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After 10 years, a Panhandle horse will return to his childhood home
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After 10 years, a Panhandle horse will return to his childhood home

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In 2011, Meghan Fry of North Carolina was stationed in Wyoming when she had to sell her childhood best friend, Jedadiah, a horse.

She was devastated but tried to find a family that would take good care of him and appreciate him.

“The people that I sold him to, I thought were good people,” she said. “They came and met me. They brought their two kids with them, and it seemed perfect. The kids were smitten with him, and I felt really good about it.”

Fry signed the bill of sale with the intention of saying goodbye to her horse the next day before the family left with him. In the morning, she headed over the stables at the Wyoming military base where she kept him, but he and thousands of dollars of her horse equipment were gone.

That began a 10-year search and rescue mission for Fry to get Jed back.

She tried to get in contact with the family she sold Jed to, but they were unresponsive to her calls and messages. Despite being upset that they took her stuff, she pleaded with them to just let her visit him from time to time. Years later, she begged them to let her know if and when they ever decide to sell him, so she could buy him back now that she was more financially stable.

Nothing. Even when she tried going to the address they gave her during the original transaction, she discovered that it was fake.

Eventually, she got word that the couple had gotten divorced.

“I did a ‘Hail, Mary,’ and I reached out to the husband, and I was like, ‘Can you just give me an update on him?’ I just want to know, just make sure he’s OK and everything’s good,” she said. “And the husband was like, ‘Oh, we sold him.’”

He didn’t provide any info on who the family sold him to, so she would spend the next six years trying to track her horse down.

“I called every single veterinarian in Nebraska. … I did Facebook, I did (NetPosse),” she said. “If there was a way for me to search, I was searching for it.”

Finally, a woman named Becky Kaiser reached out to explain her relationship with Fry’s horse. She had bought him from the first family with the intention to barrel race him.

Unfortunately, the horse’s back wasn’t in the best shape, especially for something like barrel racing. Kaiser sold him not long after but didn’t have contact information for the buyers and couldn’t remember their names either. Those words were daggers for Fry.

“That’s when my mind just started automatically going to the worst. … People treat horses like livestock, we’ll put it that way. And so, when I heard that his back was hurting, and she sold him and didn’t have any information, I was like, I think this is her nice way of trying to say that she took him to an auction kind of thing, and my heart sank,” she said. “But I was like, ‘I’m not giving up. I’m just going to keep posting.’ I had posted and posted for a while, and there were so many times where I would just cry all the time, because just I felt so guilty for the situation.”

Eventually her husband, Travis, told her she needed to take a break from the search.

“My husband was finally like, ‘Megan, I need you to just accept probably that he’s not out there anymore,’” she said. “He was like, ‘I think you’re going to drive yourself insane searching for this horse.’ And so, I let it go for about six months. I wasn’t posting. I stopped searching.”

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, she decided to post her ad all over Facebook one more time. While she sat in her chair at work, she prayed to God to let her find him, just to know what happened to him and if he was K.

“I said, ‘I don’t need him back. I just need to know that he’s safe. I just want to know that he’s OK,’” she said.

Meanwhile, on a small ranch near Lake Minatare, Sherry Fortner was just getting used to riding her new horse that her friend Cheryl Smith had given her a few weeks prior. The horse was about 15 years old, missing a front tooth and gentler than any other horse Smith new. Smith said she gave him to Fortner because her osteoporosis didn’t allow her to ride any more.

“My bones break too easy, so Sherry is my best friend, and she’s been looking for a horse that she can ride. It had to be real gentle and stuff,” Smith said. “And so, I told her I said, ‘I think I got the perfect horse for you.’ So, she came over and looked at him and she said. ‘I want him.’ So I just gave him to Sherry.”

Smith had the horse for about four years before she gave him to Fortner. Both women loved the horse.

“The absolutely remarkable level of training and life skills this horse has … if you know horses, when you go buy a horse, you hope and pray that this one will let me handle his feet. I hope this one will get in and out of a trailer,” Fortner said. “He is just the sweetest horse. He has such a sweet personality. He’s polite. … I just think he’s awesome.”

It was just a few weeks after Fortner received him that a friend of hers noticed Fry’s Facebook post.

“He said, ‘Is he Jed? And I said, ‘I think so,’” Fortner said.

Both Fortner and Smith read the description.

“He’s a dark bay thoroughbred, about 16-17hh. He was 7 y/o when I sold him, so he would be about 15 y/o now, and he is missing a front tooth,” Fry’s post said.

Fry’s Jed was Smith and Fortner’s Jed.

Fortner messaged Fry on Facebook Messenger that day to let her know that Jed was in good hands out in western Nebraska. Fry got the message while she was out to eat with her husband and some friends.

“I get this pop up from Facebook Messenger and it says, ‘Sherry wants to send you a message.’ And I just had this feeling I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is Jed.’ I didn’t even open it. I had no idea. I was like, ‘This is Jed,’ but I was like … I knew if I opened it and it was him, I was going to start bawling in front of all these people.”

She said she was determined not to open the message until she was back at home. Ten minutes went by, and she couldn’t wait any longer.

“I immediately lost it. My husband looked at me and was like, ‘What?’ and I was like, ‘I found Jed.’ He was like, ‘Are you sure? How do you know it’s him?’ And I was like, ‘Hon, I know. I will know that face anywhere,’” she said. “As I talked more with Sherry, it was no denying it was actually him. So, it was the most surreal feeling.”

The two of them talked, shared memories of Jed and finally Fry made the offer: she’d give anything for her horse back.

Fortner said, “Megan, she says, ‘I’ll buy him back, I’ll give anything for him.’ And it’s like, ‘Megan, don’t say that, somebody would take advantage of you,’” Fortner said she. “Well, like I won’t, but somebody else might.”

Fortner said she had to think about it at first. After all, she loved Jed.

“I said, ‘I don’t want to sell him.’ He’s the best horse I’ve had in several years.”

After a night of thinking about it and talking with Smith, she decided it was the right thing to do.

“I thought if that was me, how would I feel?” she said. “So, the next morning I talked to Cheryl and then I talked to Megan, and I said ‘Look, I need a horse to replace him. I don’t want to be without a horse to ride. If we can find a replacement for him then, yeah, you can have him back.’”

In the midst of all this, Smith also contacted Fry to tell her a little more about Jed’s story during his time with her — fattening him up after receiving him skinny, riding him out to the lake in the summer, his gentleness with everyone he meets.

Looking at the situation now, Smith is glad she and Fortner came to the conclusion to give Jed back, but, at first, both were in such shock they weren’t sure what to do.

“I was shocked. I was like, ‘Really?’ It’s still kind of a shock because she’s been looking for him for so long,” she said. “Sherry got a hold of me first and talked to me about it first. She said, ‘What would you do?’ And I said, ‘Boy, Sherry, I don’t know. It’s a shock.’”

In the end, they just couldn’t keep him knowing this woman who loved him so much for so long was still out there, waiting for the day that they might reunite.

When Fortner told Fry of their plans to return Jed to her once they got a replacement horse, it was too much for her. Fry said that she isn’t usually an emotional person, but she couldn’t remember the last time she had cried as hard as she did. Her husband wasn’t sure he’d ever seen her cry harder.

“You know those cries that you see people do where they literally dropped to their knees? That’s exactly it, I couldn’t hold it together … I think it was I was overjoyed, but I was also so overcome with relief and just knowing that he was safe and that he was OK,” she said. “It’s just one of those things. I was so fortunate to be able to find him and then for her to actually be willing to let me have him back again, to have that opportunity to just love him, it’s just surreal.”

Now, the plan is to make a horse swap in the next few weeks. Fry will drive all the way out to the Panhandle of Nebraska from North Carolina with one of her aunt’s horses that has a similar temperament as Jed. When she arrives, she’ll swap horses with Sherry, giving Sherry a horse that is gentle enough for her to ride, and Fry will take Jed back home after over 10 years away.

It will be a surreal moment for Fry, especially when she can go back to match the missing tooth to his gap after a freak accident all those years ago.

“I still have his front tooth and I’ve been keeping it kind of like Cinderella’s glass slipper,” she said with a laugh. “I have the tooth to match the gap.”

Smith still can’t believe what had all happened within these last couple of weeks.

“Yeah, crazy. And if I hadn’t have given Sherry the horse, she (Fry) probably never would have found him, because I don’t scroll through Facebook that much,” she said. “It just so happens that her partner did and saw that post. … It had to go just right to make it happen.”

For Fry, the biggest thing for her was that Jed had been OK. The kicker, though, was he kept his name throughout his entire journey.

“His name Jedadiah means ‘Loved by God.’ And so for all of that to kind of stay with him … through this whole journey, and for all of this to happen — there’s a lot of God in this story. You know what I mean? There’s no denying it. He was definitely loved by God, and I’m so grateful for it.”

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