NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–“Lord Nelson,” a 42-year old horse that had served Rutgers University for 37 years, has died.
Lord Nelson was reportedly born at a quarter-horse ranch in Oklahoma, and by about five years later, he was living at Roosevelt Sales Stables in Edison, when Rutgers acquired him in 1978.
That year, Lord Nelson’s education consisted of training with the New York Mounted Patrol for a season. He was driven into NYC each day during this training session.
Lord Nelson had multiple jobs at the University. When Rutgers brought the horse on board in 1978, he was one of the first horses on the mounted patrol for the Rutgers police department, a position he held for ten years before moving to a student-operated patrol unit in 1988.
But his most famous role was the carrying of one of Rutgers’ mascots around the football field, complete with helmet and medieval sword.
It was this job that got him in trouble at a football game against Navy, earning perhaps football’s only equine penalty. Lord Nelson was at Giants Stadium for this game, rather than the usual college venues.
With 8 minutes and 59 seconds left in the game, Rutgers scored the winning touchdown, and the crowd went wild.
That eruption fired up Lord Nelson, who broke away from his handlers and galloped down the sideline, with a Rutgers mascot still on his back. He made the other end of the field before calming down.
Lord Nelson’s wild ride garnered a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, and earned the Rutgers team a 15-yard penalty. Eddie Duborg, the team’s kicker, saw his kicking distance stretch to 35 yards, and he missed.
Fortunately for Rutgers, the resulting Army drive came up empty, as the opponents were forced to try a field goal, which they missed. Rutgers won 16-14.
Shortly after Lord Nelson’s death, a controversy erupted over whether Lord Nelson was, in fact, the horse that had gotten penalized, with former Rutgers marketing and communications associate athletics director Kevin MacConnell saying that he was “99% sure” that another horse had gotten the penalty.
MacConnell said that Rutgers had a barter deal with “Medieval Times,” a jousting-themed restaurant chain, in which the eatery chain provided horses for Rutgers home games and the university advertised the restaurants.
Associated Press reporters, at the time of the game, had written that both the penalized horse and the “knight” riding it – one Daniel Graham – were employed by Medieval Times.
However, two Rutgers sources, regular horse rider Jorge Hernandez and Rutgers Equine Science Center Director Karyn Malinowski, pointed out that MacConnell and the AP were in error – it was indeed Lord Nelson’s penalty.
MacConnell corrected himself, saying, “Jorge [Hernandez] reminded me that we used [Medieval Times’] rider, but we had to supply the horse.”
Malinowski said on Friday, April 17, “It was absolutely Lord Nelson, because I remember seeing the news in the Star-Ledger the next day, that I was very mad at Coach [Doug] Graber’s statements because it wasn’t Lord Nelson’s fault. The rider, somebody asked him to go out onto the field. He didn’t just bolt out onto the field.”
Lord Nelson’s spontaneous “personality” was also noticed at other times. One night, Lord Nelson apparently wanted to end his police patrol shift early, so he took off, galloping past Bartlett Hall towards his College Farm Road stable.
He was chased by a policeman and the horse was noisy enough that at least one Rutgers professor noticed. Lord Nelson allegedly remembered to walk on the sidewalk rather than the street.
The professor was Karyn Malinowski, the director of the University’s Equine Science Center, who was burning the midnight oil in Bartlett Hall, and she vividly remembers hearing the hasty gallop and seeing the police officer running by. Malinowski calls Lord Nelson’s personality “one of a kind.”
Lord Nelson, apparently, wasn’t the only horse to get a football penalty – the two horses pulling the Oklahoma Sooner Schooner also got penalized for heading out onto a field after an apparent score.
The Oklahoma penalty happened in the 1985 Orange Bowl.
Lord Nelson’s infamous football penalty took place in 1994. The horse retired in 2000, moving to the Gales Way Farm, where he was under the care of Rutgers alumna Wendy Gale-Hale.
In 2009, Lord Nelson became a mascot in his own right: he symbolized the Equine Science Center “Scoop on Poop” program educating animal farmers about the new Animal Waste Management Rule.
The next year, Lord Nelson was given the position of “Equine Professor Emeritus,” helping to educate children about horses. He was still a mascot, but this time he stood for the “Equine Science 4 Kids” website and campaign.
In 2012, Lord Nelson showed up at the Horse Park of New Jersey, the occasion being the state 4-H Horse Show’s 50th anniversary. He was honored as a guest and a “culinary expert.”
Lord Nelson loved sweets, which the 4-H show appreciated, as it was holding a bake sale and ice-cream social.
In honor of his life, his work, and his personality, Lord Nelson won the “Horse Personality of the Year Award” from the NJ Equine Advisory Board. He was noted on the Equine Science Center blog for being curious and mischevious, as well as a lover of the outdoors.
Director Karyn Malinowski commented on the Rutgers Equine Science Center’s Facebook page, “Even at 42 years old, [Lord Nelson] still behaved like an unruly teenager who had an insatiable appetite (especially for sweets).”
“There will NEVER be another horse like him for me. He was truly the most amazing equine character I have ever known. Nelson was loyal, fearless, brave and courageous – a horse that would never let you down, even though he would test you on occasion just to make sure you were still paying attention to him!”
Lord Nelson is apparently survived by at least three horses: female “pasture-mate” Hugme Christi, Jolee, and JamaicaMeWild.
Lord Nelson’s ripe old age is also worthy of notice: 42 years to a horse is like 126 years to a human.
The typical horse lives 25-3o years, but the extreme lifespans can be much longer, with the oldest verifiable horse living to the age of 62.
It is unclear why a few horses live much longer than most equines, but the Lord Nelson Older Horse Research Fund, set up in Lord Nelson’s memory, hopes to answer that question.
The Equine Science Center has already conducted research into horse longetivity, and the Lord Nelson Fund would contribute to the growth of that research.
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