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In The Nick Of Time - From Feedlot to Flag Horse


by Susan F. Harris

This is a story about a special horse that was thrown away and reclaimed. It is also the story of a special lady who puts her horses before herself.


In The Nick Of Time, aka “Nickers,” and owner Kathie Dunn are the featured pair who have been invited to open each evening session of the UPHA American Royal National Championship Horse Show this week by proudly carrying the American flag. Last night the pair, with Dunn in traditional sidesaddle attire, moved the Royal crowd with the story of Nickers’ rescue. Many commented how hard it is to believe that this beautiful horse was once destined for a much different fate.


Nickers’ current incarnation began in November 1997 when Kathie Dunn was surfing the Internet and came across the web site for True Innocents Equine Rescue (TIER) located near her home in Southern California. The horse that stopped her short was a Saddlebred gelding described as a “chestnut with two white socks, about 12 years old, don’t know his background, but he’s designated for the truck in three days.”


Although Dunn was not in the market for another horse – she already had a five-gaited show horse (the horse of her dreams) and a two-year-old prospect – something about this horse grabbed her.


With a borrowed trailer, Dunn and her mother, Lorrie Dunn, arrived at the anonymous feedlot. With Dunn handing over $650 in cash ($1.00 per pound!), the forlorn looking gelding was theirs. The two plucky women and their horse made their way to Dunn’s parents’ home in San Diego County where an anticipated 30 day rehabilitation period stretched into 120 days due to a severe case of strangles.


As Nickers and Lorrie Dunn bonded, the Dunns discovered some surprises about their new boy. First, it was apparent he had had some training and was used to being handled. Second, when his tail was taken down for his first bath, he had a “show” tail that dragged the ground by three feet. Third, instead of a 12 year old, they had a six year old!


Nickers was on the road to recovery, and Kathie Dunn began her own journey to find Nickers’ true identity. After chasing leads and numerous dead ends, with the help of DNA, Dunn had incontrovertible evidence as to who Nickers was. Dunn was elated because, although her mother had grown up with Saddlebreds, she’d never had one registered in her own name.


Unfortunately, papers were not forthcoming, but Dunn never gave up. Anyone who knows Kathie Dunn can attest to her dogged determination.


In the meantime, Nickers had recovered… and how! For the past six years, he and Dunn have served as untiring ambassadors for the American Saddlebred. Not only does Dunn show him in ASB and open English pleasure, she also rides him in numerous parades throughout the year – alternating between sidesaddle and a “bling” silver parade set.


Dunn often helps open horse show sessions with Nickers helping her carry the American flag.  Nickers is also used as a lesson horse and has carried several young riders to their first show ribbons. Seventy-something Lorrie Dunn frequently trail rides Nickers in the hills of Southern California. And where Nickers has probably had the most influence as an ASB ambassador is as a petting horse for numerous Equine Affairs and other similar events with hundreds of adoring fans to his credit.


But wait! As a famous radio personality would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.” In 2004, a fortuitous set of circumstances came together that enabled Nickers’ registration papers finally to be reissued. When Dunn was given the news, she was overjoyed. Keeping the news from her mother, a secret presentation was planned for Charity Fair Horse Show at Del Mar.


Expecting to see Nickers in open English pleasure (since he had no papers), Lorrie was puzzled to see Kathie and Nickers enter the ring in ASB country pleasure. Her bewilderment turned to incredulity when the pair was called out for second place under the ownership of… Lorrie Dunn! At the same time, friends were presenting the papers to Lorrie in the stands for …. I’m W. O. Bentley!




Today, Nickers is in show training but continues to serve as a role model for the kindness, versatility, and brilliance that all go to make the Saddlebred the breed of choice for so many people.


What a journey it has been from that feedlot seven years ago. The journey continues. 


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