Ralph Nester: Dr. William Wright, DVM; Kelso and the du Ponts


I watched every move that the experienced horse people made and listened intently while I worked at Penowa Farm in the sixties.  I watched yearlings being broken and trained, we trained a few on the farm and also had recuperating race horses on our facility.  There were some very knowledgeable horsemen there, especially two English gentleman, a son and father.   They knew how to handle a tough horse and were good riders, one managed the farm.  As time went on, it was a quick turnover with help, so after a few farm managers came and left, I was approached by the owners asking if I would be interested in running the farm.   I jumped at the deal realizing that he was a tough man to satisfy,  but as luck would have it, vets came and went quickly, too.

Not everyone could handle the owner and some just couldn’t do their job, but at the same time I started managing the farm, along comes Dr. William H. Wright who had had a veterinarian business in New York that he had just sold. At one time, he was the most sought after veterinarian in New York. He bought a small farm in Chesapeake City and started teaching at New Bolton Center and semi-retired.  He was a gentleman and a brilliant common sense vet.   In his day, he treated the likes of Native Dancer, Bold Lad, Bold Ruler and other greats.  For some reason, he took me under his wing.  Taught me how to give annual shots, parasite control and just common sense around a horse.  I was blessed with the best teacher in the business.  He told me at one point, “Ralph,  I can teach you more in two weeks than some of the students that I have taught for two years.”

I shouldn’t say this as it was private, but I have to tell the story.   He taught preventive medicine and the results on the growing herd of horses on the farm was evident.  We had Allaire du Pont riding her horse over and coming to the barn to check our feed program.  The Doc would say, “Ralph, don’t divulge any info.” I didn’t. (Allaire du Pont owned Kelso among others.)

In the winter, our broodmares dappled out like summertime horses. Mrs. du Pont would go through the barn and put her hand in feed bags and check to see what we were feeding them, but it wasn’t just feed, it was the thorough parasite program we had that was the base to it all.

Dr. Wright was a brilliant man.  Mrs. du Pont got him to treat Kelso for a bruised eye.  Other vets couldn’t treat him as he was cantankerous and he was her baby and a spoiled one.  Dr. Wright went into his stall, but first, ran Mrs. du Pont out of the stall cause she was saying, “Don’t be mean or hurt my baby.”  Dr. Wright had to get his attention and show him who was boss.  Kelso bit him and he grabbed his halter and slapped him in his heart girth and got his attention.  Then Kelso stood there while the doc took very meticulous pains to treat his eye.  He healed the eye with a few treatments and back to the racetrack he went.  Dr. Wright was Kelso’s vet from that day forward.  Mrs. du Pont and Dr. Wright were both strong-headed.

Dr. Wight married her daughter Lana who was and is the sweetest, kindest woman and an accomplished horsewoman. She finished second in the Olympics Dressage team on a horse called Mr. Wister.  Lana’s story is written in history.

Lana du Pont Wright


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