Hickorys King Duce cuts with Bill Freeman in the semi-finals of the 1986 NCHA Summer Cutting Spectacular.

Hickorys King Duce Lived Two Lifetimes Of Memories

When Missy Tuttle purchased Hickorys King Duce, she wasn’t bargaining for 25 years of memories with the bay gelding. When “Snake” passed away on July 2 he was 37 years old and had multiple lifetimes of love, attention and admiration to his name. 

Snake was laid to rest on Tuttle’s Fort Collins, Colorado, property after being humanely euthanized. He had sustained a fracture in his pelvis due to lowered bone density associated with old age. 

Snake was bred by Weldon McConnell of Dublin, Texas. Born in 1982, Snake was bred to cut cows. He was the son of Equi-Stat Elite $21 million sire Doc’s Hickory and out of Miss Royal Duce (by Royal Royale). 

Trained and ridden by Equi-Stat Elite $5 million rider Bill Freeman, Snake earned more than $130,000 in the cutting pen. The tall, narrow horse found most of his success in 1986, when Freeman made the finals at the Gold & Silver Cutting, the National Cutting Horse Association [NCHA] Super Stakes Derby Open and the NCHA Summer Cutting Spectacular Derby Open. 

Snake was sold and ridden in the non-pro division with varied success before coming to reside with David Jenkins in the Texas town of Corsicana, 55 miles south of Dallas, in 1995. Jenkins finished out Snake’s Equi-Stat earnings of $139,328.

Across the country, Tuttle was looking for a step-up horse to ride in weekend cuttings. 

“I just got [hooked on cutting] and I wasn’t able to afford a trainer or anything like that really, plus I’m pretty pig-headed and I wanted to do as much as I could myself,” Tuttle said. 

Tuttle caught wind of a capable cutter for sale — Snake — but had limited information and he was sold. Through a series of events that can only be credited to fate, Snake became available again and Tuttle was able to purchase her dream horse. Snake changed hands for the last time in his life. 

Over 25 years of life spent together, Tuttle and Snake competed in local weekend cuttings, and he delighted her with his intelligence and athleticism. 

“Snake was a knot wizard. He was able to untie anything and I had to create my own ‘Snakey’ [knot],” Tuttle recalled. “Of course, he would never go anywhere [once untied].”

Although Tuttle’s pharmaceutical career along with some health issues kept her out of the saddle in Snake’s later years, she soaked up every minute she could with the wise horse. 

“Now he’s in heaven and now I have to ride him up there and we’ll get to cut like I wanted to cut [on earth] with him,” Tuttle concluded. “It was an honor to own him. Just an honor to saddle him.” 

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