Chapters 1-3 Summary
In his earliest memory, Joey (a "gangling, leggy colt . . . not yet six months old") is separated from his mother at a horse sale. He is not sold at once. Finally, a drunken man purchases him for three guineas. Terrified, Joey tries to get away, but he is forcibly restrained and haltered by his new owner and his friends. He is then tied to the back of a cart and taken to a small farm, which is to be his new home.
Joey is left unceremoniously in a stable. His only consolation is that he is housed in a stall next to an old mare named Zoey, who seems kind and sympathetic. After a while, a young boy comes running from the farmhouse with his mother. Albert, who is thirteen, is excited to see the horse his father has brought home. Mother says that Father bought Joey out of spite, to prevent another farmer from getting him, but Albert does not care. He is just happy that Joey is here. He rubs down the colt and brings him food and water. Joey is calmed by the boy's gentle, caring manner. He knows that he has found "a friend for life."
Albert cares for Joey during the following months, training him to walk and trot on command and to come to the sound of his whistle. For the most part, Father ignores the horse. On Tuesdays, when his father comes home drunk from market, Albert finds some pretext to be with Joey so that his father will leave the colt alone. One Tuesday evening, however, Albert must go down to the village church to ring the bells. While he is away, Father approaches Joey with a whip in his hand; he has made a bet with another farmer that he can have the colt pulling a plow before the end of the week, and he intends to win it. In a panic, Joey lashes out with his hooves, striking Albert's father on the leg. The drunken man leaves angrily and threatens to sell the colt straightaway.
The next morning, Albert sternly reprimands his horse, telling him that he must never kick anyone ever again if he wants to survive. Albert promises Father that he will train Joey himself, and the boy and the colt work tirelessly all week. Under the boy's firm but kind tutelage, Joey learns to pull the plow; at the end of the week, Albert's father wins his bet and declares the horse can stay.
Some months later, England goes to war against Germany. Albert is consumed with excitement; he believes, as do many others, that England will give the enemy "a hiding" they will not forget and that the war will be over in a few months. Albert dreams of becoming a soldier, and he thinks Joey would make a good war horse. Mother, however, receives the news of war with trepidation.
Although war has been declared, the conflict does not affect life on the farm at first. Joey and Albert develop into quite a team, spending the summer days riding over the fields tending to the sheep. Over time, however, Albert's father becomes increasingly disagreeable. He is worried about paying the mortgage on the farm, and he is bitter because he is too old to join the forces fighting in France.
One night, Father tells his son to take their saddleback boar to a neighboring farm to be bred. Sensing trouble, Albert complies reluctantly. While he is gone, Father comes into the stable and puts a halter on Joey's head. Speaking with uncharacteristic gentleness, he tells the horse, "You'll be all right, old son . . . they promised they would [look after you] . . . and I need the money bad."
Chapters 4-6 Summary
Albert's father takes Joey into the village and sells him for forty pounds to a military officer named Captain Nicholls. Filled with regret, Father begs the captain to make sure that the horse comes to no harm. Before he leaves, he whispers to Joey, "You won't understand and neither will Albert, but unless I sell you, I can't keep up with the mortgage and we'll lose the farm."
Knowing that he is about to be abandoned, Joey becomes frantic, and as gentle hands try unsuccessfully to console him, Albert comes running up. He realizes that his father has sold Joey. Albert asks...
(The entire section is 4,840 words.)