Monte story. “I’m definitely gonna miss this horse.”
B Troop member Pete Criscuolo recalled the championships Monte has won at the National Cavalry Competition, noting how in 2010 the horse was part of a team that came home with a coveted Bolte Cup. At Thursday’s ceremony, Criscuolo presented Gonzalez with a mini Bolte Cup to commemorate Monte.
Lt. Col. Margaret Mills, USA (Ret.), a member of B Troop’s Ladies Auxiliary, said Monte was her “aha horse” because he presented challenges that she overcame.
“He was a good boy, but he would test you,” Mills said. “But I passed. I learned quite a bit from him.”
Riemann, who is the platoon sergeant for B Troop, said Monte was a “commander’s horse,” and he could not ride him until he became a commander. He enumerated the number of commanders before him who Monte “broke.”
B Troop member Randall Link, who is assigned to equine Cochise, said that the latter is Monte’s close friend.
“He’s basically the only horse that Cochise doesn’t bite on a regular basis,” Link said to chuckles from the group. “He actually waits for Monte to come out to the pasture and they actually share a feed bucket.
“I’m sure Cochise will be super sad for the next couple of weeks without Monte there,” Link added.
Once the praise for Monte ended, it was time for the more formal part of his farewell.
It was time to untack Monte. The removal of everything from the saber to the saddle and blanket was done step-by-step by Riemann. Each piece was handed to the horse holder standing on Monte’s right side and then placed on the ground in front of the horse so that he could see that his tour of duty was coming to an end.
After Gonzalez called out the last step in the final untacking, he thanked Monte.
“Monte, old friend, thank you very much for the great memories and for everything you’ve done for Fort Huachuca,” he said.
The B Troop members on hand then saluted Monte and he was led out to the pasture, where Cochise was waiting near the feed buckets. Once Monte entered the enclosed area, he was no longer in service to the Army, Riemann said.
Cochise ambled down to greet his friend. They stood side by side for a few seconds, then Monte headed for the grub.
Riemann said former B Troop member Kelsey Brewer has adopted Monte and would be taking him to her home in South Carolina early Friday.
“He’s got a long trip tomorrow to start him on the next journey in his life,” Riemann said.
With Monte’s departure, Gonzalez said B Troop is down four horses and the unit is looking.
The horses must be geldings of a hearty color, 15 to 16 hands and between the ages of 6 and 12, Gonzalez said.
“(We) definitely want nice, tame horses,” Gonzalez said. “They can have a little spunk, but we don’t want a really crazy horse."
The equines must be medically sound, Gonzalez said, and they’re usually tried out for about two weeks to determine if they’ll fit the bill for B Troop.
Anyone with information about selling or donating a horse to B Troop is asked to contact Riemann at: email@example.com.