I'm never lonely when I'm gardening because I have my buddies nearby: Dude, a miniature horse, and Billy, a pigmy goat. The cottage garden is next to the large paddock and the kitchen garden shares a fence with their pasture. They stand by the fence that is closest to where I am working hoping I'll toss a tasty weed their way.
Please don't offend Dude by calling him a pony because, although pony-like in appearance, miniature horses are nevertheless small horses. Dude is 28 inches high. My mother bought him as my retirement gift when he was seven years old, more than 10 years ago. Dude is a triple registered miniature stallion with the registered name Amaretto's Top Dude. A very calm, friendly animal, you can do just about anything with him. His features aren't as refined as some miniature horses, but Dude is all about 'cute.'
|Dude was seven years old when we first saw him.
As long as H.H. can remember there were horses at Astolat Farm -- he and his sister rode palominos when they were growing up here. Dude arrived when there were no other animals, therefore we were afraid that as an only child he would be lonely, especially as there were other minis at his previous home. H.H. found a pigmy goat to keep Dude company. Unfortunately, no one told Billy that pigmy goats are supposed to stay tiny like Dude. Billy just 'growed like Topsy.' It's hard to believe, looking at him now, what a cute little kid he was.
|Billy came to Astolat a couple of months after Dude
Dude didn't take kindly to Billy at first, fearing he would take his food. When we put Billy in the stall, the horse pushed him (gently with his nose) out of the stable and into the snow. This was repeated each time we returned the goat to the stall. We put a wooden crate in there as a place where Billy could go for safety. Eventually, Dude accepted him.
|With the crate lid closed, Billy feels safe inside. He still squeezes into it today.
Billy began to follow Dude everywhere; now they are inseparable. We're sure Billy thinks Dude is his mother.
We always say we keep animals for the grandchildren but, unfortunately, because of allergies they don't spend too much time with them. We've had fun though, like the horse-themed birthday party I gave when Dude was ten years old. We invited all Dude's best friends including our grandchildren, our nephew and the children who come with their mother to deliver hay. They arrived with gifts of horse treats and carrots. The children played games like 'pin the tail on the mini horse' -- actually a picture of a donkey, but they used their imaginations. H.H. put a saddle over a hay bale and they took turns pretending to ride horse. They whacked a horse pinata hanging from the catalpa tree and scrambled for the candy that fell out. H.H. set up the old gramophone and a vinyl record of Western songs for musical chairs on the lawn. I served a birthday cake with a picture of horses and (Pocono) mountains. The writing on the cake said, "Happy 10th Birthday, Dude" and when H.H. picked it up from the bakery they asked, "Who is Dude?" When he told them Dude was his wife's miniature horse I'm sure they thought we were mad.
|Dude enjoyed his tenth birthday party.
|Grandson on one of his visits to the farm taking Dude for a walk
One summer, two young white tailed deer spent their days on our property. I sprayed and sprayed all my plants with repellent and they did very little damage. The fawns grazed the lawn with Dude.
|They smelled the repellent and didn't eat the shrub ...
|... instead they dined with Dude on grass.
|Waiting at the paddock fence for me to throw some weeds to them.
Dude and Billy like to romp and play, although now they are older (Dude will be 18 this year and Billy will be 11) they don't cavort as often. When they do chase each other around the paddock they tire more easily and then need a nap.
|I told them they looked ridiculous but they didn't care.
Each fall Dude begins to develop a thick winter coat to protect him from the cold to come. He likes to roll in the fall leaves -- especially when I have just groomed him.
|Leaves in your mane, Dude?
|Here they're eating second-cut orchard hay which is their preference when they are not in the pasture.
|Billy loves corn cobs. Actually he eats most anything.
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