Rutgers horse Lord Nelson dies at 42
While few humans can leave a legacy as a patrolman, professor or intercollegiate athlete, even fewer horses can boast of earning a reputation from being all three.
Lord Nelson, who the Rutgers community remembers for being the only equestrian professor emeritus, lived an intrepid life until passing away at the commendable age of 42, which translates to about 115 horse years, at Gales Way Farm in Wrightstown, New Jersey on April 12.
While many might assume he was limited by his equestrian lifestyle, Lord Nelson had a profound impact on the University community, said Karyn Malinowski, director of the Rutgers Equine Science Center.
“Thinking (about) the quality of life he had, the things he had done, the places he’d been (and) the lives he had touched … many humans don’t get to be in the headlines,” she said. “Lord Nelson was famous.”
Rutgers purchased Nelson in the summer of 1978 from Roosevelt Sales Stables in Edison, New Jersey when he was believed to be 5 years old, originally from a Quarter Horse ranch in Oklahoma, according to the Hunterdon County Democrat.
A professor in the Department of Animal Science and Nelson’s “mother,” Malinowski said the horse was known for his attentiveness, and never lost focus on the task at hand while serving the Mounted Patrol unit of the Rutgers University Police Department.
“He always seemed to be on patrol. Even at the farm during his old days … (near) Fort Dix, he would hear artillery in the distance, and he would see smoke going up, he would be standing there along the fence just watching.”
Even though Lord Nelson was extremely obedient and dependable, the equine patrolman would make sure the person riding him knew when his shift ended late at night, Malinowski said.
“At night, I would hear ‘clop, clop, clop’ and there he would be running, down the sidewalk — not on the road,” she said. “About 10 minutes later, the poor policeman would come back on foot … cursing Lord Nelson all the way back to the barn.”
Lord Nelson has also earned the title of the first and only horse to be victimized by an official penalty in an NCAA football game during his tenure as the horse that was ridden by the Scarlet Knight at University football games, Malinowski said.
Nelson collected a yellow flag for "un-sportshorse-man like conduct" and almost costed a 1994 football game against Army after he ran onto the football field at Giants Stadium and down the sideline to the opposite end, Malinowski said.
“I was angry because Nelson wasn’t the type to do that on his own,” she said. “The rider is supposedly controlling him, he was the one at fault. Nelson happened to be the one who got the penalty, but someone asked him to run onto the field.”
The patrol horse retired in 2000 and came out nine years later to launch "Equine Science 4 Kids" for the Department of Animal Science, becoming a professor emeritus, Malinowski said.
She was inspired to bring Nelson back to the University after young students said they wanted a horse professor, especially considering his long history at Rutgers, Malinowski said.
Lord Nelson’s most notable feature is his “voracious” and “eclectic” appetite, Malinowski said. The equine legend often indulged in Dunkin Donuts, particularly enjoying the apple-filled donuts.
“When he would see the orange, white and pink box, he would come to the gate and start to holler for them,” he said. “When he saw that box of munchkins or the flat box with the donuts, he knew what they were and he loved them.”
A memorial research fund was recently developed to further horse research at the University. The Lord Nelson Older Horse Research Fund strives to advance the research that allowed him to live long and prosper until the ripe age of 42, Malinowski said.
The University’s equestrian legend is survived by his “mother” Malinowski, along with fellow horse Hugme Christi, who shared a pasture together at the farm in Wrightstown.
Malinowski and Lord Nelson shared personal experiences for about 37 years, a duration that is considered to be longer than most marriages in the new millennium, Malinowski said.
Lord Nelson accomplished more feats in 42 years than many humans do in a lifetime, Malinowski said. It would be fair to say he lived a fuller life than most humans.
“He was such a people’s horse and a loving horse — and a fearless horse,” she said. “I would have gone anywhere on that horse’s back, totally confident that (everything) would be fine.”
Dan Corey is a Rutgers Business School first-year student majoring in pre-business and journalism and media studies. He is an Associate News Editor at The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @_dancorey for more stories.