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Duke ~ Memorial
Born May 7 1993, passed away August 12, 2005.

This week is a memorial to Roman Straw Duke (Roman Straw Deck/Commotions), who passed away in August 2005. He was owned by Paula Viscusi. Duke, or Hoover as he was sometimes called, was a chestnut Appaloosa  with a blanket and a lovely tai! This 16.1 hh gelding liked food, attention, hacks and sucking on messy beet pulp. Duke's dislikes included bugs, having his mane pulled, ears clipped, and face washed -but mostly he hated being away from food. Duke started English, then he and Paula ventured into Western and decided that they enjoyed that too. Duke was a wonderful command horse as well.

Paula has written a moving tribute to her horse:~
I wasn't in the market for a horse, I had one that I was quite content with. I innocently enough picked up a copy of the horse trader while at the feed store. Then it happened. I saw a picture of Duke as a yearling and I just had to have him. He was absolutely gorgeous to me! A beautiful chestnut with a nice white blanket, very colourful. It wasn't rational, after all I was happy with the gelding I had, it was just a strong desire that I couldn't ignore. Call it what you will, but I call it fate.

I sold the other horse and purchased Duke and never questioned it, it was just meant to be. I really didn't have any plans (i.e. showing for us), I just wanted a horse I could love and break and train for my own pleasure. Duke was an all round good boy that loved to please, the easiest horse I have ever had the pleasure of breaking. When being ridden, he had this endearing habit of turning his head around waiting for pats as if to say "well I did what you asked, now where is my reward?" Such a character!

I was manager at a thoroughbred training center and was interviewing for a rider/groom position. Duke just happened to be turned out in the front paddock when, enter stage left, comes Heather. Her first words to me are "nice appy, is he for sale?" That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. This is why I say fate was involved, for she too was into Appaloosas. In essence, it was the Appaloosa thing that initially sealed the friendship. Heather was bitten by that infectious "show bug." Before long she had us infected too. Of course she usually had to drag me kicking and screaming because I was never "ready" for the show (one of the hazards of being a perfectionist), but she kept encouraging me and when that failed she would just insist that he was too nice to be a backyard horse. So basically guilt won over and we started showing. It gave us a goal and something to work towards. Turns out I do have a competitive streak in me that I didn't even know I had. We had some success in the show ring and I actually started to enjoy myself. Duke was usually quite the pill in the warm up ring but as soon as it was show time he would put on his game face, like he knew this was it, time to behave and get down to business. Unfortunately a foot problem hampered a few show seasons but that was ok, I didn't need the ribbons or plaques to tell me I had a winning horse - I already knew that.

As all horse people know, horses are not a cheap hobby. As a working single mother, I have been wracked with guilt many times over the years because of the expense involved in this crazy horse passion of mine. It took two very dear friends of mine to point out that if I gave up my passion, I would not be the person I am. My son might benefit from a few more possessions but his mother would be miserable and unbearable. We all need an outlet and something to make working hard all week worthwhile. My time at the barn with my horse and friends was that reward.

He just had this way of making me happy when I was around him. I felt connected, like we were a team. He gave me the unconditional love that I don't think we get from other people. I know I was lucky to have this wonderful horse in my life for as long as I had him and I am very thankful for this. Through him I have been taught many lessons in strength and character and some very special friendships have been forged. I wish he wasn't taken from me so soon. I have to believe for my own peace of mind that he is now in horse heaven, where there are never-ending fields of lush green grass, sloppy beet pulp to suck on to his heart's content and no bugs to torment him.

I am not generally a spiritual person, but I do believe that things happen for a reason. I can never replace him. I am certain of this, but he lives on in my heart and his spirit will never be forgotten by anyone who truly knew him. God I miss him.

You can read an endearing story written by a friend of Paula's that is dedicated to the memory of Duke here.

Congratulations to Duke for being our December 5th, 2005 Horse of the Week!

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