Schweiss horses make New Ulm home most recognizable
There is no mistaking the Arnie and Velma Schweiss residence for any other in New Ulm. The Schweiss home, located on North Broadway, is easy to find. It’s the one with all the horses.
Yes, the Schweiss home is that home, the one that constantly draws stares from passersby, the one that causes people to wonder, “Where’d they get those horses?”
For the very few who have never seen the Schweiss home, it should be clarified that “those horses” aren’t real horses. They’re life-size and lifelike, but are purely fiberglass and completely maintenance free.
“I don’t have to feed them,”?Arnie said.
“Or clean up after them,” Velma added.
Arnie started his collection four years ago. To date, he owns four horses (two Palomino and two Arabian), two colts and one mule. They stand majestically in the Schweiss’ front yard overlooking New Ulm’s main drag.
Arnie is darn proud of them.
To her credit, Velma likes the horses too. She says they look nice in the yard. “She didn’t like the mule much,”?Arnie said. “She asked me to move it toward the back. She said it looked like it was dying.”?
And as to the query of where Arnie bought his horses? It’s the most asked question he gets, Arnie revealed. “I bought them from FiberStock, Inc. in Buffalo, Minnesota,”?he said.
“They don’t sell many horses like this in our area. Mostly, (FiberStock)?sells to big ranches in Texas and California and to other countries.”
Arnie’s horses didn’t come cheap. The large horses cost $2,000 each. The colts were $1,700. “I could have bought them unpainted for $1,500 but it would have cost me $500 to take them to a body shop anyway,”?Arnie said.
“I?get a lot of compliments on the horses. People tell me they’d like to get one of their own. But after I give them a brochure and they see the price, well, they change their mind real quick.”
Arnie’s appeal for horses comes simply. He grew up working with horses on the Schweiss family farm in rural Fairfax. His father farmed with horses until Arnie took over in 1945. “When I wanted to change over to tractors, Dad wanted no part of it,”?Arnie said. “After the Depression, he didn’t want to go into debt for anything.
“It got to the point that I told my dad either the horses go or I go. He said we could get rid of four of them, but we had to keep two, just in case.”
Which makes it interesting, and a little ironic, that Arnie’s horse collection replaced a tractor and farm equipment collection that previously decorated the Schweiss yard. That collection drew attention too. “About 12 years ago, (that story) went on nationwide TV,” Arnie said proudly.
But as for the farm equipment collection, “Well, after so many years, it all started getting rusty and I knew I had to either paint it or get rid of it. So, I sold most of it and put in the horses.”
Because of the unusual nature of the Schweiss collection, gawkers regularly drive through the Schweiss property to check out Arnie’s horses. To encourage them, the Schweisses maintain a guestbook that anyone cruising through the property can sign.
And guests have signed. To date, visitors have come from all over the area and all over the United States including Idaho, Kansas, Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa and New Mexico. One of the most recent entries was from a couple living in Canada.
There is room in the yard for more horses, and Arnie isn’t ruling out buying even more of his fiberglass horses. “I might,” he said slyly. “Who knows.”
Ever the joker, Arnie likes people to see not only horses in the front of the house, but also the live “jackass” that lives in his shop. “I tell them if they like the horses in front, then they should see the live one I’ve got in the back,”?Arnie said, chuckling.
(For Arnie’s sake, we aren’t going to reveal anything about the live jackass. There are some things people need to see for themselves.)