The Slaughter House horses: Episode 2 The Miracle Mare

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Lydia, the draft mare has been left behind at the feed lot. She is desperately ill and only a miracle will save the life of her and her unborn foal.

Submitted: November 29, 2015

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Submitted: November 29, 2015

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The Slaughter House Horses:

Story Two: The Miracle Mare

 

Gulliver lifted his head and snorted at the deep blue-black star studded night sky. His breath curled in a frozen cloud around his face. The stars, they shone at him as though all was right in the whole of the world. The tall, gray Dutch warm blood, thoroughbred cross lowered his head and snorted again, this time in anger. There was nothing right in his world and hadn’t been since he’d come to this awful place of hopeless despair,

Despite the fact it was the dead of night his pasture companions, the ones that were left, anyway, were agitated and restless. Most of their number, dozens and dozens of horses, were gone now, run into the back of giant, growling trucks. The smell of desperate fear, was still in the big gray’s nostrils. It hung in the frozen air, lingering hours after the loaded trucks had left.

The horses that remained, eleven in all, had simply refused to be loaded, but by the time it was just the eleven of them remaining, there was no more room on the trucks, or so the tall gray had heard the skinny guy with the pulled down face that always fed them say. He had called them “lucky bastards.” Gulliver didn’t see that they were very lucky and he had no idea what the second word had meant but he had recognized the sneer in the man’s tone as something his human would have called “sarcasm.” Gulliver was pretty sure the man with the pulled down face didn’t actually think they were “lucky” either.

The tall gray gelding looked around at each of his companions. The bright golden palomino, Milton stood a little ways from the corner of their damp, trampled down paddock. His golden sides were marked with streaks of dried sweat. His stillness, and he was very still, he stood staring out over the fence, as motionless as a statue, not even twitching his matted flaxen tail, betrayed his stress. He had bonded with the pretty paint mare, Marietta.  Marietta had been loaded onto one of the trucks. Milton had whinnied after her for hours, until the sun had set. He was quiet now, but only out of exhaustion.

Zeus, the big blue roan Clydesdale and HyperGold, the copper-sorrel thoroughbred with the crooked foot, were standing at one of the hay rings. Zeus was still showing the whites of his eyes, and HyperGold’s head was hanging very low. He could still run despite his handicap. He had proven that neatly today but he was in pain now. Gulliver could sense that. SideShow and Mystic were also ex-racehorses. SideShow was inky black, his coat blended with the night and Mystic was light golden-bay with white markings. They were taking turns pacing up and down one of the short sides of their paddock. SideShow looked like a living shadow and Mystic wasn’t letting him out of her sight. They’d come together, from the same farm.

Jack was a dark bay Morgan cross. Barely a two year old, he was walking the perimeter of the entire paddock. Jack had not been handled by any human until he’d been sent through the auction. He would occasionally toss his head and whinny in confusion. Standing in one corner of the paddock were the last four horses. Candy, the one eyed pony was huddled against the huge, pregnant Belgium mare, Lydia. The little welsh mare was shivering, but not from the cold. Behind the protective bulk of Lydia was Zara the delicate gray Arabian mare, and her two day old filly foal. Throughout the round up that day, Lydia had stood in front of the pair, shielding them from the men who wanted them on the trucks. Despite the efforts of those men, Lydia hadn’t budged and there been absolutely nothing they could do that was going to make her move. She’d been as solid as a concrete stable wall.

Gulliver didn’t belong here in this place of unwanted horses and hopelessness. He hadn’t been unwanted. A strange man had come and taken him from his warm box stall in the middle of the night. He’d traveled for hours in a rickety two horse trailer, and then he’d arrived at a noisy place with a lot of other horses. An auction barn it had been called, and since that awful night, Gulliver had come to understand that he had been “stolen”. He was pretty sure that “stolen” meant that his human, his girl, Andrea, was missing him. She wouldn’t have sent him to this awful place, of that he was sure. And then the big gray’s head came up in startlement.  Every muscle in his body stiffened as something occurred to him. He eyed the sagging wire fence. He didn’t have to stay here. Hadn’t he jumped fences taller than the one holding him here? He thought no further on the matter. His feet started moving and he went with them.

Candy had turned her one good eye on Gulliver, just as the tall, elegant gray gelding had been seized with his idea. She watched as he took off, going from a dead stop into a rhythmic canter in one stride. The calculated quality of the gelding’s gate would not have gone unnoticed by a good horse trainer. Gulliver’s light gray coat stood out sharply in the star brightened dark and he looked like a streak of moon light as he drove for the fence. He leaped over it in an elegant arc that told the level of his training.  Candy had once been a wanted horse instead of an unwanted one. She had been used for lessons at a place that taught the skills that Gulliver had so gracefully just put on display. The little mare considered. She had once been able to jump like that, when she’d had two good eyes. The fence here was taller than she’d ever jumped before but… She’d been without her left eye long enough for her perspective to have adjusted. She lifted her head, and let loose a strident whinny. A wait for me call that even a witless human would have recognized.

She tore after the newly escaped Gulliver. Lydia raised her head wearily and watched the short mare barrel toward the fence, looking like a bright comet’s tail in Gulliver’s wake, her gray coat being nearly the same shade. She cleared the sagging fence, not as gracefully but she cleared it. Her short legs carried her after the much longer legged Gulliver at a pace that the big- stout Belgium mare would have never thought possible. The big mare watched, as did, Jack, Zeus, HyperGold, Mystic, SideShow and Milton, as the two gray horses disappeared into the sapphire tinted dark.

Jack whickered softly, a whistfully-envious sound. Lydia didn’t envy them. She was grateful for them. Her end was near she knew, but at least that would bring an end to the discomfort. Bo had been gone four days now, and Lydia had felt too bad to eat for the past two days. Her belly felt very, very heavy and at least some of her friends had gotten away from this terrible place. That brought her some comfort and maybe, if a little bit of luck found her, she could die among the few of her companions that were left with her. That would be better, she was sure, than being loaded onto one of the big box trucks, that took horses away and never brought them back. She was sure, that the poor animals on those trucks were going no place good. Lydia turned her head just enough to eye the young mare and her new foal that had had sense enough to stay behind her for the whole of the terrifying day.  

They were so delicate, the pair of them. The new mother was young. No more than four. Her gray coat was still very dark, a dappled steel gray. Her new filly was bay, with a small white star on her forehead and one sock on her left hind. The new mother whuffled softly at her delicate two day old baby. The foal nickered back and nuzzled her mother’s side. They didn’t deserve to be in this place, these two bright souls, the Belgium mare thought. Sighing heavily she turned back around and let her head hang. She doubted she would ever move from the spot where she was standing now. It hurt too much to move.

The dawn that broke over the nine horses, hours later, was a kaleidoscope of colors, pinks and purples and golds. It was a glorious display and as the sun rose higher, the light grew brighter, glaringly bright. Zeus, Milton, Jack, SideShow and Mystic were restless, still. HyperGold had not moved and neither had Lydia. Breathing was an effort and the big mare all but panted.  Still behind her, Zara whickered softly, a sound of encouragement, Lydia recognized. The dark gray mare, eased carefully around the big Belgium, touching the other mare’s shoulder with her nose as she did. She moved toward the nearest hay ring, her small foal stayed close by her side.  Lydia didn’t lift her head, but the gesture warmed her.

Lydia heard the vehicle, pull up to the squat building outside the falling down fences. It was the time of day that the young man who was always frowning arrived, so she didn’t look up. Feed troughs were set up right by the fences, so the man with the pulled down face, didn’t actually have to come into the paddock to feed. Lydia heard the feed hitting the bottom of the troughs as the man came to feed the stragglers, but Lydia made no effort to join her eight companions. She was not hungry. Within her swollen belly, the foal kicked violently, causing the mare to groan softly. She was suddenly sure she was carrying a colt, a strong one too. It was too bad, the big mare thought, that he would never get to see such a glorious morning, or any morning for that matter. She was so lost in her thoughts and her misery that she did notice the frowning man approaching her, until he’d nearly made it to her side. She looked up only when he cursed vehemently as he became momentarily mired in a particularly sticky patch of mud.

“This is a God forsaken place!” he declared with a growl and then stumbled into Lydia’s big, broad shoulder as he freed his foot. She grunted softly and found that she still had the energy to be curious. The frowning man, who had collar length hair, the color HyperGold’s, copper-sorrel coat had something in his hand and a curious collection of straps draped over his shoulders.

“So what in the hell happened to that leggy gray and the one eyed pony?” the man asked her, as he began doing something with the two small things in his right hand. She wasn’t sure what to make of his tone. He didn’t actually sound angry. Just vaguely amused. “They jump these ratty fences? Probably,” he answered his own question. Lydia realized that the things in his hand were syringes. He was taking the caps off of them.

“Don’t see how these place holds a damn thing. You could step right over the fences, big girl.” He said just before he jabbed one of the syringes into her hip. She barely felt the prick.  

“This place ain’t nothing like a cattle yard,” he shook his red mane as he administered the second shot. “Poor, poor, poorly run.” He continued to shake his head as he massaged the area he had administer the shots in. Then he sighed heftily and heaved the mass of straps over her shoulders.

“You got a ride outta this hell, big girl, if you’ll just hang on for a bit longer.”

Lydia lifted her head slightly. What was he saying? “Don’t think there’s much that can be done for you…but,” he began spreading the straps out over her back. He ordered them so that a series of buckled ends, hung in an orderly manner down her sides, “Your baby, they might save it.”

He moved around to her other side and began fastening the buckles. The foal kicked again, and the man actually chuckled. “Yea…” he drawled, “They may save it.” And in a gesture that Lydia would have never thought the man capable of, he caressed her swollen belly very, very carefully, where he had seen the foal kick. With all the buckles fastened, the big mare felt a micron of relief from the pain that had plagued her. She didn’t feel quite so much like her spine were about to be pulled in half.

“Just wait till the pain meds kick in,” and then leaving her side he squelched to the nearest hay ring and ripped an arm load out of the bail, and squelching back to Lydia’s corner he deposited it in front of her. “Eat,” he ordered. “Pegasus Horse Rescue will be here in about half an hour to pick you up.”

Lydia took a mouth full and chewed out of sheer surprise. Her foal, her foal might have a chance after all. “I called every damned rescue, in Canada last night, for you by the way,” he grumbled, before stomping back toward the gate, and she thought she heard him say as he squished away. “I ain’t sentimental,” as though trying to convince himself that that were true, “But damn, these animals at least deserve proper vet care.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++

In his pocket, Oliver Weston’s Iphone buzzed.  He leaned his muck rake against the stall wall and fished it out of his pocket. He looked at the number flashing across the screen. “Henry,” Oliver observed aloud before answering the call.

“Hello?”

“Ollie!” Henry crowed in his deep accent.

Oliver suppressed a chuckle.

“You gotta, gotta check out Pegasus Horse Rescue’s BookFace page!” Henry spat in an enthusiastic rush.

“Book face?” Oliver repeated slowly, mystified.

“Yea, Book face!”

Oliver pulled his phone away from his ear, gave it a look and then put it back to his head as inspiration struck him. “Do you maybe mean Face Book?”

“Aye! Face Book! That…. social…. media…. sight,” he said the words slowly, clearly unfamiliar with saying such outload, “That all the young lads and lasses like.”

“Okay,” Oliver chuckled.

“Pegasus Horse Rescue. Check it out right now!” And the call abruptly ended. Oliver shook his dark head and laughed a little more, but not one to disobey an order by someone he respected he immediately pulled up his Facebook page on his phone. His new profile photo was him posing with his new horse, the big black Shire Bo. He searched for the page that Henry had indicated. When it came up the smile that spread, across Oliver’s face could have brightened a stormy day, with its intensity. He recognized the animal in the photo that was with the latest post immediately. His eyes blurred, and he blinked them so that he could read the post out loud.

Across the aisle from the stall Oliver was cleaning, Bo’s enormous head was hanging over his door. He was watching his new owner intently. The big horse could feel the man’s sudden rush of joy and he was very, very curious.

Oliver took a deep breath and began.

“Lydia is indeed a miracle mare. One week after the delivery of her foal and surgery she is doing well. Few mares with Lydia’s condition survive, but her prognosis, now, is very good. Her foal is a coal black, very bouncing baby boy. He looks to be half Friesian. Mother and son have already been adopted and will be going to their new home, after Lydia is completely healed.”  

Bo whickered softly at Oliver. His friend? His friend the Belgium mare? Oliver sniffing, looked at his horse, and found another huge smile for the questioning look in his new mounts huge solemn eyes.

“I think,” Oliver mused carefully, “That you understood every word I just said.”

That was confirmation enough for Bo. His friend had survived and she had her new baby. The big horse’s ringing neigh filled the rafters of his new barn, and Oliver rolled his eyes in wonder, now beyond certain that Bo had understood him perfectly.


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