My ears twitch at unfamiliar sounds. The foals must be up to mischief. I lift my head and look around. My heart sinks when I realise where I am. No foals. No herd.
I look to where the sound is coming from. I stand and walk to the edge to get a closer look. In a separate pen from me, maybe twenty or so metres away, a palomino mare is running in circles to escape a man. He’s got a saddle pad in his hands and even from here, you can tell he’s exhausted. So, I’m not the only one being held captive.
I keep looking around, mapping out the area. They must be serious in the horse industry because from what I can see, this place is huge. Behind me is a massive stable but I can’t see in it with the doors closed. Then there’s a hay shed. Our two training pens and then paddocks. Open, beautiful paddocks with a long dirt road split up the middle. So many unfamiliar sounds and smells assault my senses.
Something rustles behind me and I jump. A person is replacing the old hay and water from outside the rails. As much as I hate to admit it, excitement perks inside me when I spot an apple. He slips it from his pocket along with a pocket knife and slices it. The fresh pieces fall on top of the hay, begging to be eaten. I watch the man, waiting for him to leave. They don’t deserve the satisfaction of seeing me enjoy this.
The moment he’s gone, I trot over. As I move, I can notice my body is already healing. My muscles barely ache, and my legs aren’t shot with a sharp pain every time I step. Thank you, shifter healing.
It has been years since I’ve eaten an apple. My mouth is beginning to water at the memory of their sweetness. I nudge through the hay to find a piece and for a blessed short moment, I forget where I am. When you’re a human, you take things for granted so much. It’s sad that you never know how special something really is until it’s gone.
Like my family. How could I have even contemplated leaving them for some shifters I had never met? It doesn’t matter that my herd aren’t shifters. I can’t believe I thought I needed something more. When I get out of here, I am getting back to them and never leaving.
My stomach is finally full and satisfied. Healing takes a lot of energy source. I shake my head and walk back over to watch the mare. The man is taking a new approach. He’s standing in the centre with his back to her, looking down. It’s a technique to gain a horses’ trust or something. Doubt it’ll work.
To my absolute shock, she walks up to him with slow, hesitant steps. She gets super close before snorting and running away.
“Hey!” I call out. “Palomino!”
She stops and looks over, head tilted in confusion.
“Don’t let them get to you.” I motion my head to the guy who is creeping closer to her.
She looks to her side and flattens her ears to the man. He immediately stops and calmly steps back. I’ll give it to him, he seems to know horses. Even when I was younger and lived as a human, I hated how animals are treated. We should be equals, not slaves. The moment you’re of no use, they toss you to the side.
Their game goes on for another hour or so and the man gets nowhere. Not with me coaching the mare. He doesn’t look frustrated when he finally gives up. Just give it time.
“Thank you,” the mare calls over.
“It’s not a problem. Just keep fighting, I know you got this.”
She tosses her head in agreement and walks towards the water. Stress sweat glistens across her coat.
How can I leave without trying to rescue her too? I’m not going to be that selfish to walk away and let be broken and most likely sold.
I turn around and keep looking around, analysing for the best route out of here. First, I need to get out of this pen…As much as I hate to admit it, I must wait until they decide to move me. Then I need to wait until the mare is out of the pen at the same time also. Shit this isn’t going to be easy.
A familiar voice catches my attention. That white stallion. I snap my head in his direction; he’s walking with another horse, riders on top.
“Hey!” I yell and get as close as I can. He ignores me.
“Hey! White boy!”
He turns his head and looks at me, his friend horse looking between us in confusion.
“I don’t care what you think is okay to do. But I think I’ve already got a pretty good idea of happens here.” I stamp at the ground, my anger unable to be contained. “Kidnapping free horses and breaking them to their will? How are you just standing there, being told what to do? Knowing that horses like her,” I motion to the mare who’s oblivious to the drawn attention, “are going through a traumatic experience?”
He’s been silent the whole time as they walk the path closer, keeping his eyes trained on me.
“Have you no self-respect?”
“You stop right now,” snaps the light bay gelding beside him. “Lucien is our leader for a reason.”
“It’s okay,” he reassures the horse. He keeps staring at me but speaks to his guard dog. “He’s just scared. We all were at first.”
I snort. “I’m getting out of here. I promise you.”
They continue walking, looking ahead as they pass, not uttering one word.
Oh, how I’d love to smear dirt in that pretty little coat of yours. Leader my ass. Cyrus is a leader; a true stallion. Lucien would back down in seconds if he were challenged by Cyrus. Thinking about him makes my heart ache. I’m trying to stop them, but thoughts keep leaking into my mind. ‘What if we don’t get out?’, ‘What if the herd re-homed in a new, unknown location?’, and ‘What if I don’t know the way back?’. I shake my head and dust falls from my dark mane. Thoughts like these will only slow me down.
I pace the small arena, completely healed of my injuries by mid-day. Round and round I walk, getting lost in my own mind. I didn’t even notice the woman approach the pen until I heard the clang of something against steel. My hooves stop in place and I look over my shoulder. She’s swinging her body through the bars, a carrot in hand. So, it begins then.
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