“We think he was very lonely and wanted a new home with people that would love him.”
At first, Connie and Craig Collum thought the large animal running down their driveway early on a Sunday morning was a dog who had escaped his leash.
As they approached, they realized the mysterious brown and white creature was no dog at all, but a miniature horse. Fearing the animal would run into the road where he was at risk of getting hit by a car, Craig lured the nervous horse toward him with a handful of hay.
Just the day before, the Collums had dropped off their own two horses, Coco and Derby, at the stables where they would be boarded through the winter. After seeing the small horse all by himself in the middle of a frigid January, they knew they had to get him somewhere safe and warm.
The escaped miniature horse, named Benjamin, belonged to a neighbor three houses down from their Helena, Alabama, home, but when they informed the owner of the horse’s escape, he seemed none too keen on collecting him, according to the couple. “We went back to our house and waited for hours and no one showed up,” Connie Collum said. “We tried to make Lil’ Ben comfortable, and primarily make sure he was safe.”
When the mini horse’s owner finally arrived, they learned that Lil’ Ben had a habit of wandering off whenever he saw a weakness in the fence — which was often. “He also said that one time Lil’ Ben had escaped and walked over 5 miles to another farm where, during his journey, he had embedded a briar on top of his head between his ears,” Collum said. “The briar was sticking straight up and people who saw him swore he was a unicorn. There were at least three reported cases to the Helena Police Department of unicorn sightings.”
It soon became clear to the Collums that Ben wasn’t running away in search of adventure — the lonely horse was looking for a friend. “The man explained to us that he had inherited the small farm from his parents, and they at one time had over 20 miniature horses,” Collum added. “However, they had all died with the exception of Lil’ Benjamin.”
Two weeks passed and the Collums had put the little horse out of their minds — until one Saturday morning when the doorbell rang. “I answered it and a man driving by said that my horse had escaped and was laying in front of our pasture,” Collum said. “I immediately responded, ‘Is he a miniature horse?’ He said yes, and I thanked him and said that he belonged to my neighbor, but I would go get him.”
With snowstorms in the forecast, the Collums set to work preparing a new home for Lil’ Ben, where he could ride out the winter weather in comfort. They left a note for their neighbor as to Ben’s whereabouts, but they received no response.
Several days later Ben’s owner called, asking if they knew anyone who would want him.
“We said Lil’ Ben was welcome to stay with us until (and if) we find him an awesome home,” Collum said. “We believe Ben found us and knew we are horse lovers. We think he was very lonely and wanted a new home with people that would love him.”
It didn’t take long for the couple to fall in love with the miniature horse and decide to give him a forever home.
Now an official member of the Collum family, the 18-year-old horse’s depression is starting to lift — especially when he gets to spend time with the Collums’ son and their five dogs. “The dogs’ presence seems to perk him up and he appears at times to have a much brighter and happier persona,” Collum noted. “They all love going with us into the pasture to see Lil’ Ben and we think, with time, Benjamin will likely develop a close bond with our dogs.”
Animal lovers active in the rescue community, the Collums believe there was a reason Lil’ Ben kept showing up on their doorstep: He knew they would change his life forever. “We feel Ben chose us because he somehow sensed that.”