Dusty has a loooong life story. He began life in a backyard in Edgeworth, a suburb of Newcastle, NSW, as a cute little buckskin colt.
He was discovered by part-time dressage rider and horseman, Alan Nicholson, who took him home to Cessnock, broke him in, and prepared him for life with his young sons.
Some 10 years later, when son Mark's 12yo legs were scuffing the dirt as he rode, the sad decision to sell Dusty had to come ... not that he went far, only as far as a friend of Alan's, Frances Brennan.
During his 10 years with the Nicholsons, there was nothing Duisty didn't do. He even won the open D-grade six-bar showjumping competition at Singleton Agricultural Show one year, where the fences were higher than his ears! There are still videos floating about of Dusty jumping oxers that are wider than his little body at full stretch, even when it was flying over the top! He truly was phenomenally talented for his size.
And so he moved on to look after Mitch and Emily ... and he did, but Mitch took the more typical 'boy' path that didn't include horses, and Emily wasn't in it for the long term. Happily, their mother Frances had begun to have lessons at Byalee, and when tiny 5yo Dimity Lourey outgrew the limited ambitions of her first (leased) pony, a palomino called Tim Tam, Dusty joined the family.
And what an asset he was! He taught little Dimity how to jump - and how not to. He taught her how to keep an outside rein - if she didn't want to return at speed to the float. He taught her not to ask for piaffe - unless you want to learn to be a levading Spanish Riding School rider. He taught her how to catch small ponies. He taught her enough to land her in the top 10 dressage ponies in the State - when she was only six years old. He was, quite simply, amazing.
And to this day, Dusty still is amazing.
He went from Byalee to McGrath Hill to be the pampered pet of Brooke, and from there to Emily, and they both cried when they outgrew him.
And so he returned to Byalee - to yet another little pupil, Neeve Charlesworth. And when SHE grew out of him, he became part of the Byalee family again until (god forbid) death do us part. Dear Dusty is now a snowy white school pony, a grand old man of 32 years. He has a few lumps that only grey horses can grow, and his knees are definitely looking a little less straight these days, but he has taught COUNTLESS children to ride and can still judge just how advanced is each of his little riders and how he should behave.
We need more Dustys in our equestrian life. He is, simply, a living legend and tribute to his breed. Oh that we could replace him with 10 more ... but sadly, he is one in a million.