YORK, Neb. If horses could talk, this one would have a lot to say.
Most horses live for about 20 years, but Peppy Belle, who has outlived most at 33 years, is still in the show ring. She has had two owners, won countless ribbons and taught two generations of children how to ride.
At the York County Fair, Belle's original owner traveled to see his old friend go around the ring one more time.
Bob Brooke of Geneva, Neb., said Belle was a wonderful show horse and was ridden by both his daughters Laurie and Sue. In 1976, Belle and Laurie won the Nebraska State 4-H Show. Brooke said Belle won in a large number of classes.
"She was gentle and a great horse on which kids could really learn to ride," he remembered.
With his girls going off to college in 1987, Brooke sold Belle to Keith Peters of Henderson, Neb. Peters' children Kolby, Jeremy and Kerie rode Belle, then 16, in the 4-H rings.
The horse was later moved to Bennett, Colo., to live with Peters' sister.
Today, Belle is still part of the show. This time it's Alexis Fenske, Keith's stepdaughter, who is riding high.
"She truly loves Belle," Alexis' mother, Ann, said, while watching the two of them perform in Western Pleasure.
"It's unbelievable that this horse is 33 years old. She just started feeling her age this summer so it's only a matter of time. But she's given so much to so many kids through the years. There's about 20 trophies at home that she's earned, and she's brought so many good memories for so many."
Brooke was especially emotional about his reunion with old Belle, which was prompted by a letter from Alexis, who informed him that she was now riding his horse.
"My stepaunt Joyce told me about him (Brooke) and I decided I should get in touch with him," Alexis said.
She wrote Brooke about the ointment she applied to Belle's joints, how she took care of her and how she was doing. She also told him that if he wanted to see her, he should come to the York County Fair for a reunion. Brooke said it was an invitation he couldn't refuse.
"I can't believe she's still going strong after these years," he said as Belle and Alexis passed by on the inside of the rail. "She looks really good. This all just really brings tears to my eyes."
Melanie Wilkinson is a reporter for the York News-Times.
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