Cougar Cowgirl: Hesa real easy Keeper

Josie Goodrich and Keeper close their chapter together, and both start a new one



Josie Goodrich and Keeper after their last college rodeo together.

JOSIE GOODRICH, Reporter/Copy Editor

My love for rodeo can be accredited to many things … it could be the fact that the moment I was born I was traveling to rodeos with my mom and dad, or that my brother and I grew up riding horses together, something we were able to bond over at a young age, or even the fact that I have just simply done it my entire life and I don’t know life without it.

However, those things did not push me to the love and passion that I have now.

When I was a freshman in high school I decided that I wanted to quit rodeoing and focus on school sports. I was so tired of riding and working the chutes for my dad every day, and I wanted to be done.

I started focusing on basketball a lot more, and that career soon ended with a torn ACL. After being out of sports for quite some time, I had decided that maybe I wanted to rodeo again. I mean, it is quite literally the only thing my family does.

Fast forward to my senior year of high school, I wanted to rodeo for the entirety of my senior season, so like my awesome mom always does, she immediately started trying to help me find a way that I could do this, considering we sold all the horses I rode when I quit.

By the glory of God, a lovely lady from my area, Sue Gibbs, had this sweet, older horse that was exactly what a novice rider like me needed at that time in my life; I had not ridden horses for a little over two years.

I took this horse that I had never made a real run on, Keeper, to my first rodeo back (the first rodeo of my senior season), and we ran into the fence as we were headed to the third barrel. The next day, we won the rodeo.

And from that second day, Keeper kept on winning ‘em for me. We immediately clicked, and we ended up being the 2020 Oregon High School Rodeo Association state champions in barrel racing.

We then went on to compete at the National High School Rodeo Finals in Guthrie, Oklahoma, the Jr. World Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Jr. American Semi-Finals in Fort Worth, Texas.

Then I went on to college rodeo as a freshman at WSU, where Keeper won our first-ever college rodeo. He proceeded to qualify us in the top three in the Northwest Region to compete at the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Finals in Casper, Wyoming.

Then, in 2022, my sophomore year at WSU, Keeper took us to the college national finals and the Jr. World Championship, in Las Vegas, Nevada, again.

After that, I began professionally rodeoing for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, where Keeper won me my very first professional rodeo check at Toppenish on the first weekend I ever entered a pro rodeo.

Josie and her mom, Jodi, getting ready to run barrels together at the St. Paul, Oregon, professional rodeo in 2022.

I got to compete at professional rodeos with my mom and dad and even barrel race back to back with my mom. I got to compete at my hometown rodeo on a Friday night in front of packed stands while I heard all my friends and family cheering for me and then again at the Pendleton Round-Up, all because of Keeper.

I told you all of that to explain where my love for rodeo came from — and that is Keeper. 

I could go on and on about all of the things I achieved on Keeper, and it will never describe how amazing of a horse he is.

I began barrel racing on him at a time when I was bored with my life, and he completely changed the trajectory of it. Now, I will never stop rodeoing.

Keeper showed me what it feels like to be successful. He showed me what it is like to fail, but then what it is like to work on the problem at hand and win the next time. He showed me how to be consistent, how to be brave and how to be a winner.

Keeper put me in situations where I had to remain calm and do my job, or the championship was off the table. He showed me how to adapt to change, like running in big outdoor arenas and then going to tiny indoor arenas, and still be successful.

Keeper helped me grow up, all while being my sweetest pal. I’ll never forget one rodeo when we slipped while turning around the barrel, and he fell on top of me.

He got up and started to run off, but my foot was stuck in the stirrup. I started to be drug down the arena as my foot slipped out of the stirrup, and when I was able to roll over and look up, Keeper was looking right down at me making sure I was OK.

Keeper showed me what it is like to genuinely love a sport and have a fire that burns so bright you’ll do anything to achieve your goals. Not only that, but he showed me what it is like to love something that can never speak to you, but knows everything about you (I mean, who doesn’t talk to their animals?).

Honestly, Keeper is the reason this column even exists.

Keeper was the source of some of my biggest smiles and some of my hardest cries. How can you not be bonded after a few years of that together? Horses come and go, but horses like this are irreplaceable.

My goals have changed in my time with Keeper, and he does not fit in them as much anymore, as I want to focus more on my breakaway roping. Because of that, Keeper has a new family, with three young children that will get to love him the way I did, and still do.

I could never repay Keeper for what he did for me. The memories I have with him traveling the country, making lifelong friends that I never would have met and doing things that some can only dream of are all because of him. I am so extremely grateful that I was lucky enough to experience a bond and a love like the one we had.

Every single person that rodeos deserves a horse like Keeper. He is one in a billion and one that you will never forget. I know I am young, but I know what he did for me at a time I needed it most, and for that, I am so grateful.

It is hard to say goodbye to something that altered my life in such a significant way and was my entire life for three full years, but it is easier knowing that he will make another little girl’s dreams come true, just like he did for me.