During the wars, a soldier looked after his horse with the greatest care. He gave it the best oats to eat and the clearest water to drink.
He rubbed it down when it got wet and covered it with a warm blanket on cold winter nights.
As a result, the horse was strong and swift and carried its master safely out of the dangers of war.
When peace came, however, the soldier changed. He put the horse out in a field full of thistles and gave it only a little mouldy hay to eat.
The stable was a broken-down hut with a leaking roof and a floor made of mud; the only water was in a ditch under the hedge.
During the day the soldier made the horse work hard on his farm, carrying loads of wood and pulling heavy wagons.
After some time war broke out again. The soldier took out his heavy breastplate and boots, strapped on his pistols and helmet, and went to the field to catch his horse.
Hastily brushing the thistles from its coat, he laid the leather saddle on its back, pulled the bridle over its mangy ears and heaved himself up.
For a moment the horse stood motionless. Then gradually its thin legs began to bend and it sank slowly to the ground. The horse gave the soldier a look of reproach.
“Master,”it said,“you'll have to fight on foot this time. You have made me work like a mule and fed me like a goat. I cannot change back into a horse in an instant just because you want me to.”