K elly Meyer, a University of Colorado junior and president of the CU equestrian team, could barely hold back tears as she described training with one of the team's horses, Chewy, who died late in the summer.

"He had the funniest personality," Meyer, 20, said. "He would chew on anything. You would turn around, yell at him and he would drop it, and look at you like, 'I don't have anything.'"

The 9-year-old chocolate brown former racehorse was put down at the end of the summer after an "extremely painful" bout of colic, Meyer said, an abdominal pain that occurs in horses.

The team, especially members who had grown close to Chewy, was devastated. As a memorial, they will plant a tree in his honor this weekend at one of their training locations, Fall River Farm in Fort Lupton, Colo.

"There were a lot of tears in the barn," said Jill Pelzel, owner of Fall River Farm and one of the team's coaches. Chewy was Pelzel's horse, though she leased him to the CU team for lessons and some competitions.

Meyer trained with Chewy all summer, opting to stay in Boulder instead of returning home to Bucktown, Pa., where she got her start on horses as a 7-year-old trail guide at a local farm.

One Saturday night just before classes resumed, Meyer headed to Pelzel's barn for an evening ride. She had no idea anything was wrong.

Chewy, who had been sick several times before, had been thrashing around in pain, giving himself cuts and bruises from running into walls. Pelzel decided it was time to let Chewy go.

"Nobody had the heart to sit there and let him suffer any more," Meyer said, her eyes becoming red with tears. "It got to a point where there was nothing we could do. It was probably a relief more than anything because seeing him that bad was really awful."

As the team's leader, Meyer oversees the two disciplines of riding that comprise the equestrian team, English and western riding, which vary in style and saddle type. The English team took No. 8 at nationals in 2012, competing against more than 350 other teams nationwide.

This season, even without beloved Chewy, CU hopes to head back to win a national championship. The team's first competition is the weekend of Oct. 6-7 at Fall River Farm.

Though they know horses don't live forever, the team can't help but get close to the animals they train with on a weekly basis, said senior captain Karly Hobbs. It's more of a partnership than a pet/owner relationship, Hobbs added.

"You fall head over heels," Hobbs said, adding that she often feels a strong, unspoken mental connection to her horses. "You can't help it."

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