Physically, Cool Dude exemplified the leopard color phase of his breed, Pony of America. He was sturdy and stout, measuring slightly less than 14 hands. His muzzle was mottled with pigmented and un-pigmented patches. He had a heavy coat of white with numerous dark spots, and his hooves showed dark stripes. Like others of his breed, sunlight bothered his eyes. As many of our DaysAtDunrovin viewers can attest, he often wore sunglasses in the form of a screen during the day to shield his sensitive eyes.
Cool Dude was always kind and dependable with people, but he could be a stinker with the other equines. His squealing could be heard throughout the ranch as he would rear and kick at the horses in the stalls on either side of him. This earned his an “end” stall with one carefully picked neighbor. He could also play the role of the stubborn pony on occasion, refusing to load in the trailer for a new employee, but jumping right in once someone who had his number showed up. A little stink eye was generally all it took to get him to do what was necessary. His stubbornness never ever spilled over into aggression or meanness.
In his later years, he spent considerable time playing the role of a painter’s canvas. His white coat and brown spots seemed to beg for “paint-by-number” themes. He was especially good with foreign students from countries where horses were never seen. The University of Montana has commonly brought to Dunrovin students (teachers from Asia) who enrolled in their summer exchange program, wanting to give them a taste of Montana with horseback riding and fishing. Most of the students have never before been around a horse and are fearful at first. Painting small and patient Cool Dude would nearly always get them to relax enough to ultimately get on a horse for a short ride.
Most of all, Cool Dude belonged to children. They loved him, and he always took extra care with them. His gentle nature with people and his somewhat lazy approach to life made him the perfect mount for kids of any age. He traveled across town on many occasions to participate in local festivities, spending an entire afternoon in the Big Dipper parking lot of downtown Missoula giving children rides around the block in celebration of Christmas.
Going through Cool Dude’s photo album has brought tears to my eyes. He was a Dunrovin Ranch stalwart, never complaining, always ready to do his part, and an essential part of what Dunrovin wants to give to the world: a little bit of joy by connecting people with a sentient and beautiful animal.
The Dunrovin Ranch staff so appreciates the flowers that our DaysAtDunrovin friends sent to us almost immediately upon Cool Dude’s death. Ranch manager, Kelli, introduced us to the tradition of putting flowers in the newly cleaned stall of a horse that has died. That process and the flowers really helped us close the door on the event leading to his death. D@D members also asked about what would become of Cool Dude’s stall sign. Their question is prompting us to create a Memorial Wall above the rail where our horses’ halters hang where we will put the signs of all the Dunrovin equine friends who have passed. Within a couple days of Cool Dude’s passing, Kelli, Sandy, and I gathered to thank the D@D members on camera and to reminisce about Cool Dude.
Shortly after Cool Dude’s memorial broadcast, Dunrovin received yet another wonderful gift from D@D members. A gift certificate from a local nursery will enable us to pick a flowering crab apple tree to plant in Cool Dude’s honor this coming spring. Dunrovin has done this before, buried the ashes of beloved horses beneath a tree. We think of them as we enjoy the beauty of the tree above them. A clipping of Cool Dude’s mane will be planted beneath his tree to forever remind us of the many smiles that he brought to faces of all ages, but most especially to children.