Goodby to Jasper
"Peppy's Willow Park"
Arrived TGC 10/14/12 - Passed away 5/9/16
I’ve been struggling for days to publish this. Each time my finger hovered over the 'publish' button, I moved it away, as though if I didn't publish, it didn't happen. If I didn't move his page to the Memorial section, he's still here. If I didn't take down his nameplate, he's not gone. I went thru photos over and over trying to decide which ones to use, refusing to decide on any because then, I didn't have to put this up. But it's time we honored Jasper's memory one last time, and remember his life.
The surprise was so total. Just three days after Butters died, after eating part of his evening meal and having a nice poop, dear Jasper went down in his stall, apparently struck by a heart attack or stroke that took his life in just a few seconds. I was there. It just took a second to realize he was in trouble, but I think he was really already gone as I held his head and felt the tiny flutter of his heart die under my fingers. Our old cowpony left on his own terms, and leaves an empty space in our hearts.
Dear Jasper was born Peppy's Willow Park, a well bred Quarterhorse whose athletic prowess took him to the National Finals Rodeo twice. He’s not the stereotypical QH - having a deep girth, smaller rump and plain normal horse face. Unfortunately, he did end up with those tiny feet the QH people seem to breed for, and then after god knows how long of inappropriate shoeing, developed navicular. And it seems that once he was no longer useful, he was tossed out like an old couch. His accomplishments and effort meant nothing. Jasper was at the Kern County animal shelter, looking for a home. He was 25 then, and I knew he’d have trouble finding a home so offered to take him. (By the time all was said and done, Jasper came here with Diamond and Lester too!)
Jasper had shoes on. Unbelievable how far forward of his leg his shoes hit the ground, what strain on his ligaments. (Try walking on the ball and toes of your bare foot, but don’t move the heel more than 2 inches off the ground. You can do it at first. Imagine never being able to stop!) We got them off and began the slow process of bringing his foot back under him. He went barefoot briefly, but was just too uncomfortable for that, and eventually, he got shoes and pads for his time here. He also got some weird bumps all over his neck and chest - we believed it was a fly allergy and the first year was hard to handle, but subsequently, with good nutrition, a B-complex and apple cider vinegar, his coat stayed smooth and shiny, a distinctive red like the stone we named him for.
Like a lot of QHs who have come here to TGC, Jasper seemed quiet and withdrawn. Not quite shut down, but fully aware that his usefulness to humans defined his worth. Knowing how hard it was for him simply to walk, his quiet despair is not surprising. He didn’t know what was coming, or if he could do it. Once he was discarded, his strong spirit simply hunkered down. When he arrived here, I think he felt a little hope dawn as his feet were properly attended to. And I think the other horses let him know, dude, this is it. You don’t have to do anything. Join us! And he began to believe.
He was always impeccable with me, except the one time he knocked me unconscious in the field! (Trying to get away from Laddie - my bad for not paying attention...) From his first night, when he gently sniffed me all over as I spoke to him in his stall, to his final day, Jasper knew how he was supposed to behave with people, and always did his job. Despite over 3 years here, he never forgot his training. He quickly learned what cookies are and would approach with a ‘cookie face’; in fact, after a while a cookie face was all I saw from him!
He was a huge favorite with my cowboy farrier, Travis, and not too many months ago, when Laurie was visiting, Jasper walked directly up to her and ORDERED her to give him some body work! It was that definite! And he was right, he needed it and she was able to help. What a clever guy...
He chose our dear departed Remy to be his best friend. I was impressed that Remy allowed that, as he was the consort of Daisy and jealous of other geldings who showed interest. But that was the point. Jasper didn’t really care about Daisy, he loved Remy, they were best friends.
They traded war stories - Remy the OTTB, and Jasper the working rodeo horse. And both were out of state horses, Jasper from Texas and Remy from Louisiana. When Remy passed, Jasper was clearly distressed and at a loss, and spent a lot of time trying to fill Remy’s shoes taking care of Daisy (who allowed it while she grieved, and then walked away without a backwards look).
When it was clear Jasper couldn’t join Daisy’s group, he tried to befriend Fanny. That was shortlived.
I moved him next to Jordan who had just lost Navigator, and a new friendship was born. While Jordan is a decade younger and huge, it was Jasper who defined their days. The first time we put Jasper in his new stall, we heard for the first time his funny, whispery-strained whinny. Maybe he was trying to tell Daisy where he was, I don’t know. It was so quiet, and wierdly squeaky, I couldn’t believe it was him at first. (You can see I’m trying to resist calling it “hoarse” ... but it was) You imagined him screaming until his voice was gone, and this being the result. We didn’t hear it often. Jasper wasn’t one to call attention to himself, or make demands.
I’m so grateful that Jasper chose to leave unaided. It doesn’t happen a lot. And I, and all who met him, had a soft spot for our cowpony. So easy to deal with. So gentle, but strong enough to stand up for those he loved. He had a good mind and a lot of tolerance. I’m glad we had him long enough for him to truly trust that he was retired and not going to be put back to work. Even after he gained weight, his slower movements, the stiffness I saw in his joints that only minimally responded to pain meds, showed that his long hard cowpony career and his 28 years really affected him.
Jasper certainly wasn’t our oldest resident. Once we got a handle on his feet, the navicular and his obvious arthritis in all joints wasn’t great, but we HAVE had horses more disabled. And so his passing was a surprise. He wasn’t even on my radar. But I truly am glad that it was fast and while the body struggled a little, his spirit was free quickly and painlessly. I occasionally fancy that our horses are not too far away, after their passing, and if so, maybe he can find his buddy Remy again ... and strong and perfect again, they can engage in competitions of skill and speed, the way guys love to do.
We will miss you Jasper. Git along, little doggie, and Happy Trails...