Yesterday was my horse Jasper’s birthday. He would have been 28. It’s always a sad day for me because he died 7 years ago. That was the hardest day and year of my life. I remember my friend Lizzie bringing me frozen yogurt when I was sitting on the couch crying when I got the news.
A few years before we bought him, I met Jasper at a horse show where he was being ridden by his previous owner. I was riding “Strike” in the show. We were chatting between classes. You have a lot of down time at horse shows. The slogan is, “hurry up, and wait.” Fast forward a few years and Jasper is giving my mom a kiss at another show:
You have a lot of time to kill at horse shows, but you stand around near the arena in case it’s time for your class. You stand in the hot summer sun in your riding gear. Back then I didn’t have a jacket, and I wanted one. I only had a polo and a dress shirt. Funny how much you want to fit in when you’re young. I remember at my first show I didn’t know what people wore and I wore a polo shirt. All the other girls had hunt coats. I still got two ribbons that day, so I guess it didn’t matter too much.
Jasper was a social horse. He liked spending a lot of time hanging out and having his neck pet. He wasn’t really one to enjoy face petting. He much preferred the neck. He had thin skin, like a baby. He despised the curry comb, so I didn’t. I never used a tough brush on him, and I usually brushed his entire body with a soft brush. I had an even softer brush for his face. For a couple shows, he stood perfectly being braided. He was a pretty patient guy and was so charming. He had a sparkle in his eye unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. He was always bright-eyed, with ears forward, curious and excited about the world around him.
Jasper was a great-grandson of Three Bars, the most influential Thoroughbred in American Quarter Horse history. Here is a really nice story about Three Bars. Bob Gray wrote in the article, “Yes, he was easy to handle but Three Bars was full of fire. He was one of the nicest horses you’d want to have around. But he didn’t like to be brushed or have his feet trimmed. He’d show a lot of white in his eye. If you didn’t know him, you’d think he was thinking about eating you up.” My horse was so similar. All talk and no action. He was very dominant and obstinate in the barn. Before his halter was on you would see a lot of ears back and attitude. Once you handled him he was lovely. Get the halter on and walk him around, he instantly calmed down. He loved the company, but was always a little testy.
A couple years later he was for lease or for sale. We instantly fell in love with his beauty. He was like black beauty with a perfect white diamond. For my entire life–at that point–I wanted a black horse. I still have a thing for black horses. Black horses always catch my eye. They are so elegant. I still would like another black horse. They will always remind me of Jasper.
When I started riding Jasper he was neglected, only being taken out of barn once a week or so. He was underweight and needed consistent care. He was so bored in the barn and had a lot of energy to burn. He had learned a lot of tricks, like breaking away while being tied up and setting himself free. He certainly kept things interesting. We took a lot of time caring for him. I took a lot of lessons with a lot of trainers, groundwork included. He needed a lot of turnout time too because I liked him to get his bucks out before I would ride.
When my mom would take me to the barn she would start talking to me loudly and he would coming whinning in from his paddock. I always got a big whinny, unless I skipped a day of visiting him. Then I got the cold shoulder, no whinny. He would come over, but would not whinny. That made me feel very special. He also had a clock in his mind. He was so excited for our first summer together and learned that I would come to the barn in the morning. He knew he could eat his breakfast and stick his head out of the barn and wait. He knew I would be there soon. People told us they saw him waiting. Then when school would start up again, he would wait for a few days, until he would realize I wasn’t coming until the afternoon. He would occupy himself during the day and start waiting in the afternoon. I always wanted to go to the barn and spend hours turning him out, riding, grooming, feeding, and walking him around. After our daily ride, often times he would want to go walking after.
One time I went out on a trail ride with another girl at the barn and when we were coming back to the barn, he turned around and wanted to go back out again. He was not lazy and that made it a lot more fun. I knew he was having the time of his life. I had him for 8 years, and I wouldn’t say his energy level changed much at all towards the end. He had some arthritis and needed Adequan shots once a month, but he didn’t slow down. I was shocked when he died at 21 because I thought he was going to live longer. So many horses live to be 30. Well, I know if love could have saved him he wouldn’t have died.