My Dear Friend, Keeper
by Ursula Beck

I knew Keeper was special from the start. He was whatever someone needed most—kind, gentle, spirited, playful. He pushed me, yet always made me feel safe. He was my first horse love. He grounded me and kept me going through some of the toughest times I’ve dealt with, always ready to snuggle. He took care of me in a way no one else could. When he was nervous or overexcited on trails I’d sing or talk to him, to him to calm him down and distract him. He listened to me whenever no one else would and was always patient and forgiving; together we were perfect.

Keeper was such a playful spirit. I loved running and playing silly, nameless games with him in the pasture or ring when no one else was around. Resting in the sunshine while he munched some grass after a trail or lesson was sheer heaven. I trusted him and shared in his excitement and exhilaration on trails and appreciation of shade on hot summer days. I loved jumping with him more than anything else; he was so much fun, and I grew enormously as a rider because of it. I always felt we were so similar and that’s why we worked well together.

It still makes me laugh to think of him ripping out the bows and ribbons on the other horses tails while caroling last December. He always had something new tucked up his sleeve. I’ll never forget the day I realized why he’d taken up the habit of running away from me when I went out to catch him—he wanted to play with me. But since I wasn’t in the mood to join in his games all the time I’d pretend to catch another horse. He’d stop a little ways off and look back at me, as if to say, “well aren’t you coming for me?” And when it was quite clear I was not, he’d sidle back over to me and follow me affectionately into the barn.

I missed Keeper terribly when I left for college this fall. He was the part of home I missed most. I can still picture his perked ears and expectant eyes, mid-chew, as he peaked out in greeting from around a hay feeder.

I find myself scrambling to say a proper goodbye…a much more final one than I ever dreamed I was making last August. I feel so lucky to have been so close to him over the past few years. Every time I went away and came back I loved you more, and more deeply. Goodbye my good friend, you will be missed and remembered by many, and will always play exuberantly in my heart.

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