An older horse is a difficult sell in the rescue world.
Dani Horton, President of Hope Equine Rescue in Lakeland, Fla., says potential adoptees typically request 8-to-12-year-old horses. “It’s unfortunate because these older horses still have so much left to give.”
Add to that a difficult temperament or a medical condition, and an older horse at H.E.R. is likely to live out the rest of its days on the property, never finding its forever home.
Luckily for Nick Dudley, that’s not the case. Nick Dudley, a 23-year-old Impressive bred Quarter horse, came to the rescue on April 17, 2013, by way of a Facebook message.
“I was contacted about a stallion in trouble,” Horton said. “He was 22 years old, emaciated and had a severe injury to his mouth.” Allegedly, Dudley’s owner had left him in a pasture full of geldings, in which he got kicked in the face, causing trauma to his gums and teeth. He did not receive subsequent veterinary care and therefore, started to lose weight.
Once he was in the care of H.E.R., Dudley was seen by a vet, gelded, and put on antibiotics for his mouth infection. Though he ended up losing three teeth, his gums healed and he started to gain weight quickly. That led to the discovery of Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP).
“Episodes can range anywhere from muscle stiffness to full blown seizures,” Horton said. She added that it requires more diligence watching what Dudley eats, in particular, his potassium intake.
Once his health was in check, Horton and Vice President Wayne Elkins, began to do more ground work with him. It became clear that while adoptees don’t necessarily go for the older horses, this old horse was going to be particular about who he picked as well.
“He’s very opinionated on who he likes and doesn’t like,” Horton said. “He just doesn’t like to be handled by a lot of people and he picks his person.”
Delbert Jones, 46, ended up being that perfect fit. Jones and his family attended Help a Horse Day at the rescue in April, and signed up to volunteer. Since June, Jones has been bringing his 15-year-old daughter Molly to the rescue for riding lessons. What started as just the two of them has turned into a family affair, with his wife and 17-year-old daughter Ellie joining them.
Jones makes sure he gives attention to all of the horses, but says he made sure to pay attention to Dudley because, “everybody said he was mean and he bites. Somebody’s gotta pet him so I started doing it. We just kinda picked each other, I guess.”
Jones adopted Dudley, after discussing it with his family, at the end of October. The plan was to move him to a two-acre property, but the City of Haines City would not approve a horse on the property.
So, Dudley will board at H.E.R. until Jones can find a location for him. “I’d like to find a place where I can keep at least two, and get one for Molly,” he said.
Jones is using his time with Dudley to expose others to older rescues, by showing him in open shows and obstacle challenges. In his first two shows and an obstacle challenge, Dudley placed second in gelding halter, fourth in grooming and conditioning and first in the obstacle challenge halter class.
After the obstacle challenge, Jones said someone, “asked me if he was for sale. It’s funny because he sat here for months and nobody would look at him because of his age. I clean him up and take him out and now they say ‘oh, that’s a nice horse.’”
Horton says she couldn’t be happier the way things have turned out for Jones and Dudley. “Nick and Del are a perfect match. It doesn’t look that way on paper but to see them interact, it is obvious. Sometimes we have to look past the paper and do what is best for the horse and the adopter. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them.”
To find out more about the horses available for adoption at Hope Equine Rescue, visit the organization online.