Penny, a 13 year-old red chestnut Belgian carriage horse, lay on a sidewalk in New York City. She was dying.
Just moments earlier, a motorist had slapped their hand against their car – honking and yelling for her to get out of the way.
Frightened, Penny reared, lost her footing against the curb and fell, breaking her leg and going into shock.
Cars sped by, people gathered, gawking as she gently moved her legs as if swimming. Metal shod hooves, hoping to find purchase on solid ground, met only air.
Haltered, she strained to raise her head, amber eyes staring at a forest of legs - cloying human trees – the sky behind them clouded by their hulking forms.
Her lips trembled, her tongue lolled to taste the bitter, dry, hard pavement. She cocked her ears, listening. Horns blared, voices drifted, in the distance a siren wailed.
Someone laughed and kicked her.
A kick, the command to go.
She flinched, trying to raise herself, her legs flailing in a silent aerial ballet. One foreleg dropped to the street; her strength powerless to the task.
“Stop that! Get outta here!” a voice screamed. Commotion laced fingers with grunts and whimpers, and eddied about her, terrifying her.
Someone stroked her forehead. “Easy girl, settle…easy.” The voice calmed her and she sighed. Hot breath, laced with the smell of oats and alfalfa escaped her failing lungs.
Penny’s mind drifted, back to the voice and gentle stroke. It reminded her of her mother’s nuzzle when she was a filly. She closed her eyes, it was dark, frightening and she quickly reopened them.
“Oh help, I fell down and can’t get up,” someone mocked in a falsetto voice.
“Stop it! Leave her alone!”
“Oh my! Oh dear! Poor creature. Someone do something.”
The voices spun in her ears. Her heart raced.
“Whoa, easy girl.” She eased and laid her head on the street.
A bird flew over to perch near her head. Its wings fluttered a breath against her muzzle. It cooed and she thought of the meadow where she had birthed her own colt, Levi, and wondered about him.
Handsome, muscular, strong with a beautiful coat like her own. She exhaled thinking of him, bucking, kicking, and running wild behind a fence as he chased the trailer that hauled her away from him. Behind the bared windows, she had whinnied and he whinnied back in kind, running chasing, anxious, forever gone, forever lost.
“You’ve been a good girl.” A hand patted her neck and she felt a slight prick, like that of an insect bite. She wanted to shy away from the prick, as she had been taught.
Give to the pressure, give to the bit, give to the reins, give to the whip, the crop, the legs, the slightest shift of weight in the saddle…give your heart, give your best…give.
And she had given and she was a good girl. “A pretty girl, a lovely well-mannered trotter, a perfect carriage horse,” people said. “We love her.”
Her heart had been encouraged and she learned to bend at the poll, lift her feet and extend forward at a smooth, clomping sweet, bucolic gait. She delighted in the praise and it shimmered in her eyes.
Their words had been a balm; precious remarks that somehow cleaned the toxic air inches from her bent head and helped to distil the sky of alien sounds. Simple words humbly received.
Penny loved Central Park with its trees and patches of lawn. It showed in her steps, her countenance her essence. But it is here where the passing motorist had frightened her. It was here where she now lay, dying.
“Easy girl” a voice soothed.
She felt several people petting her. “We love you, Penny,” someone said. She moved her feet in response, but more slowly this time, stiffly not at all, as she had learned, as she had always done so freely before.
She closed her eyes, the dark no longer frightening, but restful as at night in her stall. Her breathing relaxed. The hard concrete eased against her body. A white winged horse in a golden bridle flew from the sky. Green sparks burst from its golden hooves as they struck the ground beside her. The white horse gently nickered, nuzzling her forehead.
The traffic noise faded. “You’re a good girl, Penny. We love you.”
“We love you,” the final words sounding in her ears.
“The righteous man regards the life of his beast.” Proverbs 12:10
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