Two years after Dual Peppy was found living among the remains of more than a dozen deceased horses, he has been sold from his adoptive home to new owner Jim Babcock. When that information became public on Oct. 4, a social media uproar ensued.
Blue Rose Ranch Inc., a horse rescue and adoption facility in Springfield, Colorado, was given the enormous task of rehabilitating and rehoming Dual Peppy after the court forced former owner Sherri Brunzell to surrender her animals. Blue Rose Ranch Executive Directors John and Cheryl Webb selected Hudson, Colorado, resident Christi Fontaine to adopt the now 24-year-old stallion.
Cheryl and Fontaine signed a contract on Sept. 22, 2015, that stated in part: “It is also understood that the ownership of the Dual Peppy is intended as a forever home. Dual Peppy is not to be used for commercial breeding, and his semen will not be commercially advertised for sale.”
An article from a website in the Western performance horse industry and several Facebook posts alleged that Babcock, of Sanger, Texas, purchased Dual Peppy with the intent to stand him at stud in 2017. Babcock, who owns Babcock Ranch and stands stallions Heaven Sent Chic, Define Good and Cowboy Smarts, denied that claim.
“He’s a 24-year-old horse that’s been starved. It’d be silly to think that he would have enough semen to breed outside mares,” Babcock refuted, admitting he may try to breed some of his own mares if Dual Peppy is not sterile. “It’s not even in the realm of my thought process at this point, though. He’s an older horse and he’s been through hell. It’s going to take a while to bring him up to a level of standard where it would even be a possibility.”
Blue Rose Ranch, which also received internet-based backlash for what Facebook users said was insufficient vetting of a home for Dual Peppy’s adoption, published a statement on its own Facebook page that began, “Regarding Dual Peppy: We at Blue Rose Ranch are, along with many, devastated that Dual Peppy was sold. … Our hope is that the Babcocks will care for Dual Peppy.”
In an emailed statement, the Webbs continued, “We are disappointed beyond words that the lady who adopted Dual Peppy violated the adoption agreement she signed. We can only assume that a financial situation or financial opportunity came along.”
Fontaine, who owned Dual Peppy for approximately one year, said she received no compensation for the stallion. Babcock paid the $1,450 balance she still owed from her adoption fee, she said, “and I gave him to Jim.”
“He was stiff and he was having a little trouble getting up, but this summer was good on him. His eyes and his actions told me he was not ready to get put down; that was my plan, to put him down before winter,” Fontaine said, adding that multiple vets had suggested a warmer climate could improve Dual Peppy’s quality of life. “He wasn’t ready, but I don’t know anybody that lives in Arizona or any warmer climate. That’s when Jim came up. I made the decision at the time that I thought was right. He really was not going to survive a Colorado winter, and I wasn’t going to watch him have trouble again.”
Because many Facebook users have grown attached to Dual Peppy, a cutter with $86,000-plus in performance earnings and a $700,000-plus offspring record, they continue to follow the case, and they are calling for Blue Rose Ranch to pursue legal action against Fontaine. The Webbs responded that they will not do so.
“As we understand it, our adoption agreement is a communication of intent, agreed upon in writing, and under signature, by honest horse-loving people,” they wrote in their statement. “It is purposefully not filled with legal-eze and it does not mandate legally binding specific performance. After all the lawyers are paid, even they will agree that any contract is only as good as the people who sign it.”
“I hope this is going to be the best time of his life. We’re going to feed him and get his nutrition up to where it should be, and try to improve on his brain and let him have a chance to be a horse,” Babcock said of the Ward Ranch-bred stallion. “My expectation was I was going to take care of a grand ol’ horse that was good for the business and that was special to a lot of people, including Greg and John Ward. I don’t expect to get anything from him.”