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The ‘Duke’

Written by Jennifer Womack
A cute little buckskin gelding recently made his way into the horse pasture. “Duke” is Bryce’s latest project, and one he’ll hopefully get to spend time on for the next several years. The three-year-old has some rides on him, but Bryce will get to do most of the work.
    That effort began just a few evenings back. “Let him soak a little under the saddle while you do your other chores,” I suggested. One’s desire to do this must be gained, not engrained; 15 minutes later we were corral bound with the normal sibling heckling underway.
    “Think he’ll buck?” asked Joshua. Speaking from experience, I know it’s a little unnerving when your sibling starts asking these questions. It’s not the question itself, but the tone that conveys, “It’s been a little quiet around here and I’m wondering if you could put on a bit of a rodeo? I could use a good story to tell on the school bus in the morning and you make a great star character in these tales.”
    We’re short on bronc riders, so I explained to Joshua that we do try to avoid the rodeo scenario from the get-go. Eight-year-old boys find this news particularly disappointing.
    Bryce and Duke’s first ride went off without a hitch. A few days later they saddled up again and Joshua, sitting atop Cotton, joined them to head to the pasture to gather heifers. I watched from a distance as Joshua left the barn at a high lope. He still looked hopeful that the new colt wasn’t so easy to ride. He circled back around to join Bryce and Duke, departing at a trot.
    “Bring heifer 21 in,” I told them as they passed by.
    By dinnertime, Duke earned status as the smartest, fastest, prettiest, most athletic horse in history. Rumor is he even knows his name. And, having just watched War Horse, the boys are bound and determined to teach him to come to a whistle. I think he’s coming to a grain can, but they’re probably headed the right direction.
    Regardless of whether or not Duke becomes the next superhorse, he’ll deliver countless lessons to two young boys. Joshua doesn’t yet realize it, but in just a few years they’ll again be leaving the barn on a first ride. Only this time he’ll be on the colt and Bryce will be setting astride a more seasoned Duke. And I’m sure the question will be returned….
    “Think he’ll buck?” And I’ll be watching closely, because I can see our youngest son responding….
    “I don’t know, let’s see if he can!”
    Jennifer Vineyard Womack is executive director of the Wyoming FFA Foundation and a freelance writer. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 307-351-0730.