MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa — Upon entering Mary Jefferson’s home, visitors’ eyes are immediately drawn to the horse-related decor in her foyer. But her love of equines doesn’t stop there. Shelves, tables and cabinets in almost every room in her house are filled with horse-related memorabilia, including, but not limited to: scale model horses, clocks, cookie jars, bookends, tables, lamps, paintings, plates, stuffed animals, Christmas ornaments, figurines, sculptures, plush toys, wall hangings, My Little Pony, rocking horses, salt and pepper shakers, bottles, candy, yard decorations, five full-size carousel horses and even a couple of piñatas.

“When I was about 10 or 11 years old, I stopped playing with toy horses and started collecting them,” Jefferson said.

The horse she cites as the one that started it all is a toy named Trigger (named after the beloved Roy Rogers horse).

“When I was growing up here, Osco Drug carried everything. I would go with my dad, and he knew where to find me – in front of the horse shelf. One day he asked if I would like one. It’s an early Breyer horse, and cost $3.98.”

Upon marrying her late husband Dale in 1961, she estimates her horse collection contained around 25 pieces, all stored away. While Mary rode horses as a kid (always ones that belonged to other folks, as her family lived in town), she got the chance to rekindle that interest when she and her husband moved to an acreage for a while to raise their children, Carol and David. Jefferson moved into her current residence back in 1992. Upon seeing the built-in shelving in the living room, she fell in love with the place. Her collection came out of storage and grew over time to encompass over 3,000 pieces.

“I don’t call it a collection anymore – I call it an addiction, but I have too many to stop now,” she said.

Her horse-related ornaments used to overwhelm her Christmas tree at the holidays, so now she keeps two small trees out year-round displaying those ornaments. Each item in her collection is specially placed in her home, grouped according a brand, theme, type, etc. She is a fan of the model horses made by the Breyer Animal Creations company, noting how each year it releases a special decorated horse for the holidays.

The Times-Republican ( ) reported that Jefferson shops for her treasures at antique malls, local shops and at auctions. She said anytime she enters a store, her radar is on high alert, just in case she runs across a section containing anything with a horse theme.

“If there’s a horse in there, I’ll spot it,” she said. “It has to talk to me, it has to catch my eye. I might buy one horse item out shopping or 12-15. I don’t really buy online because I would rather be able to hold it and touch it.”

Historic carousel horses have caught her eye, and Jefferson knows the history behind the ones in her collection. One riding horse is much like what is available at malls and grocery stores for youngsters to ride and enjoy; however, Jefferson’s comes from the 1940s/50s and depicts the horse Trigger from “The Roy Rogers Show.” The horse is in working condition.

“The song it plays is the theme song from ‘The Lone Ranger’ because when the horse was made, the Roy Roger’s theme song ‘Happy Trails’ hadn’t been written yet,” she said.

She has several horse head lamps in her collection, which she said came from the days when television was in its early years.

“When televisions were becoming popular, TV lights came out because people were worried that if you sat in a dark room with only the television for lighting, it was hard on the eyes,” she explained.

While Jefferson’s collection may seem large by many people’s standards, the collector says she is discerning about what she acquires.

“I don’t like to get horses with carriages because of all the room those take up, and I don’t like horses with people on them,” Jefferson said.

While her focus is horses, she does occasionally add a unicorn or a Pegasus to the mix. An animal lover, she also has a few cat-related pieces interspersed among the horses. She is always on the lookout for new items for her collection, and currently is looking for one item in particular – a Pegasus Mobil Oil sign, after seeing one on the television show “American Pickers” and remembering them from her childhood.

Having amassed such a mélange of horse items, Jefferson said she could envision leaving her collection to a museum someday. She wrote to the Guinness World Records describing her collection, but has yet to hear back.

Information from: Times-Republican,

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