“So, how many horses do you need?”

Did you ever do something that you knew you shouldn’t have done but did it anyway? I don’t hardly ever do this without first considering the ethics of the situation and the risk of getting caught. 99 percent of the time I talk myself into doing the right thing.

But sometimes the temptation is just too much.

Some years ago I got a call at work.

“Hi Ed, I was wondering if you could help me out? I know you have draft horses and take really good care of them. I have a really nice Belgian mare. I use her for logging. She is a wonderful horse and I just love her.” Ok, I’m thinking, what’s the catch? “I was wondering if you wanted to buy her? I am leaving the area and have to sell her immediately.”

I reacted quickly. “I don’t think so. I already have more horses than my wife thinks I need. Besides, I’m sure I don’t have the kind of money you need for a horse that wonderful.”

“But Ed, I’m desperate. I’m leaving tomorrow. She is tied to a tree in the woods. I left her enough hay for a day. I’ll tell you what, you can go look at her, if you like her you can take her home and keep her as long as you want. We can work it out later.” The image of a poor horse tied to a tree all alone in the forest was more than I could bear.

“Ok, give me some directions.”

A little background on horses and Mr. Ed’s Farm. Other equine collectors may identify with this.

Mr. Ed: “So, I heard about this horse…”
Mrs. Ed: You don’t need another horse.”
Mr. Ed: “But it’s a good horse.”
Mrs. Ed: “What’s wrong with your other horses?”
Mr. Ed: “But the horse needs a good home.”
Mrs. Ed: “If it’s such a good horse, why do they want to get rid of it?”

Then comes the perplexing question: “How many horses do you need anyway?”

So here was my dilemma. At that time I had a small herd of sorrel Belgian horses (let’s say more than you can count at a glance). A desperate horse friend needed help. A broke logging horse was out in the forest all alone. No money down, no checks to be made out, i.e., no paper trail. All I had to do was go look at her, then make my decision. Here’s where I hit the slippery slope.

After Mrs. Ed left for work the next morning, I set my dubious plan in motion. I called work.

“I’d like to take a vacation day, to deal with a personal matter.” No problem, no questions asked. I changed into my chore clothes, hooked up the stock trailer and headed out.

Now I made sure I was careful in writing down the directions. Take this highway to this county road to this township road to this logging road, take the fork to the right, don’t slow down when you hit the low spot….

“You do have 4 wheel drive? Jeanie should be tied to a big pine. If she’s not there, check with the farm on the next road over. She usually goes there when she gets loose.”

Anyone who has ever turned down a remote one lane road heading slightly downhill with a twenty foot stock trailer knows the feeling I was experiencing. I kept looking for the big pine with a horse tied to it. It was amazing how many trees there were without horses tied to them. Fortunately it had not rained for a few weeks when I hit the low spot, no problem. The sound of scraping brush kept me alert. I breathed a sigh of relief when I came to a clearing with a big tree with a horse tied to it. There she was, a big blonde sorrel Belgian mare, looking at me with soft brown eyes. She nickered to me as I approached and nuzzled my shoulder when I walked up. “Hi Jeanie, would you like to go home with me?” She looked toward the trailer and nodded.

With a little finagling, I got turned around and headed out, horse safely secured in the trailer. I got home shortly after noon. The other horses lined up at the fence when I unloaded Jeanie. I don’t need to tell other horse people this, but putting a new horse directly into a herd is usually not a good idea. There tends to be some serious fighting that goes on until a new pecking order is established. Fortunately, I had a corral adjacent to the pasture where I put new horses until they can become acclimated. It was behind the barn where Mrs. Ed never goes.

The other horses rushed the corral to investigate this newcomer. I led Jeanie in, thinking to myself, she really fits in size and color wise. I unsnapped the lead rope and stepped back to watch. As I expected, Jeanie walked up to the fence, neck outstretched, sniffing the air, gingerly touching noses. What she did next still amazes me. It reminded me of a horse we had seen performing at Circus World. She backed up a few feet and, with the grace and agility of a white tail deer, leaped over the six foot corral panel without even touching it. The other horses must have been impressed too because they just backed away and went about their business.

By the time Mrs. Ed got home the herd had wondered off to distant pastures. Jeanie blended in. I breathed a sigh of relief. All was well for about two weeks. I believe it was a Saturday morning. The horses came up for a midday rest under the shade trees by the barn. I was working on some piece of machinery in the yard. I saw her coming out of the corner of my eye. I fumbled with a rusty bolt.

Mrs. Ed: “Hi, how’s it going?”
Mr. Ed: “Pretty good, why do you ask?”
Mrs. Ed: “Is there something you forgot to tell me?”
Mr. Ed: “No, I don’t think so. Why do you ask?”
Mrs. Ed: “Isn’t that a new horse in the pasture?”

Time for some quick thinking. “What horse?”

“That one.”

“Wow, you’re right. That’s a nice horse! I wonder where she came from? Can you believe my luck?”

“How did you know it was a ‘she’?”

Jeanie stayed with us for several years. She did have some idiosyncrasies. When I used her for plowing, she never wanted to turn to the right. So we adjusted by always plowing to left. Jeanie was OK with that. As a logging horse, let’s just say she was efficient. Once you hooked onto the log, it didn’t take long to get to the landing. Get tired? Simply keep a tight grip on the lines and she would add you to the load.

Somewhere along the way, we “worked it out” and I bought Jeanie. She was such a good horse that I took her on a trip with me to Kalona, Iowa. I thought she would enjoy a good horse sale. Believe it or not, a fellow there liked her and even offered me some money. I called home. “A guy liked Jeanie and offered me money for her, so I helped him out.”

Mrs. Ed: “So what are you going to do with the money?”
Mr. Ed: “Well there’s this gelding…..”

Then came the question I have never been quite able to figure out the answer to: “So, how many horses do you need?”

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There she was, a beautiful blonde with soft brown eyes.

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