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So long to one of the truly good ones

Ditto Duster
One of the good ones.

by Gwenda Rose

His name was Ditto Duster. He was born on Valentines Day 1977. We did not get him until he was six years old. From the day we bought him, I knew he was different. We were looking around at the other horse for sale that day. He was standing next to another horse we had been interested in. When we walked by him, he turned and looked at us. He had that look that made you notice him. We stopped and looked at him, and he just drew us in. He had a scar on his lip that made him look like he had a dip of tobacco. So my husband decided to see how he rode. And I still believe the reason we bought him was that you could open gates on him. He knew exactly what to do.

We were hooked, and he was ours. When we brought him home, my husband worked cattle on him and went to local ropings with him. In the meantime, our daughter, Shae, outgrew her mare, Granny. So when she was ten, Shae decided that she would start riding Ditto. That first ride was a little scary for the both of them. I will never forget that. Shae thought she would have no trouble getting along with him. After all, she knew how to ride her mare. So she got on and kicked, and, low and behold, he took off a little faster than she expected. Off she came and said she'd never ride him again. He had a strange look on his face! I don’t think he knew what to think about this little girl riding him either. Granny was sold. Shae didn’t have a horse to ride, and there was Ditto. It was ride him or not ride at all. So the relationship began. Slow at first, but before long they had worked out their differences. She was really small, and not very tall at that time, and she had to saddle her own horse if she wanted to ride. She had a very ingenious way of saddling Ditto. She would put her saddle up on an old table and then get on the table, and put the saddle on him. He would stand still for her. He was growing to tolerate this little girl. Her confidence in him was growing too.

They began their 4-H years together and a relationship comprising of a lot of trust and communication. She could ride him without a bridle. He would listen to her cues and do what she asked. The other kids loved him, and the little ones could climb on him and ride. He would just walk with them. He had this thing he did with tongue - hanging it out of the side of his mouth - and he looked funny. He was known far and wide for that. She showed him in open shows and AQHA. He did every event except pleasure driving, probably because they didn’t have that when he was showing. But they would have tried it. He won several buckles and a saddle. He went to the State 4-H Horse Show several times.

As he has aged, he couldn’t be ridden anymore because of his knees. When he took his first lame step at age 18, Shae retired him. He had been retired for a while, but he did still have a job. He checked heat on the broodmares, and he also babysat the weanlings. He seemed to have a calming effect on the babies. He had free roam of our place and free choice on feed. He is the only horse I have ever seen that wouldn’t overeat. With his age and no teeth to speak of, he couldn’t really eat grass or hay. So we left feed out for him all the time. He ate Equine Senior and Safe and Sound. He would chew up alfalfa and spit it out after he got the juice out of it. It looked like wads of tobacco laying around.

He was part of our family. He was with us since 1983. There have been a lot of horses come and go here, but he always stayed. He was a constant in our lives. Up to the end, he still had a lot of personality and would try to kick up once in a while. At the time he was retired, our daughter got another horse. And when she would hook the trailer up to go somewhere, he would get in like he was ready to go too. When she left him home, he would just watch them leave as if to say, "Hey, wait for me!" He had been a lot of miles in his life. 

He used to be the mesquite bean king. If you wanted to perk him up in Showmanship class, all you had to was carry a small piece of mesquite bean in your hand. Show him and his ears were on high alert. He was a cookie hound. He would go anywhere for a cookie. He loved bathes and his other horse friends. He went around everyday and visited with them - even our stallion HR Tiny Tim. Timmy loves him. 

He got to where he didn’t see as well or walk as well, but he was still happy. We tried to make him as happy for as long as he was around. We figured he took care of Shae and Herman for a long time, and we could return the favor. He may have been old and worn out by a lot standards, but he was ours. And we were blessed to have had him for so long. People came here and couldn't believe he was 34. 

About two months ago he got down and couldn’t get back up because of the position he was in. We had to get the tractor to get him up. We put straps around his middle and lifted him very slowly, and when he could get his feet under him, he stood right up. But he didn’t lay down again after that. We knew that was a sign. We started to watch him very closely after that. His heart was very strong but his legs were not. He begin to slow down, and we knew it was almost time. About three days before, he seemed to sort of be looking for something. He went places he had never been. He went to all of the pastures where the other horses are. And seemed to be saying goodbye to them. He came to barn and stayed close to us. He wanted us to help him. The light in his eyes was gone. We knew it was time. Now he is buried under his his favorite Mesquite tree. 

When you have a horse in your life for 28 years, it is hard to let go. But you know in your heart that it was his time. He is in Green Pastures and has better legs now. There were lots of memories, smiles, and tears. But all worth it in the end. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. Herman says that Ditto taught him a lot of things. They had good times together thru the years. And the all the times that Shae and Ditto spent together are priceless. And I will never forget. He was a once in a lifetime horse. 

"He was tall and she was short. She leaned on him. She grew tall and knew when he leaned on her, the end was near..."