Vergeland's Duke  

Kentucky Mountain Horse
15 years old
Born in Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, on April 23, 1997
Died in Snohomish, Washington, on September 25, 2012

My beautiful chocolate dream horse. Duke and I shared 8 wonderful adventurous years. He came all the way across the U.S. to eventually become my horse. Having made a disastrous previous horse purchase I was a bit gun-shy. I visited and rode him 4 times before deciding to buy him. My husband, who is not a horse-person, found something engaging about him, as did I. He would greet you by sticking out a front leg, and waving it up and down. He did this in a parade, and spectators commented, "Look, she taught her horse to wave!". But it was Duke who taught me, so many things about myself, about courage and the rewards of giving it my all. Duke had a lot of heart, try and spirit.

Duke was a member of the StrideRight Mountain Horse Drill Team, the only gaited drill team in the Pacific Northwest. I wondered at first, because he was slower than the other horses on the team, if we'd be able to keep up. At his first performance in Eugene, Oregon, the music started and we entered the arena, his head came up and his attitude seemed to say, "Look at me! I'm awesome!" and I could hardly hold him back. We rode in Parades and performed at gaited shows and horse expos. The team took 1st place nearly every time, including in Seattle's SeaFair Torchlight parade in '04, with over 200,000 people lining the streets.

Duke was always "in the ribbons", and although we never took a blue, he was always my blue ribbon boy. Often described as "handsome" with his blazed face, two hind socks, and thick beautiful tail. He was a barn favorite. Everyone who met him was touched by him in some way.

On a ride up Taylor Mountain that was supposed to be a 2 hour adventure turned into 6 hours of getting through and around many blown down trees, he took care of me.  Duke kept his cool picking his way through a section of trail covered with Alders like pick-up sticks.

Duke was such a beautiful mover his trainer encouraged me to try dressage with him. At the end of our first (and only) dressage test he stuck out a hoof with his signature wave and "saluted" the judge!

His life was cut short by laminitis, complicated by Cushing's Disease, and he is missed by many. I am just a novice, recreational rider who was fortunate enough to have such an engaging, interesting equine companion, who took me places and gave me experiences I never dreamed possible. He was a source of joy and a place of serenity for me. I am grateful to all who participated in Duke's life and care and for this site, I know he'll never be forgotten. As dubbed by a barn friend, he will always be "The One and Only Beautiful Duke".

 Following is a poem I wrote for him.

A Piece of Wind and Sky

A Piece of Wind and Sky
You came to Earth in equine form

Flame of mane and flashing hoof
Graceful silhouette
You danced across the ground

Brave and true you carried me
Teacher to my soul
Depth of strength and kindness
And now courage to let go

Through my tears I see you
With Heaven's herd among the clouds
Thundering through sunlit canyons
Running free and proud

We'll meet again to ride one day
A piece of wind and sky


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