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Horse Whisper

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Horse Whisper

I wake up as I always do; to the dull thunder as the door to my stall is pulled aside, and the soft thump of my breakfast landing beside my head. I perk up my ears, listening to the others around me grunt as they roll over. I hear their bones creak as they stand and their teeth grind against each other as they start chewing.
As the scent of sweet hay fills my nose, I pull my legs out from under me and stand up, then stretch my neck down to my food. I eat the good bits first, picking out the strands of hay with my lips, leaving the dusty parts for last. Once all of it is gone, and I’ve drunk all of the water I want from my bucket, I notice that I don’t feel quite right. My feet feel heavy, and I can’t feel the ground beneath them.
I remember. I remember that yesterday, a man came to see me. He picked up each of my feet for a long time. The air smelled like rotting food and something burning, and he put metal shoes on my feet. What a silly thing to do. Now I feel so much heavier.
I turn to look out my window, but I don’t know exactly where my hooves are going, and I thump one into the wall, hard. The noise makes me jump.
The black head of the mare in the stall next to me whips up, hay hanging from her lips. She pins her ears back and looks right at me, wide eyed. The way she looks, it feels like it’s started raining, and the drops are only hitting me on the side of my head closest to her. I step away and put my head down, trying not to look at her.
“Watch it, boy!” She snaps, tossing her head back.
“I’m sorry.”
“I don’t need some fancy show horse disrupting my morning!”
“I’m sorry,” I repeat.
She makes a huff sound and turns back to her food, but I can still see her ears pinned. I can still feel the rain.
“Leave him… alone.” The gelding across from us says in-between bites of hay. “He’s just… a lad.”
“Sat out of my business, Scout!” She stomps the ground, but continues to eat. I take a step towards her, careful about where I put my hooves. I look at her quickly. She’s older, and her fur is dull. Her ears have stayed pinned back, and her eyes are wide and dark.
This is the kind of horse I do not want to be around. But she is my new neighbor, since she was moved into the stall next to me, so I’ll have to deal with her.
“Whatever, Flower…” The gelding, Scout, says. “Just eat your… breakfast.” The mare, Flower, whinnies back. Scout looks at me through the bars of our stalls. “Hello, lad,” he says. He has a playful look to him.
It stops raining on my face.
He finishes chewing his food, swallows deeply, and nickers. “What’s your name, lad?”
“Age. I’m called Age.”
“Are you a show horse? Do you have a show horse name?”
“Yes!” I say proudly, holding my head up a little higher. “I jump, and my girl, she calls me Aegaeon sometimes. Aegaeon is my show name.” I picture my girl in my head, and when I think of her, I taste sugar cubes.
Scout glances out his window. “I had a boy, once. But we didn’t jump, and he only ever called me Scout.”
Soon after our chat, the men come by the stalls, reaching in and taking out each of the horses. Flower and Scout are both taken out before me. I am watching Scout’s white tail swish in the isle way when a hand reaches in for me. I flinch away from it, but the hand follows me, grabbing my halter and yanking my head down. My body stiffens as the hand, and the man attached to it, pulls me forward. I do not like this hand, the way it holds my so tight, but everyone else is acting so calm, so I do not fight as the man leads me out of the barn, towards the pastures.
When we are taken outside, the mares all go one way, into one pasture, and the geldings go another way, past the tractor and into the field with the trees at the entrance. But the men are taking us to the pasture with the mares.
“No!” I protest, turning my head away, trying to look back in the direction of the other pasture. “This is the wrong way!” I stamp my feet, I shake my body, I try to be as loud as I can, but the man doesn’t hear me. He just jerks on my head and leads me forward.
I see flower looking back at me, pinning her ears.
I feel the rain on my face again.
“Why are you following us!” she shouts.
“I don’t mean to!” I cry back.
“Go away!” she nickers as they lead her past the gate. Next, they bring in Scout, and then, finally, they put me in, and slam the gate before I can stop them.


They walk away. They can’t hear me calling to them; they can’t hear any of the other geldings they put in with me.
The men have left us here.
I turn around, and see a wall of mares staring at us. Some of the other geldings back away, but I stay right where I am. The shoes on my hooves feel so heavy; I don’t think I can move. I can’t go anywhere. I have to stay right here, by the gate, and wait.
Flower steps towards me. “You’re not supposed to be here.”
“It’s not my fault!” I explain, but she doesn’t listen. She lashes out, baring her teeth, the look in her eyes so wild I wouldn’t believe that she was a tame horse. Her teeth latch onto my skin, just behind my shoulder, and I bolt, running between two other mares who curse and yell in surprise. The two mares and flower, along with whoever else decided to follow them chase after me. It doesn’t feel like it’s raining anymore, it feels like it’s snowing. I feel numb. The ground feels unsteady, shifting and sliding.
My hooves are too heavy. I’m tripping over my feet and slipping on the dirt.
But I love to run, so I just run. I pick my feet up a little higher and bring them down a little harder, and soon I’m running along quick and steady, and the mares are falling behind, and when I finally look back, I see flower at the bottom of the hill I’ve just climbed. She stops. I can see her sides heaving and hear her breathing. It’s quick and harsh sounding.
And then she turns to go.
And it stops snowing, and it stops raining, and my hooves don’t feel very heavy any more.

I go back to the gait, where Scout and the other geldings are all standing around. The mares are far away now, but they’ve left bite marks and bruises from kicks on many of us. I don’t understand mares. I mean, I’ve met nice mares, and I’ve met mean geldings, but mean mares are the worst. They’re worse than stallions.
I stand by Scout, and listen to the others talk to each other, flicking my ears back and forth between their different conversations. Some talk about the mares, others about the weather, and others about their training. I hear one of them say that he was ridden early this morning, and it makes me think of my girl.
When I imagine her, and how she feels on my back, and how it feels when she rubs me between my ears, I forget about the pain of the cut on my side, or how horrible my morning has been, or how uncomfortable my hooves are. I just nicker excitedly, and toss my head.
The men come back to get us, sooner then they usually would, so they must’ve figured out their mistake.
“I told you,” I say, as one of them takes my halter and leads me away.
When we get into the barn, all of the other geldings are put in their stalls, but I am put in the crossties: two ropes attached to the walls, hooked onto either side of my halter.
A man comes to me, one I have not met before. He bushes me gently, and wipes the blood off of my side and cleans the cut out. He brushes my mane and tail; he even takes a cloth and wipes off my face. But he doesn’t speak to me, or pet me, other than patting my rump when he steps behinde me. He’s so quite, I’m surprised when he sets the saddle on my back, and when he straps on the girth. He does it quick and tight, and I jump a little.

“Whoa!” He shouts, slapping my neck, and tightening the girth some more.

“It’s too tight!” I try to tell him, but he shoves the bit in my mouth and straps on my bridle without listening to me.

“Wait!” I yell as he leads me forward. I start to panic. This is not right; this is not how it should be. “You’re not my girl! You’re not supposed to ride me! You’re not!” I scream it, but he doesn’t hear. No matter how loud I am to the rest of the world, to the men I am not even a whisper.

He jumps on my back as soon as we’re in the arena, and kicks my sides hard. I jolt forward, but he yanks back on my face, and I realize that the bit in my mouth is not the right bit. This one pinches my tongue and bumps the roof of my mouth. I slow down, and when he kicks me again, I go forward, looking around me, trying to figure out what he wants. I see jumps set up, high ones, higher than my girl and I do. He kicks my right side, and I break into a canter, trying to do exactly as he says, but I’m not sure what he’s asking, because he tells me to go forward, and then pulls me back, and then tells me to go forward, and then pulls me back.

My mouth feels so sore.

My feet feel heavy.

It feels like it’s raining on my face, pouring.

This goes on for a while before we jump. I get over the first one, but as soon as we land he pulls back on my face hard. We go over another one, and he does the same thing. On the third one, I’m ready for it. I pull my head back when we’re in mid air so he can’t yank so hard, but my back feet nock the pole, and it falls to the ground, banging and rolling across the dirt.

Something hits my rump, hard and sharp. It feels like the bite on my side.

We go forward again, and I do as he says as best I can, but I just want my girl. I want her to be on my back, I want her to change my bit, to loosen my girth, to not kick me and confuse me. I just want her to make it better.

I see her. I see her, opening the door and walking into the barn, smiling, looking over at me.

“Hello!” I call out, lifting my head high and looking at her so she can see me.

She stops smiling.

The man pulls my head forward, and a jump appears in front of me. It’s too close; I’m not ready for it. My feet are too heavy.
I jump, and it hits my knee, and I fall.

I fall hard.


I hear people yelling. The saddle and bridle come off. Some one takes away the poles from around me. I don’t know where the man is, but I don’t care, because when I look up, I see my girl, sitting next to me, saying my name over and over and over again.
“Age, Age, oh, Age.”
“Make it better,” I whinny to her as she puts a halter on my head and stands up. She pulls on my head, and then some one else comes, and they are both pulling. I bring my front leg out from under my body, and I scream.
“It hurts!” I tell them. “I can’t stand, it hurts!”
My girl hears me. My girl always hears me. She stops pulling, says something to the other people, and kneels next to me, kissing the top of my head and rubbing me right between the ears, and it feels so good. She gives me peppermints, and apples, but all of these good things do not make my leg feel better. Eventually, after someone comes over and pinches my neck, it stops hurting so much, but I’m shaking, and I know I can’t stand. I couldn’t stand for anything, not even my girl.
She looks so sad about this. “I’m sorry,” I tell her, but that doesn’t seem to help.
We stay like that for a while. People walk around and talk, but all of the horses in the barn are silent. I can’t see them from where I’m lying, but I can feel that they are looking towards me. They know something’s wrong, and they seem scared. I’m too tired to be scared. Besides, my girl is here. I don’t need to be scared with her here.
The other people stop talking and step away from me all at once, all except for my girl, and a new man who’s coming towards me. I’ve had too many new people today, so I try to move away from him, but I can’t. When he gets close enough, though, I see his eyes.
He doesn’t have the eyes of a man. He has the eyes of a horse.

He touches me all over my body, and finally, he touches my leg. It hurts, it’s starting to hurt more and more, like it’s been crushed, like all of the mares are stepping on it or biting it. It feels like it’s snowing on it, too.

“It hurts!” I try to explain. “Please, make it stop hurting!”

The man stands up, and my girl stands up with him.

My girl, and the man, and two other women stand around, talking.

“No!” I hear her shout. That’s not a good word. “No, no!” She says again, looking down at me, tears streaming from her eyes. One of the women wraps their arms around her, but she nocks them away and sits down next to me. “No, no, no, no, no,” she says, putting her forehead to mine.

“What is it?” I ask, but that makes her cry harder, so I stay quiet. I feel bad for making her sad.

We stay there for even longer this time. All of the other people leave, and it’s just my girl and me. The sun has set; I can see stars out the window. Lights are on in the barn. One of the horses calls out my name. I think it is Scout, but I don’t say anything back. I just look at my girl, as she strokes my cheek, whispering sweet things to me, telling me how good I’ve been, how beautiful I am, how much she loves me.

I feel so heavy. I feel like I’m sinking, like we’re sinking, deep into the ground, the shoes on my hooves puling us down. I wish they’d take off the shoes.

The man with the horse eyes comes back, and sits down next to me as well. He pets my shoulder, saying “good boy.” He looks at my girl. “Ready?”

My girl nods to him, and starts crying again.

I feel a pinch in my neck again, and I feel water on my face from where my girl has cried. I look out the window. It’s night. It’s time to go to sleep. Maybe, when I wake up, my leg won’t hurt; maybe my girl will have fixed it by them.

“I love you, Age,” She says.

My leg stops hurting. I stop sinking. I close my eyes.


When I open my eyes, I’m standing up in a big field. My leg doesn’t hurt, and there is no cut on my side, and my mouth is not sore, and, even better, my girl is on my back. No saddle, or bridle, or halter; just me and her, and green grass and tall trees and sunshine from every direction. There are lots of logs to jump over and streams to cross, lots of hills to run up and hills to run down.

She doesn’t have to ask me to go. I know she wants me to, and I want to, and when I start running, I feel like I’m rising. I realize that I don’t have any shoes on. I don’t worry about falling, about not jumping high enough or not going fast enough, because I just know I am, I am doing it exactly as I should, and I’m loving it. It’s perfect. It’s just perfect. I feel like I’m rolling in the grass and eating peppermints and apples, and jumping and racing and swimming all at once, and my girl is here. She made everything better. I knew she would.



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