Freezing temperatures in late spring had killed budding fruit blossoms and vegetable crops. Then the lack of rain throughout the long hot summer had stunted the growth of grass and reduced hay production by more than half.
By the end of summer many fat animals had dropped down to a normal weight while animals of normal weight had become almost emaciated. Any mare that had given birth during this time fared even worse as the foal further drained her reserves.
Marcy watched her latest foal frolic in the dusty paddock. For most of the day she merely stood in the paddock feeling hungry. She could hear the deer flies buzzing, feel them land on her body, and then feel the pain as they sliced into her thin skin to feed upon her blood. Smaller flies covered her face, drinking from her watery eyes.
Every evening someone tossed a small amount of hay over the fence. “Here’s your hay,” an unfamiliar voice would say. Marcy could never manage to snatch more than a bite before the stronger horses forced her away. She dared not attempt to fight in her weakened condition so she slowly grew leaner, weaker, and hungrier.
As Marcy listened to her pasture buddies munching their hay, she could hear the faint barking of some distant dog. When the lice began crawling from the top of her mane to the tip of her tail she ambled over to a pole on which she could scratch herself. Her hooves ached and she longed for someone to trim them.
Some of her discomfort was eased by the cooling night time breezes. Then the weather began to cool during the day and Marcy could hear the excited birds as they began their migration southward. Soon there was hardly a moment when she did not feel chilled to the bone.
Marcy often wondered where her master had gone. What had happened to him? Had she displeased him in some way? She had tried to apply her mind to learn the lessons he taught her. Whenever he led, she walked quietly and she stopped whenever he did. When told, she stood quietly. She had learned to lunge in the round pen and to carry a rider on her back.
Not only her mind, but her body also belonged to her master and, to his delight, she had given him many foals. She had done her best for her master and now lived with the hope that life would soon change.
One chilly autumn morning Marcy heard a trailer drive onto the farm. Then a halter was slipped over her head as a soft voice said, “Let’s take you where there is enough to eat. “ Approaching the trailer, Marcy could smell the sweet fresh hay awaiting her inside.
After the vaguely familiar wormers, hoof trims, and vet exams, Marcy knew someone was again taking care of her. Still, the best part was the hay, the lovely fresh hay to eat. She could taste the flowers that had been harvested along with the grasses. She could smell the manure of other horses in the barn where she was now sheltered.
Yet again she was loaded on the trailer and after a short ride disembarked to find wonderful green grass to munch. Her eyes widened and the man holding her lead allowed her to graze for a moment. Suddenly she saw another horse, a horse that looked like she had once looked. She called to him, “neigh” (which in equine means, ‘hello, there’).
He responded with a neigh (which in equine means, ‘hello to you, too’). Then as the evening light faded, she was led to a barn and into a stall. It smelled of fragrant western hemlock shavings, deep enough to sink into. She found fresh hay, fresh water, salt and loose minerals awaiting her.
After turnout the next morning, she watched her new friend being lunged. This was a skill she knew and wanting to stay here with the plentiful grass and hay, she calmly walked over to the round pen entrance and stood very still hoping her new master would understand that she would gladly work for a place here.
Her life had changed, her old friends were gone but she had a new friend and enough food to survive. She would continue to do what she had learned; she would faithfully serve a kind and fair master.
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