Washington riding Nelson (left); Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge, John Ward Dunsmore
Washington at the Battle of Trenton, shown on Nelson; engraving after a painting by Edward Lamson Henry

Nelson or Old Nelson was one of several horses owned by George Washington. He was a chestnut with a white blaze and white feet. The horse was acquired by Washington in 1779 and died in 1790 at about the age of 27, quite old for a horse in that era.[1] As Washington was known for being a skilled horse rider, Nelson was a significant icon for a number of years, being one of Washington's favorite horses.[1]


Nelson was foaled in 1763 and was given to Washington in 1778 by Thomas Nelson of Virginia, after whom the horse was then named.[2] Washington stated that Nelson was his most favored horse to use during the Revolutionary War, as he was not easily provoked by gunfire.[1] Washington rode Nelson when accepting Cornwallis' surrender at Yorktown.[3] The other horse he rode during the Revolutionary War, and on whom he is more often portrayed, was his gray horse, Blueskin.[4]

Washington ceased to ride Nelson after the war. Nelson and Blueskin were retired and lived at Mount Vernon post-war.[1] Washington would visit Nelson's paddock regularly, where it was reported that "the old war-horse would run, neighing, to the fence, proud to be caressed by the great master's hands."[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Nelson". George Washington's Mount Vernon. Retrieved 9 November 2015.
  2. ^ "George Washington's horse". Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  3. ^ Thomas, Nick (19 February 2018). "A salute to the presidents' pets". NewsOK.com. The Oklahoman. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  4. ^ Feldman, Laura. "Horses of War". American Cowboy. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  5. ^ Thompson, Mary V. "Nelson (Horse)". George Washington's Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. Retrieved 1 March 2023.