Breathing fire into her life comes a racehorse

Davy Jones is so compelling to look at that he draws a crowd whatever he does

Davy Jones is so compelling to look at that he draws a crowd whatever he does

Blowing hard like a mythical black beast, he was at once horrifying and captivating.

While forcing one woman to back out of a chance to ride, he drew Mellisa Davis Warden to him like the proverbial moth to a flame.

“I went with my friend to check out this horse named Davy Jones, and when we got to the barn, he was being tacked up and seemed to be breathing fire,” Warden says. “He looked like he was explosive, like he was ready to go.

“My friend looked at me and said, ‘I’m not getting on that horse! He’s horrifying!’ And I said, ‘I’ll get on him!’ I got on in a pair of running shoes and jeans, and jogged him along the shedrow—he was amazing.”

The 15-year-old war horse gave her quite a ride. He’d already powered through 100 starts on the track, earning $300,000 before they met, and for the duration of the ride, he surged forward like they were going to battle.

Davy Jones
Sire: Sea Salute
Dam: Lady by Design
Foal date: May 16, 1998
Earnings: $300,945 and 100 starts
“Oh my God, this was such an advanced horse,” she says. “I went home and told my husband we were going to bring him home and see how it goes.”

How it went was touch-and-go.

Just before he was to be shipped to her home in Aiken, S.C., Davy had a dramatic reaction to a routine intramuscular injection of the drug Banamine, which triggered an ugly systemic infection requiring drains be placed in his neck to help flush out the infection, she says.

For five days at the end of April, Davy battled fever and infection that took months to completely clear.

When it was safe for the sick animal to be turned over to his new owner, Warden knew on one level it was probably crazy to take on a sick, older horse. But the connection she felt, and the power of the horse, was nearly unmatched. The only other who had inspired her as much as this wayward black animal, her so-called “horse of a lifetime,” was a cherished Thoroughbred who had recently died, and in Davy she saw a second chance at getting that partnership back.

Davy gives Melissa's daughter a lift after completing a taxing cross-country course

Davy gives Melissa’s daughter a lift after completing a taxing cross-country course

“Davy gave me the same feeling my favorite horse did. He was such an amazing animal that I had a hard time staying on him. Riding him, I felt a little out of control, but never in a scary way, because I also trusted him,” she says.

So day and night, she took care of him. She flushed his open wounds, pulling dead tissue from infected holes in his neck, until by June, his three largest wounds had mostly healed.

When he was well again, and a saddle placed once more on his back, Davy proved to be everything she’d hoped for. A fantastic mover who would do his grandfather Seattle Slew proud, he bravely faced down obstacles at his first novice event.

“My friend Sarah Hansel rode him for me at his first event, and what was amazing to me was how this very plain, big, black horse drew a crowd,” she says. “There’s just something about him that attracts people. He can be warming up, and all of a sudden there’s six or seven people standing around just watching him.

“Or he’ll be standing at the horse trailer and people are just drawn to him. Without being able to tell you anything verbally, he’s so expressive, that he just pulls people towards him.”

Some people said that Davy used to be so powerful on the track that it took two people and a chain over his nose to lead him around, she says.

But now he holds that power in check as he folds into life on Warden’s farm. “He’s so powerful he could destroy me,” she says. “But instead he has breathed fire into my life.”

10 responses to “Breathing fire into her life comes a racehorse”

  1. Lynn Turner

    I was drawn to him too by his picture and thought he looks like my favorite horse ever SEATTLE SLEW. I read the article and sure enough a grandson of Slews!!! Met Slew before he passed at Three Chimney’s farm and I tell you….you felt in the presence of royalty which he was. Your Davey has that same quality. Congrats and what a great story. Slew lives on.

  2. Susan Crane-Sundell

    Wow..there’s nothing plain about him…he has energy and conformation to spare! A lucky find What a terrible shame about the Banamine. I wish people wouldn’t use it so freely. Many horses do have allergic reactions to it. What a terrible setback for such a proud horse. Luckily he had found you Melissa and neither he nor you understand the meaning of the word quit!

  3. Lauren

    Go Mellisa!! Davy looks great, give Ains a hug for me… Cant wait to cheer you two on at Rolex!!

  4. Wendy Treadaway

    Clearly they developed a bond that brought them together and made them a team. Great story. And what a beautiful boy he is!

  5. Karen in Dakota

    Wonderful to hear about Davy Jones making a new life! He is beyond remarkable.

  6. Martha

    Another wonderful story! Once again shows when the heart is worthy, these wonderful horses will give you their all!

  7. Marti

    A great pairing–such a powerfully beautiful horse. Thank goodness an older, truly a war horse, has a chance to find another kind of life. Thank you, Melissa, for giving him a new lease on life–good luck to both of you, always.

  8. LL

    First picture and I thought, he’s got to be a Slew offspring. Gorgeous.

    1. Jon

      I have a Slew granddaughter. A good looking horse that goes to work with a purpose. Her daughter has the same attributes.

  9. jon

    Striking good looks! The fire burns hotter in some than others. Looks like a fun ride. Davy knew who his person was to be.

Leave a Reply