Brave to the end, Davy Jones dies fighting

Ex-racehorse Davy Jones, who became the family pet and Eventing prospect for Mellisa Davis Warden, died suddenly this week from colitis. He is shown carting her daughter around after a cross-country ride.

Ex-racehorse Davy Jones, who became the family pet and Eventing prospect for Mellisa Davis Warden, died suddenly this week from colitis. He is shown carting her daughter around after a cross-country ride.

In the end he died like the warrior he had been in life.

Wracked with severe colitis that rapidly spread deadly infection throughout a figure of a horse so fine that even in the hours before death he stood defiant and beautiful, refusing to buckle, willing his body to stand.

“Any warrior would have been proud of him,” says his grieving owner Mellisa Davis Warden. “He fought and he just kept on fighting. I heard him snorting and pawing, and later, his doctor came to me and said, ‘Horses don’t come here this sick. This horse is very, very sick, and I want you to know he’s amazing for even standing at this point.’ ”

With a tangle of tubes hanging from him as he stood in a stall at the University of Georgia’s veterinary hospital, Warden hugged him through all that emergency apparatus and said goodbye to an animal who had for a short time, “breathed fire into her life.”

Warden purchased Davy Jones last spring from an owner in Aiken, S.C. and for 10 months the horse who could bite, and was known to chase wise old horsemen from his stall, became the family pet. He carted Warden’s daughter at horse shows, and was learning to stretch and to connect at dressage and held the promise of a really talented Eventer.

Davy Jones
Sire: Sea Salute
Dam: Lady by Design
Foal date: May 16, 1998
Earnings: $300,945 and 100 starts

But on Sunday at 5 p.m., after a “fantastic” dressage lesson, the best he had done, she put him back into his stall, blanketed and ready for dinner. The finicky eater took a few nibbles, turned away, and instead of taking a few more bites, he lifted his left, hind leg and looked at his stomach.

Seeing this, Warden froze.

Her previous horse had died of complications from colic and she knew to administer Banamine and walk him around. When he did not improve she quickly enlisted the help of her local veterinarian, and for 48 hours, the pair struggled to save the stoic animal.

“The whole time, he showed no appearance of being sick. He had a brightness to his eye, and he looked so beautiful,” she says.

A regimen of drugs was administered as Davy’s condition, which began as colic, worsened as his colon became displaced over the top of his spleen. An ultrasound revealed that his kidneys had also been displaced and the local veterinarian began consulting with the surgical team at the University of Georgia.

Davy and Mellisa jumping cross country not that long ago

Davy and Mellisa jumping cross country not that long ago

“By Monday at 6 p.m. we debated whether we should take him on a three-hour van ride to the hospital, or administer drugs to shrink his spleen and hopefully let his colon move back into place,” she says, noting that she and her vet agreed to administer [phenylephrine].

Once administered, in order for the treatment to be safe and effective, the horse was required to move around for a half hour. But Davy felt too sick to move, and he refused to budge on the lunge line.

Going quickly to Plan B, Warden laced up her running shoes and ran up and down small hills with him. “I’m recovering from a knee injury, so I held onto his mane, and he literally pulled me along,” she says. “I told him, ‘We’re running for your life right now.’ ”

When the running was done, another rectal exam revealed the entrapment had been resolved, but before the pair could celebrate, the poor horse started in with explosive diarrhea.

What followed was a series of blood work, tests and regimen of fluids, and when Davy failed to improve, they loaded him on a trailer bound for the University of Georgia.

“As I was walking him toward the trailer I stopped and turned and asked my vet if we had any chance,” she says. “I don’t have a lot of money, but I was ready to do anything for him.”

Showing  no pain in his eyes, this is the last portrait Mellisa got of her horse, just hours before he died.

Showing no pain in his eyes, this is the last portrait Mellisa got of her horse, just hours before he died.

After a three-hour drive on twisting Georgia back roads, a team of seven hospital personnel met them at the end of their journey. And after a battery of blood work and other tests were performed, Warden asked the doctor to give it to her straight.

“He said to me, ‘You’re looking at a standing corpse in front of you,’ ” she says. “But he also said something that gives me peace. He said that if I had a billion dollars and I told him to do everything I could, he couldn’t have kept him alive ‘til morning.”

Though there hasn’t been much time to think, much less accept that the stall that once housed her dream horse is empty, she is comforted by the knowledge that she did everything that could be done.

“It’s really sad and it’s heartbreaking,” she says. “I made the decision when Davy first came home that he would be my last horse. I don’t want to do it again.”


27 responses to “Brave to the end, Davy Jones dies fighting”

  1. Jay

    This sound exactly like what just happened to me on Sept 22, 2014,
    I can not get the thought out of my head of my horse dancing in the end trying to get out what wouldn’t come – I mean he passed a lot of poop, gas and peed and drank water the whole time!. And he looked strong and beautiful til the end – he even walked himself! and then when all else failed he danced and stepped! before he finally went down for good. It looked to me like it was not that bad until the end – his eyes were alert, his coat shinny – he looked beautiful! The Vet and the trainer said surgery would not have helped – it was due to a sudden weather change, my other two horses are fine. I only had him for a year. I don’t have the heart to tell the previous owner he is gone. I couldn’t believe how hard he fought to live, that is what makes it so hard to accept. He was a beautiful bomb proof quarter horse 14yrs old.

  2. Nuala Galbari

    Bless you, Mellisa, you did all you possibly have done for lovely Davy and he knows you loved him well. It’s heartbreaking to lose any companion animal and we send thoughts of love and peace to you.
    Nuala Galbari
    David L. Justis, M.D.

  3. jon

    I understand Mellisa’s pain. Having to put down two of our horses due to complications of old age, I understand the heartbreak and the resistance to the thought of feeling hurt again by taking a new horse and losing horse again. My wife and I agreed after loosing these two that we would not replace any of the horses in our herd as they passed.
    Then we got a message from a friend. A nice OTTB gelding needed a home and she thought of us. She thought we would be a good match. After much wrangling, we agreed to meet him. On a stormy and cold Friday night in October, he walked off of a trailer at our friends barn. This quiet bay gelding more interested in having his dinner, patiently stood in the barn aisle while we went over him and handled him. After spending time with him, we decided that he would become my next horse. The emotional barriers came down and with excitment be left to prepare a stall for arrival of the new horse.
    Will the memories of the great experiences fade with our old horses? No. I still shed a tear when I think of them and that I will never hear them knicker again or go exploring in the country with them. I am greatful for the time spent with them, the lessons learned and for having them in my life. The new horse has brought new energy into the barn,the promise of new adventures and best of all, a new equine friend.

  4. Daryl

    RIP, one beautiful animal, sorry for your loss , May all the rest of your days be in a green pasture full of grass and a stream of running clear water. I am sure he will be missed.

  5. Maureta Ott

    Please accept my deepest condolences on the loss of Davy. I think there is no greater heartache than the loss of a beloved horse. The fact that Davy put up such a fight and did not show his pain is a tribute to the warrior soul of a Thoroughbred. I know this because my own beloved Grape Juice, lost his last race for life. He was softly let go by the kind administrations of my vet. I would have given anything to have not have lost him and I miss him to this day. I will never replace him, but, I did find a compliment to him through the adoption of another wonderful Thoroughbred from New Vocations. As difficult as it is to believe, there was room for just one more horse in my heart.

  6. Susan Bindas

    My deepest sympathies on the loss of Davy. It is a heartbreak like no other, they leave a big hole in our hearts. Never say never.

  7. Gloria Stagmer

    Melissa, deepest sympathy. We lost our horse a few years ago to a ruptured stomach. He too was stoic and stood till the end at the Vet School. He was an incredible horse. I can relate to your sadness. We have just welcomed a new horse into our family. Davy was a grand looking horse. He taught you many life lessons. You and your family gave him a good home and much love. His spirit will revisit you with wonderful memories.

  8. richelle happ

    So sorry for your loss, grieve for as long as you need. but dont throw in the towel horses need us , they need loving and knowlegeable people in there lives and it sounds like you have the gift. he really connected with you when i dought as tough as he was he wouldnt give his love back to another person . a friend of mine was asked why he works with the horses. he replied he does it for the horses ,they need people like us that know how to care for them and connect with them. I know death is very sad but i really think they are just beginnning there new life up above and that there finally free and happy. just remember all the good times he gave you. and maybe someday you can give another horse some good times as well. hang in there.

  9. Jessica Gladney

    I am so sorry for your loss. This is a little quote I send to all my friends after they lose a companion, and though your pain is beyond comprehension, I hope it helps you smile through your tears. “If you bury him in this spot, the secret of which you must already have, he will come to you when you call- come to you over the farm dim pastures of death. And down the remembered paths to your side again. And though you ride other living horses through life, they shall not shy at him or resent him coming, for he is yours and he belongs there. People may scoff at you, who see no lightest blade of grass bent by his footfall, who hear no nicker pitched too fine for insensitive ears. People who may never really love a horse, smile at them, for you shall know something that is hidden from them, and which is well worth knowing. The one place to bury a horse is in the heart of his mistress.” -Author Unknown

  10. Kathryn Syssoloff

    Oh my gosh, this squeezed my heart like no tomorrow… just what a horse will do to be with us for a bit longer because they love us so darn much. What an incredible owner you were to him. I’m so sorry the love affair is over for the two of you. Sending you a gentle hug at this time of unbearable sorry. God bless you and your beloved Davie Jones. xo

  11. Dena Starostanko

    My heart is breaking for you! Davey was lucky to have your love! Rest in peace you precious warrior!

  12. Shannon

    My deepest condolences. What a beauty he was and what a wonderful life you gave him. I hope you are able to find a way to help more of these needy animals, in what ever way you can. They need it. Bless you and your family.

  13. Lisa Hall Babcock

    I’m so sorry!!!!! Our horse Buddy is going through acute colitis at Tufts…..prayers for you & may Davy Jones RIP….

  14. Miranda

    Very, very sorry for your loss. Almost a year ago I lost my Blue Blue Sea way too soon, too. Your Davy and my Blue shared a very similar sire line. I hope they are together now enjoying running pain free. Hugs to you.

  15. carol calhoun

    I know how you feel-I watched my 3 day old filly die from the vet giving the wrong anesthetic and I said that is the end-no more horses for me-I do dogs now and am having a wonderful time- standard poodles showing in UKC

  16. julia

    so sorry for your loss. horses, and all animals get inside your heart forever.

  17. Kim Harris

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I lost my 16 yo Morgan gelding Fig just this past Sunday night due to colic. Up to that point he was never sick, and I had thought he would probably outlive me. He was brave like your Davy, and when he finally went down the vet and I knew we had come to the end, we had tried everything.My heart breaks for you and I’m sending you love and hugs.

  18. Sue Smith

    Heart breaking, but you gave him a great life and that’s all anyone can ask for. So sorry for your loss.

  19. sue

    So sorry for your loss. I hope your daughter will be ok.

  20. cheri vaughan

    Very sad, although we know none of us are immortal… some are gone way too soon. It doesn’t seem fair.

  21. Alysha Kadar

    My heart breaks for you, Davy was a fine horse. Take comfort in the memories you have of him & that you made a positive difference in his life. Know you’re not alone in this, I lost my feisty mare to colitis-X two years ago. I’ve heard that The University of Guelph is doing some research on colitis in horses, hopefully there will be a treatment or prevention plan for this terrible illness soon.

  22. Jo Ward

    So very sorry for your loss. I have a friend who is battling colitis to save one of her mares – a Morgan that she bred herself and raised from a foal- the mare is 18 yo. It is heartbreaking for all – have peace knowing that you did all that you possibly could do and you had given Davy a great life. Keep his memories close to your heart.

  23. LinBro

    I agree with other posters. Never say “Never” about taking on another horse. Take your time to grieve, of course. There are so many OTTBs who need a kind hand from someone. I hope later on you will change your mind.


    As unbearable as it truly is right now, Davy would want you to love and take care of another horse sometime in the future….some wonderful horse will need you and return your love again, in the future….but for now, cherish every moment you remember with Davy. He sounds like he was an incredible being. Many prayers for your peace and comfort in the coming times…and know that Davy loved you endlessly.

  25. NicosMom

    So sorry for your loss. There’s no colitis in Heaven! 🙂

  26. Melissa P

    My heart breaks for you. You know you’ve done everything humanly possible, but you still hurt. I know that pain. I’ve felt it. When we lost our girl, suddenly, I made the same vow. No more horses for me. That was nearly 19 years ago. I still don’t have a personal horse. The only way I’d have another would be if one of our old “babies” needed a home. I’ve found comfort in helping equine rescue agencies (and canine rescues). Give yourself time. There may be another horse out there who needs you. No, he/she will never be another “Davy,” but perhaps a unique individual who will touch your heart.

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