When horse healer, Silena and her mother arrive at an auction house, Silena is stunned to see so many terrified horses at risk of been sold to the slaughter house.
Silena spies a traumatized stallion at the auction and fall in love with the horse. but she needs to convince her mother to bid for the amazing stallion that could changer her life forever.
“Nine hundred! Do I hear nine hundred?” the auctioneer’s voice rang out above the noise of the crowd gathered in the sales arena. Standing around a circular pen the onlookers watched as a pretty grey filly cantered around the pen, her head held high. A young woman standing near Mum and I, held up a card with a number on it. “That’s nine hundred to the lady in the blue coat,” the auctioneer said, nodding to the woman. “Do I hear any more?”
I looked at the grey filly. Her dark eyes were fearful, her muscles were tense. I didn’t like horse sales. The horses always seemed so bewildered. I tried to imagine what it must be like for them… “Any more bids ladies and gentlemen?” the auctioneer called. There was no response. He paused and then raised his hammer. “Going, Going, Gone!” I glanced at the woman. She was smiling. I hoped that she would give the filly a good home.
“Next we have lot 122,” the auctioneer said as the pen gate was opened and the filly led out. Seeing the next horse I suddenly felt sick. “I need to get some fresh air” I told Mum. She nodded “Ok, Silena, I’ll meet you by the trailer in half an hour.” I pushed my way through the crowd. Reaching the entrance I walked outside and breathed in deep gulps of the damp March air. It was a relief to be outside, away from all the shouting and the scared horses. Mum had come here to see if there were any horses that were in need of our family’s help. I just wanted to take them all home.
I walked over. A brown and white skewbald pony was looking over the gate of the first pen. I stroked her nose and fed her a sugar cube from my pocket before moving on. There were so many horses and ponies to look at. Young and old, all different shapes and sizes from a tiny black Shetland pony to a handsome bay hunter. As I walked towards the back of the barn I saw a group of three men standing around a pen, their arms crossed. “Unwarranted,” I heard one of the men say, shaking his head. I went closer. I couldn’t see which horse they were talking about.
“Pity, he’s a good looking animal.” The third man said, going up to the gate for a closer look. “And young too. Feed him up a bit and you could get a good price for him.” There was a clatter of hooves. I caught a glimpse of a flaming red chestnut coat and heard a clang of metal as the horse threw himself at the pen gate. All three men jumped back in alarm. “Vicious brute!” the first man yelled “Go on! Get Back with You!” the horse shot back into his pen. “The slaughter house it the only place for that thing” one of the men muttered before the men moved away and I got my first look at the horse inside.
He was beautiful. A chestnut with a dirty flaming red coat, a white star on his forehead and a tangled red mane and tail. His ribs stuck out and there were deep grooves in his quarters, but the look in his eyes were so full of pride and spirit that it seemed to make him glow with energy. He looked around, daring the world to come near him. My eyes went to the card on his door. There was no name just the words:
Lot 247: 16.2h.h. Stallion. 9 years old. Sold Unwarranted.
I looked at the horse again. I felt drawn to him, to his fire, to his spirit. “I wouldn’t go near that one, honey,” a voice said behind me. I swung around, one of the men who’d been by the Chestnut’s pen had seen me standing there and had come back over. “He’s vicious.” I hesitated and then looed back at the beautiful chestnut stallion. He had tried to attack the men – I’d seen it. But was he really vicious? He looked so beautiful.
I scanned his face; he eyes were large and set high on his face.Intelligent eyes, proud eyes.The words sprung to mind as I remembered everything Mum had been teaching me about reading horses’ faces. I could hear her voice in my head:
“If a horse is behaving badly then look at his face. Do his features tell you he’s mean and aggressive? If not then look for another reason for his behaviour. He may be in pain, he may be scared or he may be simply misunderstood.”
I started to look more closely at the shape of the Stallion’s features. His wide forehead signalled intelligence. His long narrow ears suggested he might be temperamental; he had large defined nostrils – another sign of intelligence. And just above his nostrils was a bump. That, combined with his high-set proud eyes suggested he was a horse who needed to be treated with respect. Everything about the nameless horse suggested he was intelligent and proud. He was stubborn, but not mean. Certainly not vicious.
Just then a beam of sunlight flashed through a broken slat in the barn roof and danced on the stallion’s red coat making him look like he was on fire. His eyes flickered to mine. Suddenly I felt a charge rush through me, and I knew I had to persuade Mum to buy him. “I’ll be back” I told him and, turning, I raced down the aisle.
Mum was still beside the noisy ring. “Hi,” she said, looking round as I pushed my way to her side. When she saw I was out of breath, she frowned “What’s up?” “There’s a horse!” the words burst out of me “We’ve just got to buy him, Mum! We’ve just got to!” Mum looked surprised “Come and see him!” I begged “please!” for a moment, Mum’s eyes scanned mine then to my relief she said “Okay.”
Once we got out of the auction barn, I started to tell Mum about the stallion. “He’s 16.2 hands, a chestnut he’s been sold as Unwarranted and he has a vicious reputation, and it’s likely that he’ll go for meat. But he’s not mean – not deep down, I know he’s not.” “You read his face?” Mum asked, heading down the aisle that led to his pen, I nodded “Wait; till you see him, you’ll see what I mean.”
The chestnut was still at the back of the barn, standing in his pen, his head raised. I watched Mum’s face as she scanned his head. “Potentially stubborn,” she said softly. “But very bright, proud, confident and complex – a horse who needs respect.” “That’s what I thought!” I said in excitement “it’s his eyes and that bump just above his nose.” I looked at her pleadingly “Can we buy him?” “I’m not sure yet.” Her eyes fixed on the stallion, Mum stepped towards the gate. The horses’ ears went back. Mum stopped and turned sideways on to him. She lowered her eyes.
I knew what she was doing. By turning away from him and avoiding eye direct eye contact she was trying to make herself seem as unaggressive as possible. By not walking up to the gate, she was respecting his space and waiting for him to make the first move. The minutes passed. Several people came by the pen, but when they saw the card read “Unwarranted” they walked away again.
Suddenly the chestnut snorted and brought his head down slightly. Mum took a small step away from him. He lowered his head even more and stared at her. “That’s it” she said “Good Boy” he took at step towards her. There was nothing fearful about his movement although his eyes showed wariness. Step by step he moved closer to the gate until her was close enough to put his head over. He snorted again and then reached out with his muzzle and touched Mum’s shoulder. Mum stayed very still for a moment, and then raised her hand and stroked his nose.
“There,” she whispered “You’re not so bad are you?” slowly she backed away. The stallion watched her and in his eyes I saw a glimmer of softness. Mum looked at me. “Yes we can bid for him. He may have some problems, but deep down I think we’ll find a very good horse in there.” I was delighted. “Oh, Mum, That’s great! You really think we can help him?” “No, but I thinkyoucan,” said Mum. I looked at wondering what she meant. “Youfound him Silena,” Mum said “Yousaw something in him that made you look beyond his bad behaviour. If we buy him, I want you to be the one to work with him.” “Me?” I stammered. Mum nodded “We better get ready to start bidding then.”
“And now onto Lot 247,” the auctioneer called “A nine year old chestnut stallion, sold unwarranted.” There was the sound of shouting and the metal gate swung open. The next instant the flaming red chestnut cantered into the ring, urged on by 2 handlers. Seeing the people the stallion stopped dead and pinned his ears back.
One of the handlers headed towards him “Go on!” the man growled, swinging a rope. The chestnut stared at him proudly and then, snaking his head down, he charge the handler. With a yell, the man vaulted over the gate. Stopping with a defiant squeal, the chestnut stamped his front hoof, sending a spray of sand into the air. A murmur of surprise ran through the crowd. The auctioneer cleared his throat “So, Lot 247,” the auctioneer said “as you can see, a spirited horse…” “Vicious more like!” someone from the crowd called. The auctioneer ignored the call. “What will be the first bid?”
The stallion shook his head and squealed again. “Who will start the bidding at six hundred dollars,” the auctioneer said. No one moved. Pinning his ears back the chestnut charged the front row of people. They drew back hurriedly as he thudded into the barrier. “Five hundred?” the auctioneers said “Four hundred and fifty.” His voice was sounding increasingly desperate. I glanced at the little group of meat-men. For once even their hands were still. The stallion was skinny and traumatized.
“Come on, Ladies and Gentlemen,” the auctioneer encouraged “A nice-looking horse like this?” “One Hundred and fifty dollars!” Mum said, her voice ringing out. There was a surprised gasp from the crowd. Everyone turned to look in our direction.
“One hundred and fifty dollars!” the auctioneer exclaimed “any advances on one hundred and fifty dollars? Look at his head Ladies and Gentlemen, there’s breeding in that head – he’d make a lovely horse, just needs some work. You’re not seriously expecting me to sell a horse like this for one hundred and fifty dollars?”
The stallion charged again at the fence and the audience gasped. Seeming to decide that enough was enough, the auctioneer hastily brought up his hammer “Going, Going, Gone!” he said, as he banged the hammer down to close the sale.
It took four handlers to get the stallion out of the ring and back in his pen. Mum went to the office and paid and we fetched a halter from the trailer. “I want you to try and put the halter on him” Mum said as we walked to the pen “Just do what I did before.” “When do I put that halter on?” I asked “When you feel he’s ready.” Answered Mum. The stallion was standing at the back of his pen, his body tense. We stopped a couple of meters away from the gate. He stared at us and then snorted. It was as though he recognized us.
I did as Mum had done before. Within ten minutes the horse had come o the gate and was standing with his nose to my shoulder. “Here,” Mum said, slipping a small tin into my free hand.
It was a tin of her special powder that she made from herbs and old bits of chestnut – the horny growths on the inside of the horses’ legs. I’d seen her use with new horses many times, it calmed them down. Moving slowly, not to alarm the stallion, I eased of the lid of the tin and rubbed some of the gritty grey powder onto my palms, and then I held them out to the stallion. He snuffed at them then lifting his muzzle to my face, he breathed out softly, and then lowered his head.
Slowly I slipped the halter on and fastened it to his head. All the time his dark eyes watched me, but he accepted my touch. I unbolted the gate. “We’re going to take you home now” I said “Ask him to come with you, Silena, don’t tell him. He’s got to feel you respect him. If he feels that, I’m sure he’ll do what you want.” Mum advised.
“Shall we go to the trailer?” I asked the stallion. He looked at me for a long moment with unblinking dark brown eyes and then he took a step forward and followed me out of the pen. As we walked up the aisle, people stared at us, clearly everyone was astonished by the change in him. Smiling to myself I led the stallion back to our trailer. Without hesitating the stallion followed me up the ramp and inside. “Well done” Mum said, putting up the ramp as I jumped out the jockey door.
“So what are you going to name him?” Mum asked. I thought about it for a moment. Then I suddenly remembered how the sun danced along his coat, making him look like the flames of a golden fire and I knew what to call him.
“Phoenix,” I replied “Golden Phoenix.”