Monday, 1 November 2010

The Silver Stallion (cont)

Last year I put a children's story for Christmas - chapter one, in the blog so now I think it is about time for chapter two! The story has recently been serialised in the Spanish Horse magazine Pura Raza but if you have missed it here it is:-


Galloping in the sun

Danilon found himself again in a small enclosure - this time not the sanctuary of his birth that he had shared with his beloved Jetetita but a lonely cramped place. Here he wheeled helplessly around the edge with his fellow colts, pressed together and calling frantically. They could still just see the dust move where their mothers had galloped beyond the slamming gates. The gates that barred them from following them back to the place of their birth, the place to which they would never return, a part of their lives that had gone forever.
As the day drew on they remembered their hunger and with that they started to feel thirsty so still tightly pressed together they started to explore the tiny coral and the view to a new world around them. They still called for their dams but with less and less hope until they found a water trough and pushed unsteadily forward to drink. With the cool water came fresh hope and they whinnied hopefully once again but their brief optimism was soon dashed and eventually they fell silent sweat in the mounting heat of the sun.
Carlos returned, a slight crouching old man, wily in the ways of horses, to shake a few Oats into a manger and throw some Lucerne on to the floor. Carlos would be their guardian for the next years as they grew, always watching with his bird like eyes as he over saw their lives, artfully manipulating their habits, mostly to suite Carlos but for now the colts were Grateful and tentatively started to feed and take stock of their number – they were the same as before, the little band of colts that had played so happily all summer but now they had no mares to mother them and give them milk and guard their sleep - now they were now alone in the world.
They would grow and become horses together as time went on, roaming the far fields until they were three but for now they started to learn about the world of men.
First the headcollar, fitted over their unwilling ears; this evil thing that dragged them to and fro against their will ………..and then the branding.
In years to come, Danilon swore he had always had the mark of the mighty S he bore on his quarters. The mark that joined him to this place forever, burned into his skin with a hot iron. Perhaps it was kinder that he wiped it from his memory for ever and had no clear memory of that day for as he huddled with his half brothers after his ordeal, he decided never to think of it again.
With the next day came Carlos - and with the next day the gate was opened and they were pushed quietly through, to follow a horse and rider (for now they could see that they were indeed two beings) - spreading out, hesitant and snorting, as the men drove them up a stony path (for surely the world new no bounds) that gradually led them up into the hills………and then the men were gone leaving them quite alone with just a gentle breeze touching their skin.
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The biggest chestnut colt Diablo always so sure of himself, always boasting that his mother was queen of the herd because she wore the silver bell around her neck, hung back now and let the others take the lead. Danilon found himself beside his usual companion Doncel, a gentle clever fellow with a coat already greying and together they moved tentatively forward. They quickly found a little path through the rocks with the warm breeze moving behind them and started to climb higher and higher up the hillside until they reached a little plateau with sparse tufts of vegetation. As they snatched hungrily at mouthfuls of the dry scrub, they settled to take stock of the situation. Below them shimmered the plain dotted with the silver Olive trees, above a blue sky so big and clear it could have stretched forever but dropped instead to the jagged peaks of the Pyrenees - Was that the place they had come from in the distance below? No more that a dot now, fading at dusk, just as the memories of their past life slowly faded away. Were those the mountains they were to cross one day to meet their future? For this was one of the secrets that their mothers had whispered to them. Over the months to come they would always look to the mountains, smelling the cool clear air that sometimes came across the plain and would eventually bring the chill wind of winter and they would shiver a little at the though of crossing the high peaks.
Sleep came uneasily to the little band of colts, as they pressed together under the stars that first night, sharing the comfort and warmth of each others presence. Peering fearfully into the darkness, Danni thought he heard Jeletita’s voice floating into his consciousness as if born on the breeze "Danni my dear, when you are alone, look at the stars and remember me for I shall always be with you. Follow the wind and it will show you where to go and with each day you will grow tall and strong" and comforted at last he slept a little, propping his legs to doze where he stood.
With the dawn came a new confidence. Were did the paths go? Little tracks made by generations of horses guided them through those first few days. Exploring and feeding they developed a rhythm to their days. They remembered the whispered secrets from their dams "You must follow the wind and race it to the sun if you are to grow tall" and they would all set off in a dizzying race until they could race no more. And they grew bigger and stronger learning to pick their way carefully over the rocky ground; compete in mock battles rearing and plunging in an effort to wrestle their brothers to the floor or grabbing at that tender spot just behind the knees like naughty school boys tickling the arm pits of a friend. They would sometimes dropping to one knee themselves, grasping their rival by the neck to trick their friend before spinning away to start all over again. Tired at last, they would settle to roll idly in the rich red dust. There could be a penance to be paid to the loser of these games of course – he may have to walk behind for a day or two after he had lost or only drink the water after the winner but generally they were a happy good humoured lot that hung together through sunshine or rain. Sometimes they tried the dances of the young stallions, the lofty passages of floating trots that stallions performed for the mares – although as yet they could see none. "Look at me look at me" one would cry as he set off in a shaky dance – head raised and neck arched in mock bravados. But the long uncoordinated limbs that always seemed to change would not carry them for long before they lost their balance and descended to a clumsy trot to the mirth of their brothers.
With the winter each year, came the cold and finally they would move reluctantly back down the hillside towards the man place, driven by some instinct and as if by magic on those days that the hunger bit, they would spot Carlos’s old battered pick up bringing them food; the plume of dust showing them his progress across the plain. Then they would while away the days picking at the food that Carlos brought for them and watching the things that horses watch.
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They were not alone of course. They shared their home with the angry black fighting bulls that they watched warily from as far away as possible. One day Doncel had surprised a cow and her calf as he had skipped happily around a blind corner and had paid a price as she charged at the surprised young colt, tearing a deep wound into his quarters with her vicious horns. Doncel limped miserably behind the group for the many days and Danilon fell back to keep him company in the weeks that it took to heal. "Come on I will scratch you neck – you are bound to feel better" but Doncel miserably thought it didn’t help a bit – but was kind enough not to tell Danni.
Sometimes they would watch the men and horses working with the bulls melting away into the rocks on the secret paths they were convinced that only they knew. They marvelled at the courage and agility of these gaucho horses, how proud, how strong – one day they would do that and arch their necks high.
And as the second summer in the great pasture came to a close, a cold wind blew again from the Pyrenees and they shivered a little and wondered what lay beyond the mountain that they were destined to travel beyond. At last driven by hunger they made there way down into the valley for the last time to see if Carlos and his pick up truck would come.
Carlos had been waiting for some days, watching the sky and feeling the cool of the autumn slip toward winter, for surely it was time. And sure enough towards dusk on the third day he spotted the three year old colts picking their way down from the hillside, just as the wily old Spaniard had taught them to do - though they did not realise it.
He would come back in the morning when the colts grew hungrier and more compliant and so for now he left just enough food in the waiting racks and troughs to keep the young colts there, hoping for more with the morning.
For now Carlos had a new plan for them. …………..

This was to be their last night of complete freedom under the stars in the company of their brothers. To feel the warmth of their neighbours next to them; to enjoy the social scratching of their scrubby manes and tails as they stood nose to tail in earnest effort, teeth clicking gently over their companions coat in gentle half circles. Colts become stallions and their fights become more earnest as they grow stronger so generally they must live alone unless lucky enough to have their own herd of mares of course. So it was a very special time together that Danilon and Doncel dozed happily side by side, as they had so often done. The faint silver light of the moon shone gently on the two colts as they stood amongst their brethren – Doncel now heavily flecked with white over his head and shoulders, with the jagged scar marring his flanks and Danilon with the tell tail disks of silver that mark the dapple grey, breaking through the Iron grey coat almost like the stars overhead. And this night marked the end of their fragile freedom to gallop in the sun and race the wind. For now they would again join the world of men and this time, it was for a more serious journey. A journey that would take them beyond the mountain and that was Carlos’s plan.

P.S I have one up my sleeve for Christmas!!