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Blind Horse Inspirations • Blind quarter horse to receive national award

Reprinted with the kind permission of the Sandy Post. This article was published before it was known that Doc’s Major Star was the finalist for the Silver Spur Award.

John and Linda Keeter, above, stand at their Burnt Spur Ranch with Bud, a 21-year-old blind quarter horse.

Blind quarter horse to receive national award
by: Kelly Moyer-Wade - 10/29/03

Photo by Kelly Moyer-Wade

It has been 11 years since Bud lost his eyesight to disease but the days that followed are still fresh in Linda Keeter’s memory.

“He had five really bad days after both eyes went,” recalls Keeter. “I stayed with him, talked to him and tried to comfort him.”

The effort paid off. Within the week, Bud, a once internationally-ranked quarter horse, was taking his first tentative steps out of the stall and into the new, dark world of the blind.

“Bud was a work horse and I wasn’t going to let him spend the rest of his days standing around in a pasture, in the dark,” said Keeter. “I knew he wouldn’t be happy unless he was working, being useful, but I wanted to give him a chance to (get along) without his eyes.”

Today, at the age of 21, Bud fits in with the other horses at Linda and John Keeter’s Sandy ranch. He may have no eyes — they have disintegrated due to lack of use — but he still steps high, lowers his shiny brown neck for a caress and gives riding lessons with the best of them.

Now Bud, formally known as Doc’s Major Star, is set to receive a national Silver Spur Award from the American Quarter Horse Society. The annual award honors horses that have made a real difference in the lives of others. Bud is one of three nominees and the Keeters are flying to Oklahoma City in a couple weeks to see if Bud has won first, second or third place.

“It’s a real honor,” said Linda Keeter. “The other two horses have helped people with disabilities but Bud is the disabled horse who has helped people.”

Since losing his eyesight at the age of 12 to a disease similar to glaucoma, Bud has relied on the voices and the body language of trusted humans to get through his days. The Keeters worked long hours with Bud, getting him used to things they used to take for granted, such as the feel of grass brushing against his legs.

“When I first took him out of the stall he stumbled and I had to teach him ‘step down,’ ” said Linda. “Then he startled when he felt the grass against his legs and I taught him the word ‘brush’ so he would know when there was something that was going to touch him … he picked it up in no time and, eventually, he was working again.”

Although Bud couldn’t go back to his former event, cattle working, he turned out to be quite good at reigning patterns, where a number of movements are set into a pattern and the horse is judged on how well it obeys the rider. The Keeters’ 15-year-old granddaughter showed Bud two years ago at a national competition and won first place in her division, said John.

“Bud doesn’t like to be used,” he said. “He likes to be useful.”

Being useful includes giving riding lessons to children and adults and helping blind children learn about horses.

“We take Bud to the School for the Blind and all the children want a chance to ride on a blind horse,” said Linda. “Before he went blind, Bud was a workhorse and wasn’t too affectionate. Now he wants lots of attention and is very loving. You would think that being blind would make him more skittish but it has done just the opposite.”

Sandy High School junior Lyndsy Simmons, 17, plans to use Bud this season in her Sandy Equestrian Team penning competitions. Simmons learned to ride on Bud and said the blind horse is very intelligent and trusting.

“Riding Bud is different,” said Simmons. “You have to make sure you’re awake! Actually, Bud doesn’t spook as much as other horses because he can’t see what’s in front of him so that makes it easier, sometimes.”

A Gresham native, Linda Keeter has been riding, raising and training horses since she was old enough to live on her own and now runs the Burnt Spur Ranch with her husband. Located off Locksmith Lane on an idyllic piece of land, the Keeters’ ranch houses several horses and the couple trains both animals and riders.

Bud is the oldest horse at the ranch and is accepted by the older animals and loved by the babies.

“We call him uncle Bud because the young ones go right to him,” said Linda. “He is just so mellow and affectionate. He’s a great horse.”

If all goes well in Oklahoma City, Bud may soon be a great horse with a national award and the affection of horse lovers throughout the country.


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