by Kelly Whitaker

If perfection is in the eye of the beholder, I think anyone who met Keeper would’ve agreed with me that he was perfect. I always told people I thought Keeper was too smart for his own good; he was so sneaky. I remember the first few times I rode him he would test me by giving me a hard time bridling him, and refusing to go out of the indoor ring. Trust was definitely important to him, and once any rider got that trust they were sure to have the most amazing ride on him. He was never tired, always ready to go -- whether we were in lessons, jumping, or out on the trail. I loved jumping him, he was so brave and proud of himself after every jump, and I also loved taking him out on the trails -- even though a few times he laid down to eat grass while I was still on!

His ears would pop up every time I walked out to the pasture to call his name, and we would walk into the barn together, he never needed a halter -- he would just walk right alongside me, sometimes nuzzling in my pockets for carrots or putting his head on my shoulder (which was one of his favorite places to cuddle). I loved sitting next to him while graining him or taking him out for grass after a ride; he would happily eat and give me a few nuzzles, then he always looked for a carrot when I let him out (which I always gave him. Who could resist his face?)

About a year or so after I started leasing him, I saw that Mark and Katie put him in a Junior Beginner lesson -- I was curious how it would go, because he was a great horse but he still had some friskiness in him.  But he was so sweet with the little kids; he was always gentle and calm.  Sometimes when I would ride with those lessons, I would come alongside the kids riding Keeper and call out “trot, Keeper, trot” and he would go right away, and the kids would love it. Then I would get on him and we could go zooming around the ring, jumping, and having so much fun --  but he always catered to his riders needs, and everyone loved him for it.

Keeper gave me so much. I don’t know where I’d be without him. He gave me so much confidence, both when riding him and other horses, I know I wouldn’t be the rider I am today without him. He also gave me more than just learning how to ride, he was always there for me, I could snuggle with him anytime I was sad, and he never left my side.  He was so protective of me, and always made sure we returned from a ride safely. I’m happy I was able to say goodbye, and he was so brave and not in pain for a long time. He was also surrounded by people who loved him, and there were so many others that were thinking about him. He had so many friends, horses and humans, at the Ranch, and I know so many people will miss him with me. I’m so thankful I got one last snuggle from him, and I will never ever forget him. To me, every day I was with him, was perfect -- because he was truly perfect.

keeper eating keeper jumping
keeper standing