In the mid 1980’s, I was a year out of high school and learning the equine trade as a working student on a Pennsylvania horse farm. One of the chores on our lowly student list involved checking the barns’ inhabitants, doling out extra groceries to the hard keepers, topping off water buckets, and generally making sure that all were bright eyed and healthy. It wasn’t a job any of us enjoyed, but we took turns and always went with a partner to cut down on the time sacrificed from our evenings.
One cold winter night, another student and I finished checking the first barn without incident and were walking down hill to the next–home to most of the young stock– when we noticed a dark colored horse standing stark against the moonlit snow in a paddock where we knew no horse should be. Noting the broad white star on its forehead, we tentatively identified her as an older mare named Seance, who was certainly a black horse with a white star, lived in the farthest pasture with the lesson horse herd, and was known as something of an escape artist… although she seldom ventured this far from her friends.
As we watched, the escapee mare paced the fence line restlessly and neighed her displeasure. Ellie, one of the yearling fillies kept in the barn we were about to check, neighed back. This, to our unamused surprise, kicked off a non-stop conversation between the two loud enough to wake the dead. (Or at least, the farm’s owners who lived in a house nearby.)
Deciding that we couldn’t leave Seance where she was–since she was obviously agitated and egging Ellie on–we ducked into the barn and fetched the usual loose-horse paraphernalia: halters, lead ropes, and buckets of grain with which to bribe compliance. Then it was back out of the barn, a slog through knee-deep snow, and a struggle to open two mostly unused gates through the drifts before we reached the paddock.
The now empty paddock.
The now empty paddock which wasn’t just devoid of a fence-line pacing horse, but was equally lacking any indication of hoof prints in the pristine expanse of new snow.
We looked at the snow. Looked at each other. Looked back at the barn where Ellie had finally ceased her whinnying.
And made what I would like to think of as a strategic retreat.
The next morning, we presented a highly sanitized version to the farm’s owner. Thought we saw a loose horse. Must have been mistaken, but Ellie was acting up in the barn, so she thought she saw it too. Ha ha.
The owner listened with a half smile and said, “Black mare? White star? Middle paddock?”
“That was Edeltraum. We lost her to a lightning strike last summer in that same paddock. We buried her there. Ellie was her last foal, not yet weaned when we lost her mother.” She reached behind her, pulled a photo album off a bookshelf, and casually flipped through several pages before pushing it across her desk for us to see.
And there she was.
The exact same horse.
There were more sightings after that, but they stopped after Ellie was sold and left the farm the next year.