This is a picture of my first horse, McDuff.
Duff was a grade, quarter horse type buckskin gelding. He was said to be 12 years old. I was barely 22 when I bought him. I had never owned a horse before in my life, and while I’d handled them and ridden perhaps two dozen times in my life, I’d never really “managed” a horse.
He wasn’t badly shaped, and in winter, he was almost white. He looked pretty neat.
And yes, I was the one who banged his tail. I was stupid.
I bought him primarily due to convenience. Not only had I no trailer, I had no truck to pull it. I didn’t even have a car. I was a soldier who had little time except on weekends, and I was also in the full throes of hormonal behaviour and the freedom to exercise it. Meaning…I was single, free, and interested in the men around me as more than fellow soldiers.
I found Duff at the Ft. Bragg, NC boarding stable, a couple of miles from my barracks. He was for sale for a reasonable amount of money, I had it…and I wanted a horse. For the first time in my life, I was able to own a horse.
Duff was trained western, and that was what I’d always ridden, at that time. I bought a brand new saddle, a hackamore, a new halter and some grooming tools. I was, I thought, hooked. I be a horseman.
Well, no. While Duff proved to be reliable around children, he was by no means suitable for a beginner like me. Not because he was too hot…oh no.
Let’s put it this way. Duff had been around the block. He knew I was green as grass. He had every vice you could think of save cribbing. He pulled them all on me. He was barn sour. He would not stand tied, breaking a couple of halters by pulling with all his considerable weight on the rope until the snap or the chain broke. He was headshy, and refused to take a bit. He would blow up when you cinched him and kick when you tried to tighten it after he’d let go all that air. He was lazy, oh my gosh, he was lazy. His leads should have been pronounced “led”, as that is what his trot was like. He could run, but not willingly. Duff was sullen, bad-tempered, and, honestly, mean. He tried to nip me once, but I’d worked with Thoroughbreds at the track, so I knew how to manage a biter.
Well had he been named McDuff, although I had no idea who McDuff was, at the time. Now I think McDuff gave as good as he got, and he was justified, but still.
I sold him after owning him for about a year. Part of it was due to my deployments, but mostly it was because he bucked me off about two miles from the barn. He then raced home to the barn, leaving me to walk home with a sprained back. Oh, the folks I was with tried to get me to ride behind them, but I was in agony. I couldn’t ride. I could barely walk. And here’s this fat pig of a horse, happily swilling down his grain, after some kind soul had untacked him. They then came looking for me.
Had I had a gun, I would have shot him dead, right then and there.
He had planned it from the start. We went on a trail ride. He waited until he was in a spot that was both rocky, and had a spot where he could put his forefeet…and hence his head…far lower than his back-end. It was merely a pop for him, too lazy to even buck…but I went over his head. I do remember seeing him jump over me, seeing those glittering shoes just an inch from my face…and then hearing him race back up the trail to home. But I could do nothing, as I had no wind in my lungs, and I thought for a moment my back was broken. It wasn’t..but I was definitely hurt.
If Duff taught me anything, it was all the dirty tricks a horse can possess. It took me an awfully long time to screw up my courage to get back on him. (a month, maybe more, for me to heal up) and then I never let him out of the ring. Never. And if he so much as acted up, I gave him a solid crack with the crop.
I sold him to a man who said, “I always liked a buckskin”. He had kids.
I hope he didn’t try to do anything with him save roundyroundy in the ring.
I didn’t own another horse until almost 22 years later. Much of that was marriage (two), overseas tours (four), military life in general making owning a horse undoable, and other things. But once I retired, and had enough money, I bought another horse. He is the subject of my next post.