by
ThunderSpirit
12 Sep 2011


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Posted 12 Sep 2011 03:59
Last edited 12 Sep 2011 04:21
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Two Wishes

What is a body?  Nothing but a collection of hydrocarbons and molecules, mostly water.  Given enough time, science could create a body.  But a soul?  Never.  That has to come from somewhere that is beyond our understanding.

"Blow out your candles and make a wish," I urged my girlfriend.  

Caroline looked depressed, despite the cake I'd purchased.  The two candles- a '4' and a '0'- announced her age.  "Chris, I really don't want to."  

Now I was worried.  She really seemed to be down- for the last two months, as her birthday approached, she'd been moping around, and my upcoming wilderness camping trip had happened to coincide with it- she'd insisted that I go, knowing that I loved hiking alone.  I'd lied to her and told her that I was going, but I'd decided that instead I'd surprise her with a special gift.   "Come on," I said.  "Before they melt."  She halfheartedly blew the candles out.  "Now tell me what you wished for," I pressed.  

Her eyes darted toward the faded photograph that was framed on the wall, the big black horse she'd owned as a child.  "Nothing," she said.  "Nothing."  

I reached across the table and touched her hand- I knew what she wanted.  

***************************************************

The next day I had arranged it all.  I knew absolutely nothing about horses, but I did know how to coordinate and organize things.  I'd rented a stall at a local stable and paid for the first month's board.  A large card was sitting on the stall that read 'Happy Birthday Caroline, your wish came true', I'd taken a cab over so that she wouldn't see my car, and I'd called one of her friends to bring her out on a pretense of seeing her ride.  

There was only one problem.  "Look, you agreed to sell me the horse and deliver it here," I said into the cellphone.

"I've changed my mind- we aren't selling the horse," the voice said, and the line went dead.

I felt utter agony as I stood in the empty stall- Caroline would arrive in a half hour, and no horse.  It would be like a cruel joke, and I couldn't bear the thought of her sadness.  I thought of the black horse in the picture.  I wish I could make her happy-I'd give up everything I am if she could have that horse back.

I felt a sudden dizziness and a cramp in my stomach and doubled over, dropping the phone and gasping for breath.  I tried to call out for help, but there was no one else in the barn.  The hay on the floor seemed to rush up to hit me and I lay there, twitching.  I must have broken something.  My face seems twisted- as if it's growing...  

The world faded to blackness.

*************************************

I felt a hand against my face and woke up, horribly disoriented.  I was lying on the ground, but had too huge an arc of vision.  Everything seemed too small and I realized with a start that I could see my nose- and it was big and covered with black hair.  

Shutting my eyes didn't help.  Opening them again presented the same picture.  Caroline was there, touching my - my face?  She was speaking, but her words sounded like a confusing mumble.  I opened my mouth to ask her to help, but a strange sound came out- it sounded like the neighing of a horse.  

I pushed up with my arms, but they were wrong- they were too long, and my hands were gone, replaced with something hard.  I twisted my head around to an impossible angle as I rose awkwardly to a doglike sitting position, and immediately fell back over, stunned.  I'd somehow become a big black horse, like the one in Caroline's picture.  

Caroline and her friend made some kind of sound- I could tell that they were upset from the tone of their voices, and struggled back to my feet- all four of them.  They began to make soothing sounds and ran their hands across my long neck- I realized I was breathing heavily and tried to calm down.  This is a dream or a hallucination.  I've hit my head, and I'll wake up.  

Caroline's friend made another noise and left the stall.  We were together, alone, and I tried again to talk, but again the neighing came out.  She laughed- I could at least recognize that.  Everything else sounded 'normal'- the trees rustling outside, a barking dog, the sounds of trucks on the nearby highway- why couldn't I understand what she was saying?  

She began to scratch high on my back- my 'withers'- and I realized that it felt pretty good, but I still needed to tell her that it was me, not some horse, so she could get a doctor or call the emergency squad.  "Neeeigh!" I went, and a horse neighed back.  Caroline said something and touched my face, then grabbed my lips and wiggled them back and forth.  

It felt strange, and I pulled back.  I suddenly realized I could wiggle my ears, as I'd twisted them backward when she grabbed my lips.  I wiggled them back and forth, curious at the sensation, and she began to laugh again.  

She opened the door to the stall and stepped out.  I went to follow her, but she pushed on my face, saying something, then slid the door shut.  There were steel bars on the door, all the way up to the top of it's frame, and all around the stall- I began to worry, as I felt trapped.  What if the barn caught fire?  I started to walk around the stall nervously, watching her talk to her friend and wondering what they were saying.  

They both turned and started to walk away.  I tried to call her name, to ask her to stay, to not leave me here in this strange body.  "NEEEIGH!"  She glanced back and said something, then they walked out, leaving me.  


I stood in the stall surveying my new surroundings..  It was big enough, I suppose, but in relation to my size, it was like being locked in an empty bathroom or closet.  There were two buckets attached to the wall, one of which was full of water and the other empty, a rusted metal frame that had once held a salt brick, and a battered plastic milk bottle that hung from the ceiling on a string.  On three sides, there were wood board walls halfway up, from there to the ceiling were steel bars to prevent horses from sticking their head out of the stall.  On the fourth side, there was a concrete wall with a single window, also barred.  The floor was made of concrete, with rubber mats over it; on top of the mats was a layer of wood shavings topped with tan colored straw.  

  It was a warm day, and I was thirsty, so I stuck my mouth in the bucket of water.  Drinking felt strange- I had to sip at the water, not unlike sipping out of a mug, but my now long mouth made the familiar action feel peculiar.  Half the bucket was gone in a minute- I'd drank at least two gallons of water and was amazed.  I put my head in the other bucket, inhaling- there was a faint and pleasant odor, sweet like pancake syrup or molasses, but the last occupant had left nothing in the bucket save the meal's smell.  I realized that there were other odors assaulting my nostrils- I could smell things that I hadn't been able to before, or to an intensity that had been lacking.  There was the smell of cats- at least two or three distinct cats.  I'd always had pet cats, but something now made me uncomfortable about their presence.  It was idiotic- I was now a hundred times bigger than a cat, and clearly they were no threat to me, but my subconscious now told me they were a danger.  

I shrugged it off, closing my eyes and concentrating on the other smells.  I could smell the straw, which had made me sneeze before.  Now it was a friendly smell, mixed with the odors of urine and manure.  I felt a bit odd and perverse- the urine and manure smells started to arouse me.  I felt a stirring in my loins, and opened my eyes, carefully turning my neck and lowering my head to look under my belly- I still felt unsteady and was afraid I'd fall over if I moved to the slightly awkward position- and saw that my penis had dropped out of it's sheath.  It was black, like my skin now was, and a foot long, but wasn't as big around as I'd think a horse's would be.  I felt embarrassed, and looked back up, trying to relax it.  

The other stalls were visible through the bars, so I tried to look through to where my new 'neighbors' would be.  There were no other horses in the barn- the owners had told me that they let the horses out all day, weather permitting, and I'd seen a bunch out in the fields.

It was a little hard to see- my eyesight as a human hadn't been very good and I'd worn glasses.  As a horse, I found that I couldn't seem to focus.  It was a lot like wearing my progressive bifocal lenses upside down- the lower part of my vision focused to the distance, the upper part close up, so I had to tilt my head down to see what was in the stall.  It was much like mine, save it didn't feature the milk jug on the string, and there was a white brick of salt in the rusted holder.  The buckets were each a slightly different shade of green.  I'd thought that horses were like dogs and couldn't see color, but thankfully that wasn't true- I could actually see more distinction in the shades of green and brown than I could before.  This kept me entertained for a few minutes, then the reality hit me again.  I was a horse.  No one knew it.  My hands and my voice were gone, I couldn't seem to understand a word anyone was saying, and I felt very afraid and alone.  

Finally, Caroline came back, along with her friend, carrying a box full of brushes, a rope with a clip on it's end, and a halter- I guessed it was for me.  Again she made the strange soothing noise, and she put the halter over my head, fiddling with the clip until it fit snugly against my face.  I was torn between my anger at being treated like a mindless beast and my pleasure in seeing her obvious happiness, but my love for her won out and I stood quietly.  Tugging on the rope, she said 'walk' and I stepped forward.

Walk!  I recognized a word!   This made me a bit excited, and I hopped back and forth, then felt a stinging as she struck my chest with the loose end of the rope- this wasn't painful but startled me, and I felt hurt that she'd resorted to corporal punishment.  It's me, Caroline.  Can't you see?   I followed as she pulled me along, to where two ropes hung from walls on opposite sides of the aisle way.  
She attached the free end of each of the ropes to the halter.  I found I could move a little, but not much.   Ever since I was a child and my parents had strapped me to a chair to control my hyperactive nature I'd felt uncomfortable at being confined, and could feel panic starting to build in me.  It seemed worse, and I began to pull against the ropes- they pulled back at my head.  I heard Caroline say something in a harsh voice; she was angry at me and my heart began to pound and my mind clouded.  I pulled back hard and one of the ropes snapped, coming around and smacking my side.  I jumped away, almost knocking Caroline down, and stopped, trembling from fear.

My nostrils were flared, and my mind was screaming at me. Run, run, run!   I knew that I couldn't- the other rope still was attached to my halter, and I could feel Caroline's hand against my neck, her voice now soothing and calm- no, there was a little bit of fear in it as well, and I felt bad; I'd almost hurt her from my antics and I resolved to stand calmly despite myself.  She slowly took the broken rope and tied it back to a metal ring set in the wall- the end of the rope, I saw, had a metal ring, it was tied to the ring in the wall with a thinner string, so that if a horse panicked as I just had they would be able to pull free and not slip and injure themselves on the concrete floor.  

She kept making the soothing noise- she was saying something, but I still couldn't make out the words, just hear the emotion behind them.  She took one of the brushes and began to draw it through the hair that covered my neck, and a wave of pleasure and calm washed through me at the touch and feel of the brush.  Her friend was saying something to her, and they began to converse as she continued to brush me.  I started to relax as she brushed, going across my back, my flanks, and my rump, then she changed and started on the other side.  

It was quite relaxing.  She kept brushing and I stood still, enjoying it.  Maybe this won't be so bad after all.  NO!  What am I thinking?  A man walked in- I tried to remember his name, Harrison I think it was, the owner of the barn.  He started talking to Caroline, and she stopped brushing to speak with him.  I strained and tried hard to understand- all I could tell is that there wasn't much emotion in their conversation, but I couldn't understand any of the words.  

They kept talking, and I started to fidget again.  This time it wasn't from the fear, but from all the water I'd drank.  It was now pressing in my bladder, and I had to urinate, but they were all standing there watching me.  Harrison looked at me and spoke- his voice was firm, not angry, but clearly was unapproving.  I wasn't sure exactly why, but he reached up and tugged down on my halter twice- I still didn't understand what he wanted, and I really had to go, but they were standing there, talking about something, and I was getting a bit impatient.  

Harrison turned and left, then Caroline and her friend turned and walked off.  Finally, no one was staring at me.  I relaxed myself, and felt the urine pouring out, and heard it hitting the concrete, a bit splashing on my forelegs.  It didn't feel much different than peeing as a human, and the relief of the pressure was just as rewarding.  I let out a bit of a sigh and relaxed.  

I looked up and saw Caroline coming back, carrying a black saddle.  She started saying something- I could hear a little annoyance in her voice, and her friend laughing.  She put the saddle over a rack in front of one of the stalls and came and looked under me, saying something to her friend, who was still laughing, then took a few handfuls of the shavings from a nearby stall and tossed it under me, clearly to absorb the wet mess.  

She then put a felt pad and the saddle on my back- it didn't have a horn, so I guessed it was one of the 'English' saddles.  I knew there were several kinds, but I didn't know the difference.  A girth went around my belly, and she tightened it to where it was slightly uncomfortable to me.  She then put the reins of a bridle around my neck, unsnapped the ropes that were attached to my halter, then removed it.  Her thumb went into my mouth and into a gap between my molars and incisors, pushing my jaw open, and she put a metal bit into my mouth- it had a coppery taste, not unpleasant.  It rested in the gap between my teeth.

The bridle came next- she put it over my head.  It was loose, and she fiddled with it until it held the bit firmly but not too tightly against the back of my mouth.  She took the reins in her hands and pulled gently- I followed along, walking with my head beside her shoulder so that I could watch her from one eye.  It was a bit disorienting still, seeing to both sides, and my brain was having trouble processing the signals now that we were in motion.  

She led me down the aisle way, saying something as we reached a step down- the barn was old, and the part where my stall was located was a few inches higher than the other part.  I stepped down, almost tripping, and she stopped, saying something to me, then started walking again.  

We went into a large indoor riding arena- Harrison had showed it to me when I'd rented the stall, but I had no idea that I'd be trying it out firsthand.  It was about 25 by 60 meters, I'd guessed, with a soft earth floor.  There were large doors at either end- the one on the far end led out into the pasture- and windows high in the wall to let light in.  There was also a window that opened into the 'rider's lounge', where I could already see a small group congregating, obviously to check out the 'new' horse.  I wondered if any of them realized how 'new' I was, as Caroline put one foot in the stirrup of the saddle.

Her weight threw me a bit off balance, and I stumbled to the side.  She said something that sounded a bit harsh, then pulled herself up and into the saddle.  I stood as still as I could, worried that I'd do something wrong and she'd fall off.  She bumped my side a bit, then seemed to kick me with her heels.  I remained still, not quite sure what to do.

A crop suddenly stung me- the noise was more startling than the pain- and I stepped forward carefully, walking slowly.  I was still a bit unsure of this, and was afraid to walk fast or run for fear of falling down.  

The bit moved in my mouth- I could feel it pulling on the right side, so I turned my head and neck.  It was easy enough to do, with my wide vision I could still see where I was walking, and now I could see Caroline, too, sitting in the saddle.  She tugged on the right rein again, saying something as I walked along.  

Whack! The crop touched the left side of my neck.  I was confused- I'd turned my head, like she'd asked.  She released the pressure on the right rein, then pulled on it again.  I kept walking forward until I came to the wall, then turned, walking along the edge of the arena like I'd seen some riders and horses doing when I'd come to rent the stall.  

She started to speak to me again- I could hear frustration in her voice, and a bit of annoyance.  She pulled on both reins, so I tucked my head a bit and kept walking.  She pulled again, saying something- a firm and commanding tone, like Harrison had used, and I guessed that she wanted me to stop.  

I did, and she got off my back.  Taking the reins, she led me over to where her friend was standing and started to talk.  They discussed something for a few minutes, then led me back to the crossties, removed the bridle, and put the halter back on me.  Off came the saddle, then she led me back into the stall.  

Caroline let her hands rub my neck- I felt bad, she clearly was disappointed in my performance.  Wait a minute here- I'm not a horse.  Why can't she see that?  It's me, Caroline.  It's Chris.    She spoke- her voice wasn't disapproving, but instead seemed filled with pleasure as she scratched my neck.  I wanted so desperately to hug her- she hugged me instead, wrapping her arms around my neck, then she walked out, closing the stall door behind her, picked up the saddle and walked off.  

I cried out for her.  "NEEEIGH!"  She looked back, said something in a light voice, then turned and left the barn.  I cried out a few more times, then stopped when I heard a car door slam and it start.

She's left me here, alone.  Will she come back?  When will I wake up from this nightmare?

About a half hour later, Harrison started bringing horses in.  Most looked at me curiously as they walked by the stall; several sniffed the still wet shavings by the cross ties.  

One of the stalls by me was empty- no other horse came in.  A dark brown horse, a chesnut, went into the stall next to mine.  He looked at me with indifference, walked to his bucket and stuck his head in.  Finding it empty, he turned and walked to the steel bars between our stalls.  

Curious, I walked over and put my nose near his.  He breathed in deeply, exhaling- unconsciously I found myself breathing in deeply as he exhaled, smelling and almost tasting his breath.  He suddenly twisted his ears backward and snapped at the bars, his teeth clicking against the steel bars, and I jumped back, startled.  

Harrison soon returned, pushing a cart along with two sacks of feed in it.  He scooped out some with a coffee can and walked into my stall.  I watched him- he watched me as well, as if distrusting me, as he emptied the can into the empty bucket then walked out of the stall.

I was hungry- the realization had been there all day, but I hadn't paid attention- and as he continued down the aisle way I put my head into the bucket and sniffed.  The stuff smelled like breakfast cereal, but it looked more like little pellets, something that you'd feed a hamster.  There was something about eating out of a bucket, though, as if it would be an admission that I was nothing but an animal, and I hesitated, but the gnawing hunger in my belly demanded satisfaction and I began to eat.  

There wasn't enough- maybe a quart and a half.  It was like eating a single piece of bread, and I was still hungry.  Harrison soon came back, though, this time with a cart loaded with hay.  He opened the door and tossed in two large pads, then closed it, repeating the process with each horse in turn.

I went and looked at the hay- it was green, several different shades.  I'd always imagined it was like lettuce, but it was more like dried leafy grass.  It smelled fresh, like a newly mowed lawn, but I hesitated.  Eating from the bucket was one thing, eating the hay would confirm that I was a horse, not human, an animal and nothing more.  

The other horses had no reservations, I could hear them eating the hay, and each bite they took seemed to resonate in my empty stomach.  I had to eat.  Pushing aside my pride, I took a bite, pulling at the hay with my incisors to get a mouthful, then pushing it back to my molars with my tounge.  It felt strange in my mouth, unlike anything I'd eaten- maybe like eating raw vegetables, but it was stringier, and not entirely pleasant to my human sensibilities, but clearly my new jaw was designed for it.  The taste wasn't too bad, just strange.   I chewed until it was a mushy pulp then swallowed it, pulling another mouthful.

My neighbor had finished eating already and was again scraping at the steel bars with his teeth, tossing his head up and down, his ears still pinned back against his head.  I wasn't sure exactly why he was doing this, but clearly he was angry- or was he threatening me?  It made no difference, he couldn't get 'in' with me, but the noise was disconcerting to say the least.  

The barn suddenly plunged into darkness- Harrison was finished feeding, no horse owners were at the barn, and he turned off the lights.  I was a bit startled- it was dark, and took my eyes a bit of time to adjust; longer than I expected.   I could hear other horses- no, I could hear horses, I was not a horse- as they ate, and concentrated on my hearing and sense of smell.

The barn smelled of horse- it was a comforting smell now.  I realized that there were several distinct smells- slightly and subtly different.  Some were flat, just a plain odor, like white bread.  Others were slightly tangy, a bit of spice to them, and I felt myself becoming unwillingly aroused again.  

I forced myself to focus on the hay- I could find it easily enough by it's smell, and I tried to think of Caroline.  This didn't help much- I found myself beginning to remember sleeping with her, her body close to mine, and the erotic memory increased my arousal.  I won't allow myself to think of that.  Not until I'm me again, and not this animal.   But I couldn't push the memory or the desire aside.

My eyesight was finally adapting to the darkness, and I could see much better than I expected.  The horses mostly became quiet as they finished eating and stood silently.  I could see in a few of the stalls, though I stayed away from the one my aggravated neighbor was in.  

I'd always thought that horses slept standing up.  They did seem to doze standing, but I also saw that my stablemates would lie down and stretch.  I was a bit tired myself, and cautiously lowered myself on my knees, lying on my belly with my legs folded beneath me.  It was comfortable, lying on the straw, and I fell asleep.


****************************************************************

When I woke, it was still quite dark- I wasn't sure how long I'd slept, but I felt refreshed and got back to my feet.  At least that part was getting easier- standing up seemed normal.

The dark barn was filled with sounds.  Some were familiar; a dripping faucet, wind blowing through an open door, the soft hum of a refridgerator.  Some I could guess at- the rhythmic deep breathing of one horse, another's foot steps as he paced his stall.  One was unknown to me- a quiet rustling that seemed to come from all around me, an unnerving sound.  

I moved over to my water bucket- it depressed me a bit, thinking of it as 'my' bucket and not the possession of some horse- and put my nose in to drink.  Something jumped out, running across my nose.
A RAT!  I flung my head around, terrified, jumping backward.  GET IT OFF ME!   I began to scream loudly, my horse voice reverberating through the barn as I crashed against the side of the stall.

The horses in the barn heard me shrieking, screaming in terror, and they all began snorting and whinnying back, alarmed at the unseen danger that had befallen me.  The horse next to me that had seemed so hostile was now jumping around his stall as well, frightened by my antics.

I crashed into my water bucket, sending it flying.  The rat finally let go, dropping from my forelock and running into the darkness.  I kicked out with my back legs unthinkingly, and felt my hooves hit something; there was a loud sound of a board shattering.  

The lights of the barn came on, washing away the darkness.  I caught a glimpse of some rats scurrying off, disappearing as if they hadn't existed, and Harrison came walking down the aisle way.  

The horses were snorting and jumping in their stalls- I was, too, shaking in fear, my nostrils flared and eyes wide.  I'd reacted just like them- falling and giving in to my fear, and acted like a mindless animal, and I felt ashamed.  But my heart still pounded and I felt myself breaking out in a cold sweat.

Harrison stopped at my stall- the bottom part of the stall's wall was made up of varnished boards.  One was now shattered, split into three pieces from where I'd kicked it.  The water bucket was crushed- I was impressed with myself, as the bucket was made of thick plastic, and now it was ruined, it's sides split.

He said something to me- I could hear the anger and irritation in his voice, and could guess what he'd said.  He walked off, coming back a few minutes later, putting my halter on and leading me into the aisle way.   I followed, but he tugged a few times on the lead rope, clearly irritated at having his sleep disturbed.  Fear began to build inside me- I wondered if he was going to beat me with a whip.  Harrison was big, and had seemed rather coarse and rough to me when I'd come to rent the stall.  It had seemed unimportant at the time how he'd treat a horse, but now that I was one I regretted not thinking it over more carefully.

Harrison led me into the large arena, turning on the lights, then let me loose.  No beating- just let me loose.   He turned and walked off, shutting the arena's gate behind him.   I was still jumpy from the rat, and uncomfortable at being away from the other horses.  No, focus.  You aren't a horse.  You don't need to be with them.  But maybe I'd be safer...no.  I'm  in a barn, nothing can get me.   My respiration was still fast, and my heart still pounded as I started to pace restlessly around the arena.

The gate suddenly opened again behind me, and I jumped forward into a canter.  It seemed natural, but I was rushing toward the wall and didn't quite know how to turn.  As soon as I started thinking about it, my legs went out from under me and I crashed heavily to the ground.  

Harrison was there as I struggled to my feet, his voice soothing and his hand on my shoulder.  He attached the lead rope to my halter, then began to run his hands along my legs.  They paused at a spot that was painful- I looked down and could see that I now had a cut on my left foreleg.  It was bleeding slightly, but I didn't think it was too bad.  

He led me back into the barn, putting me on the crossties and walking off.  My adrenaline was spent, and I felt much calmer, tired from the exertion.  He came back, carrying a small bucket that had several plastic bottles in it.  Clearly he was going to tend to my injury,  so I resolved to stand as still as I could- a 'real' horse, I told myself with pride, would be jumping around and flinching.

As soon as the peroxide hit the cut, I jumped away, not quite breaking the crossties this time.  My head jerked up and my ears twitched forward involuntarily as I snorted,  my reflexes preparing me to 'see' the danger that had attacked me.  

Again, Harrison's voice was soothing, and the soft words were almost hypnotic- I settled back down, humiliated that I'd again acted like a horse and not a rational man.  He put some more fluid onto the cut- I wasn't sure what it was, but it had a strong chemical odor that bordered on peppermint.  He then unfastened the crossties, reattached the lead rope, and took me back to my stall.

The board was replaced, and a new bucket- actually, a different bucket, one that showed some wear of it's own- now hung on the wall, filled with water.  Harrison unfastened the halter, and stepped out, saying something in a neutral tone.  I wanted badly to thank him, to apologize for my actions, but all that came from my mouth was a low rumbling nicker.  

That seemed to be enough for him- he reached through the bars of the door and rubbed my nose, then walked off.  The lights went out again, and the barn again was dark, the night sounds creeping back slowly as if waiting to be certain the hostile light would not again chase them off.  I stood in the stall the rest of the night, listening and waiting, but the rats didn't come back.  

***************************

The morning brought more of the feed and hay.  Almost as soon as the sun rose, Harrison was feeding us- he was feeding the horses and me, then dragging a hose through the barn, filling each bucket in turn.  I ate carefully, as I had the previous day, chewing the hay thoroughly as I was afraid of choking on it.  

I was only halfway through the hay when he began to take the horses out of the barn.  I wondered if he'd put me out, and soon my curiosity was satisfied as he walked into my stall, placing the halter on my head and leading me through the arena to the far door.  

It led out into an outdoor fenced corridor, along both sides of which were several pastures, each containing about a half dozen horses.  As we passed the first, I looked toward it's occupants- their scent was pleasing, the musky tanginess that had excited and aroused me.  I breathed in deep, feeling a sudden desire.  

He tugged on the lead rope, saying something in a firm voice.  Snap out of it- they're horses.  Think of Caroline.   Eyes forward, I avoided looking at the mares, but instead focused on where Harrison was taking me.

He led me into a pasture where four other horses were standing.  No, four horses.  I'm not a horse. They were concentrating on a large bale of hay, pulling it apart with their teeth.  Harrison led me in, then carefully turned to close the gate.  As he did this, I looked over the pasture- it was about two acres, perhaps 200 by 50 meters, and had several large spruce trees growing in it.  I was still a bit hungry from not finishing my breakfast, so after Harrison let me loose, I walked over toward the hay.  

As I approached, a white horse laid it's ears back and began to bob it's head.  I ignored the strange gesture, which was similar to what the brown horse in the stall next to mine had done, and walked up to the hay, reaching down with my mouth.  

The white horse turned away from me and suddenly lashed out with his hooves, smacking them into my shoulder.  It wasn't too hard- at least not to me as a horse- but it did hurt.  I jumped away, a bit of hay dribbling from my mouth, as one of the other horses, my brown neighbor, pinned his ears back and lunged at me, his mouth open.

I was frightened and turned away, trying to run.  Why are they doing this?  I just want to eat, there's plenty of hay.   The brown horse and the white horse both began to run after me, ears back.  They bit at my rump, and I felt myself pressing my tail hard against my body, like I'd seen dogs do when scolded.  

Reaching the far end of the pasture, I had to turn away to avoid hitting the fence.  The brown horse cut inside my turn and laid his teeth into my rump, biting me hard.  I squealed and tried to kick at him, but my clumsy attempt almost sent me falling.  The white horse was on me now, biting as well, and I ran mindlessly and as hard as I could toward the other end of the pasture.  

They suddenly stopped and walked back to the hay, leaving me panting and snorting near the fence, watching the four of them twenty meters away, chewing on the bale of hay like a group of old friends.  I was hungry and started back over, but at my approach the white horse again pinned his ears and bobbed his head- I found his 'radius' was about five meters, further away he ignored me, closer and he'd start the clearly hostile gesture.  

It was fall, and though there was a light coating of snow, here and there green grass still poked through.  I lowered my head to try to eat some- horses eat grass, I told myself, and while I'm not a horse I still have to eat.  Or am I a horse, imagining that I was a human?  No, that's idiotic.  Stay focused. Horses don't imagine things.

It was harder than I imagined- I couldn't quite reach the ground without spreading my legs slightly, which was awkward, and I found that I couldn't see the grass in front of my mouth, having a blind spot directly in front of my nose.  I tried to cope by putting my mouth next to the grass, then moving to the side, but that quickly resulted in several mouthfulls of dirt.  Eating hay was easy- just stick my nose in munch.  

I could smell the grass, and that made it more frustrating.  I almost gave up, resigned to starving to death, when I realized that I could feel the blades of grass.  There were some long, stiff hairs around my mouth, and the subtle feel of these were telling me what was in front of my mouth, the smell told me that it was grass, and I closed my eyes, concentrating on using these two senses instead.  

My eyes shut, I took a great deal of pleasure in my accomplishment- learning to eat grass.  I walked slowly, tearing the grass with my incisors, then pressing each mouthful back to my molars with my tounge.  The grass was softer than the hay- it tasted like, well, grass.  

Bumping up against something, I opened my eyes- the brown horse had come up to me, or I'd 'eaten' my way to him, I'd gotten so lost in the sensation of eating grass that I hadn't been listening.  I brought my head up quickly, snorting, waiting for his attack.  

For some reason, it didn't come.  He looked at me, his ears relaxed, a look of indifference about him.  I wondered if it was the same horse for a second, but he smelled the same.  When did horses start to smell different?    I looked at him- he stretched out his nose, holding it near mine, smelling my breath as he had the previous night as we stood in our adjacent stalls.  I cautiously did the same, not sure what the significance of this was, but it seemed important to the horses.  I could smell the hay that he'd been eating, a faint residual smell of his breakfast grain, and something else that seemed familiar but vanished, like a memory of a dream that fades as you awaken.

Satisfied, he turned and began to slowly walk back toward the hay bale.  I decided to press my luck and walked along with him.  Two of the other horses ignored our approach- the white one made the same threatening gesture, but stopped as I moved to the opposite side of the bale and cautiously took a mouthful.  

We ate for a few hours- at least, I guessed it was that long, as the sun rose higher in the morning sky.  I was starting to feel more confident, that I'd be able to survive this until it was over and I was myself again, when the white horse suddenly pinned his ears and lunged at me again, his mouth open.

I couldn't turn away fast enough, and his teeth sank into the crest of my neck.  I shrieked in pain, jumping forward into another run, blinded with panic.  He chased me for about twenty meters, then turned back to the bale, leaving me to gallop to the far end of the pasture, where I stopped- I was getting a bit better at running and stopping, with the forced experience, and I turned to look back.  What's with him?  Why doesn't he like me?  Or do horses like each other?  I can't be a threat, can I?


****************************

It was stupid to sulk in the corner of the pasture, but I did.  The white horse's unreasoning hatred of me was depressing.  I wanted the other horses to like me- this had suddenly become important, and I watched them anxiously for some kind of sign, some token of peace, but it wasn't forthcoming.  

I turned my attention to the next pasture- only three horses were there.  Two wore blankets to ward off the chilly morning- I didn't feel cold, and wondered why they needed something to stay warm.  I surveyed them carefully, standing near the fence, but they just ignored me.  

After twenty minutes of staring, I suddenly felt angry and tried to shout at them.  My horse voice seemed appropriate as I let out a shrill whinny- they finally looked up, and one horse began to walk toward me.  

I saw why she wore a blanket as she approached- clearly she was old, moving stiffly.  Her joints seemed swollen, as if she had arthritis.  How long do horses live, anyway?  Will I be like that in a few years?    I began to worry, wondering how 'old' a horse I'd become.  

The mare stopped, reaching under the top board of the fence with her nose.  How did I know it was a mare? Her smell?  The way she moved?  I was tall enough, and reached across, wondering why she hadn't just put her nose over the top board...

ZAP!  I jumped back, stung under my chin, as I touched a metal wire.  The mare jumped away as well, snorting, startled by me, but then turned and looked back at me.  I approached more cautiously, and we touched noses under the fence, sniffing at each other.  She squealed, turning away slightly, then turned her back end to me.

I though she'd kick me through the fence and pulled my nose away quickly, but instead she lifted her tail and began to urinate- a white and milky stream.  The odor hit my nose, and I involuntarily curled my upper lip and tilted my head back.  As she began to nicker and swish her tail back and forth, I felt myself becoming very excited and started wondering if I could smash through the fence.  Stop...get this thought out of my mind.  Think of Caroline.  She loves me.  Or will she when she finds out I'm a horse, a thing?  

I forced myself to turn away from the mare, though she obviously knew I was a stallion and wanted me, and walked back toward the hay.  Something twitched behind me-  my tail.  I have a tail.  No kidding, I'm a horse, why is having a tail a surprise?   I wiggled my tail, swinging it back and forth.

It was deliciously fun.  I stopped and turned my head, swinging it from side to side, feeling it whip around and touch my side hard enough to sting.  My tail was black, like the rest of me, it was thicker and slightly wavier than the ones that the other horses had.  I flipped it up, watching it fly up in the air, and stood there seeing how many ways I could bend and twist it.  

A rattle at the gate broke my distraction, and I looked up to see Caroline standing there with a short man wearing a baseball cap.  Caroline!  You've come for me!   I broke into a run, galloping up to the gate, whinnying and calling to her in excitement.  

She jumped back at my headlong approach as I slid to a stop, almost falling on the icy ground.  I continued whinnying, my ears forward, snorting and tossing my head with excitement as I pranced by the gate, but suddenly realized I was acting like an idiot and stopped jumping around.  

The tone of man's voice was neutral, and I noticed he was holding a coiled rope with a chain on the end.  He opened the gate and walked in, attaching it to my halter, the chain running over my nose, and led me through the gate.  Caroline stepped wide, staying out of the way.  Did she sell me?   I started to panic again, trying to get to her, and she moved away- as she spoke I could hear a bit of fear in her voice.  

The man pulled on the rope, down sharply, and said something in a harsh voice.  I felt a stinging against my chest- he hit me with a crop, but I kept pulling, whinnying to Caroline who was walking away, back toward the barn.  I tried hard to get away from the man, but he had control of my head, and yanked sharply again on the rope, his voice harsh.

Caroline!  Don't leave me...  

He led me up to the barn and into the arena.  I felt empty and defeated- I had thrashed around like an idiot and scared Caroline away in a single day.  I deserved to be an animal- I was worthless.  

As we walked in, I saw Caroline standing there, and again pulled on the rope- I had to run to her, to tell her that I was sorry, but the man pulled on the rope again, the chain pulling down on my nose.  I stopped, the pain too much to bear, but I couldn't take my eyes from her, watching her standing across by the wall, watching us.  

Maybe he's just here to train me.   I started to calm down.  The man said something- I remained standing calmly...

SNAP!  I looked up, seeing he was holding a whip- I'd already felt it snap at my heels, and I jumped forward.  He held the rope, that snatched at my head, forcing me to go in a circle.  I kept going at a trot, feeling my legs pounding like pistons, watching the whip.  Every time I slowed down, he snapped at me with the whip again.  

I went around and around and was soon sweating despite the cool day.  He kept me going like that for what seemed an hour, then jerked sharply on the rope, throwing his hand in the air.

Obviously he wanted me to stop, so I did, turning to face him.  He instantly snapped the whip again at my chest and forelegs- I panicked and started to back away, but he pulled the rope, stopping my backward motion, and began to strike repeatedly at my forelegs with the whip.  What does he want?   I looked up, seeing Caroline watching- she seemed unhappy.  Is she angry at me for not doing what I'm supposed to?  Is she upset that the man is hitting me?  Caroline, help me..what should I do?   I turned, and started to trot in the circle again- the man stopped hitting me, and yanked on the rope again.  

I stopped, again turning toward him, from the pull of the rope.  Again the whipping began, but I immediately turned back and began to trot in the circle again.  

The whipping stopped, another pull on the chain.  This time I endured the pain of the chain ripping on my nose and stopped but didn't turn in toward him.  

Apparently this was what he wanted, since he didn't hit me again but walked over, coiling the rope.  I thought about striking at him with my leg, to kick him like I'd smashed the board the night before- but Caroline was watching, walking over.  I was drenched in sweat, but she touched my neck anyway, saying something in a soothing voice, and my heart melted.  She loves me.

The man said something and pulled on the rope, forcing my head down, then led me off.  Caroline walked behind us- the man kept talking over his shoulder to her, occasionally yanking the rope for punctuation and making the chain sting my nose.  I couldn't wait to get back to my stall and take a drink of cool water, but he didn't take me there, but instead hooked me to the crossties, taking off the rope with the chain.  

He continued talking to Caroline for a few minutes.  I stood, trying to listen to the lecture, frustrated by my inability to understand.  She occasionally nodded her head or made a one word response.  

Eventually, he walked off.  Caroline watched him, then took a shorter rope, again with a chain, and hooked it to my halter, the chain running across the sore spot on my nose.  She led me past my stall, to a post outside, which she attached the rope to.  

I watched as she took a hose- clearly I was about to get a bath.  She seemed tense, as if anticipating trouble.  I enjoyed playing in the hose as a child, and I was still hot, so the cold blast of water was welcome.

She relaxed, actually laughing as I stuck my face into the cold water.  She hosed me down for about fifteen minutes, spraying me with the strong blast of water, and I was actually disappointed when she turned the hose off and led me back into the barn.  

Back onto the crossties, and she was using a plastic tool to wipe the water off of me, something like the windshield wiper blade on a car.  It got most of the water off, leaving me slightly damp and feeling very refreshed.  She kept talking to me, her voice light and happy, apparently pleased at my latest performance.  

I felt good, and when she unfastened the crossties I rubbed my still wet face across her white blouse- I suddenly felt tense, seeing it now covered with black wet horsehair, anticipating an angry response, but instead she laughed again and rubbed my jowl.  

Again, the lead rope came on with the chain over my nose.  She led me to my stall, walking in then turning me to face the door as she unbuckled the halter, then running her hand across my face, her voice soft and soothing.  I wanted so badly to hold her, to kiss her and this nightmare to be over.  

"Hans."  

Another word- who is 'Hans'?  The trainer? The realization suddenly dawned on me- she'd named me Hans.  Named me?  Like I'm a dog or something?

My ears flipped back in irritation and I tossed my head.  Caroline almost jumped out of the stall, stumbling as she slammed the door shut in my face, a tear running down her cheek.  Oh, Caroline, I'm sorry. Please don't go.   I tried to call her to stay, my whinny echoing in the barn, but she kept walking away, leaving me there alone.

*****************************************

It wasn't long before Harrison started bringing the horses in for the night.  I paced morosely about the stall, thinking about myself.  I hadn't really changed at all- it was just now I couldn't apologize to Caroline or buy her flowers when I made a cruel remark or gesture.  I wasn't a violent person- I'd never hit her- but I thought back over the years we'd been together and how frequently I'd made some callous statement or taken some selfish action.  This, then, is my just punishment.  To look in a mirror and see myself.   The brown horse started raking his teeth across the steel bars, to let me know that he'd returned, as Harrison started walking down the aisle with his feed cart.  

He walked into my stall, pouring in the feed, and started to talk to me when I stood in the back, depressed.  I was uninterested in the food, though I was hungry I wasn't in the mood for eating and lowered my head.  Harrison walked over and slapped me on the rump- not hard, but enough to make me look up.  The feed smelled good, but I obstinately decided that I wouldn't eat.  

Harrison kept talking to me- I couldn't understand a word he said, but I slowly walked to the feed bucket and stuck my head in, twisting my ears to listen to him the whole time.  I could see him from my left eye, though my mouth was deep in the bucket, and I began to methodically devour the sweet feed mix.  He finally nodded approvingly and walked out of the stall, closing the door, returning about ten minutes later with my hay.  

I'd gotten over my snit and began to greedily gobble the hay- I was half starved; I'd eaten very little of my morning hay and nearly none in the pasture.  I was halfway through when I realized I'd been tearing through it much faster than I had before, without ill effect, though I was still pulverizing it with my molars I wasn't 'liquefying' it before swallowing.  

Naturally, as soon as I thought of this I started to cough.  There was nothing modest about it- my mouth was open, I had no hand to politely cover it, and a big wad of half chewed hay came flying out and splattered against the wall.  Some of it stuck, leaving a big green stain on the whitewashed concrete.  It was pretty gross looking, so I ignored it and kept eating.

My neighbor brown horse didn't.  He was fascinated, staring through the metal bars at the green glob, and soon was sticking his tounge through the bars, trying to taste it or lick it up to eat- I didn't know which, but I found a smug satisfaction in that his tounge was slightly too short and the glob beyond his reach.  

The lights suddenly went out, and I felt fear welling in me again, that the rats might return.  Sure enough, I could soon hear the quiet patter of their feet as they ran across the rafters above my head. I'd never thought of myself as being 'afraid of rats', but the big rodents now terrified me with an almost unreasoning fear, and I slept restlessly, spending most of the night standing as close to the middle of the stall as I could.  

***********************

In the morning, as Harrison fed, he looked into my water bucket.  I hadn't touched it all night, afraid another rat might be inside, and he made concerned sounds.  Walking off, he returned five minutes later to let the horses out.

All except me.  He left me in my stall.  When it became clear to me that I wasn't to go out, I began to walk about, pacing back and forth, and screamed out to him in my loudest horse voice, my whinny demanding to be allowed out with the others.  Even the white horse's worst torments would be better than... than what?  Why did it suddenly matter, that I be with the other- no, be with the horses.  I was not a horse.  

I called out again- not, I told myself, because of being away from the other horses.  I wanted to be outside, and not confined in the stall.  The stall was now a prison, just a few feet longer than I was, and I walked around, pounding the wood shavings and hay.  

I'd been careful to 'hold' my urine and manure all night, to keep the stall clean, but I wasn't going to be able to wait much longer.  I glanced up and down the aisle- no one was around- and carefully stretched out, like I'd seen the other horses do, and relaxed.  

As before, it was blissful relief to empty my bladder, and I stood longer than I needed, tensing my muscles to squeeze out every last drop.  Standing normally again, I lifted my tail and relaxed my sphincter.  The feeling of the large round and somewhat firm balls of manure pushing out of me and my sphincter stretching was different- not unpleasant, just different and curiously satisfying.   

Once finished, I turned around to look.  The urine was already soaking into the wood shavings, but the pile of manure was greenish and steaming on the top of the straw.  I lowered my head to get a closer look, and breathed in the smell.  What kind of freaky thing am I doing?   I jerked my head up as I realized what I'd done, disgusted at myself for degrading myself to an animal's level.  There had been something in the odor, though, and I felt compelled to smell it again.  Well, it's not like I'm eating it, I guess.  And once I'm human again I'll...I won't.   I put my head down, sniffing the warm manure.  It smelled of the plants and feed I'd eaten, and something in my brain told me that it was 'mine'.  

There really wasn't much else to do- after I'd finished eating and sniffing my manure, I stood and waited.  It seemed like the day had stretched to a million hours- I couldn't do anything but stand, or walk around in circles.  I'd always been something of an active person, with my hiking and cross country skiing in winter, and to be trapped in the stall- which had seemed so big when I rented it, but now seemed to shrink with each passing minute- without even the mindless blather of television as a distraction was torture.  

A pair of teenagers came in and started cleaning stalls- as boring as it sounds, I watched them with rapt attention.  It was something to do, and I alternated staring at them and looking out the dusty window at the driveway- my view of the pastures was blocked by a storage building.  

A truck pulled in- a pickup truck with some kind of specialty box on the back.  Harrington came into my view and greeted two women as they got out, and walked with them to the rear of the truck, where they retrieved a few buckets and totes filled with odd looking equipment.  

They came into the barn and I watched them curiously as they approached my stall.  One of the women had a stethoscope draped across her neck, and as they stopped at my stall Harrington gestured toward me and my water bucket.  

One of the women came in and put my halter over my head, attaching the uncomfortable but now familiar chain over my nose, and led me from the stall.  She took me to the crossties but didn't hook me up as Harrington continued to talk to the one with the stethoscope.  

The veterinarian- or I assumed she was-  suddenly took hold of my halter and stuck her thumb into the corner of my mouth, pulling my upper lip up and pushing a finger against my gum.  I flinched a bit, but she held onto my lip,then took the finger off my gum and stared into my mouth.  After this strange action, she released my lip and pressed two fingers under my jaw- I could feel a throbbing and guessed she was taking my pulse.

The stethoscope followed- she began to listen to my breathing, then placed the stethoscope on my belly.  This wasn't too bad, I supposed- not much different than any other physical.  I felt a tug at my tail, and turned my head slightly as something was stuck into my rectum. A thermometer.  Kind of embarrassing, but I guess I can put up with it.

The vet continued talking to Harrington, then she pulled out the thermometer, looked at it, and used my tail to wipe it off.  My tail, as a rag?   I swished my tail in annoyance- I was kind of angry, and pinned my ears.  Wait a minute, since when does this matter?  I'm not a horse, and...

My attention came back to my face- the assistant had grabbed my lip and was holding what looked like a billy club, except that it had a looped chain on the end.  She pulled my upper lip through the chain loop, then twisted the handle, tightening the chain around my lip- and placing my head under her total control; I couldn't move my head without intense pain, and by moving my head she controlled the rest of my body.  

The reason for this was apparent, as the vet walked into my field of view and put a large plastic glove on, with a sleeve that reached beyond her elbow, smearing it with an oily substance.  If I wasn't solid black, I'd have turned red.  She's going to put her arm up my...

I grunted as she shoved her hand inside me, and tensed my sphincter.  She wiggled her hand a bit and I involuntarily relaxed.  The vet said something and Harrington and the assistant both laughed, as she pushed her arm deeper inside me.  It wasn't painful, and really wasn't even very unpleasant, but I felt totally humiliated as she felt around inside me.  

After what seemed like a year, she withdrew her arm.  She'd pulled a few lumps of manure from inside me, and wrapped the glove inside out around it, then filled the glove with a bit of water and tied it shut, handing it to Harrington, who shook it slightly and looked into it- I could see it as well, it looked like a disgusting snow globe, with bits of hay whirling about in a brown murky liquid.

The twitch - the chained club- still grasped my nose, so I guessed there was more to come.  The vet pulled out a syringe.  Oh, no.  Shots.   It wasn't- she stuck me with a needle in my neck, then placed a tube against it, draining out some of my blood.  She wrote something on the vial with a pen, then put it into the tote, retrieving another set of syringes already filled with some kind of fluid.  

She poked me with one in the opposite side of my neck, then another.  It stung, but the twitch still held me firmly.  Suddenly, the twitch came off, and the assistant rubbed my slightly numb lips as the cirulation returned.  I went to step forward to return to my stall, glad the ordeal was over, but she snatched down again on the lead rope.  

The vet and Harrington knelt down and started looking at my belly- but she pointed toward my rear legs, then reached and touched my scrotum.  I started to pick one hind leg up, but put it back down- I didn't want the twitch to come back.  

I suddenly started to feel a bit woozy, as if I'd been drugged.  I have been drugged.  They castrate stallions that are unruly...oh, shit.   I waited for unconsciousness to come- certainly they wouldn't geld me standing up.  

Thankfully, I'd been wrong about their intent.  The vet reached up and pulled my now relaxed penis down and out of it's sheath.  A slightly obscene thought involving the reasonably attractive veterinarian crossed my drugged mind, and if I'd been able to I'd have giggled, but only a long equine nicker came out.  

That was enough to set both Harrington and the assistant laughing again, and I heard a comment from the vet as she took a sponge, soaked it in a bluish fluid, and scrubbed off my personal parts.  I started to get hard from the manipulation and nickered again, which again started the laughter.  

The vet finished and tossed the sponge back into it's bucket, then stood talking to Harrington.  The assistant led me back to my stall, disconnecting the lead rope but leaving my halter on.  She stood close to my head, looking at my eye and saying something in a soft and gentle voice, scratching me just behind the ear, then left me standing there.  

The drugs took some time to wear off, which was at least a temporary release from the boredom.  As my head cleared, I wondered if I'd be allowed out with the rest of the herd.  No, they are a herd. I am a man.  I am not a horse. Caroline.  Think of Caroline.   

  ****************************************************************************

By the time my head cleared, I guessed it was mid afternoon from the shadows outside.  It was one small consolation to me that I still understood the concept of time, though maybe it was a curse instead- with the stall cleaners gone, there was nothing to do but pace- look down the aisle way through the steel bars, then back to the window to see if the lengthening shadows had reached the point where it might indicate that the horses would come in and I would no longer be alone.

When a car pulled into the drive, I almost jumped for joy- it didn't matter who, someone had come out to the barn.  A thin dark haired woman got out, and a girl who I guessed to be about twelve.  Both wore English riding outfits- the tight jodhpurs, tall leather boots, and nylon riding jackets, along with hunt caps- and they hurried into the barn as if the weather was cold- I didn't feel cold myself, but since some of the horses now wore blankets I'd guessed it was chilly outside.  

I watched them as they came down the aisle- they both carried halters, and they stopped outside my stall, speaking in somewhat excited voices and looking at me.  The girl stuck her hand in through the bars- I guessed she wanted to pet me.  Forget it.  I'm not an animal.  Go pet a cat.   I stood and looked at her cooly from the back of the stall- the older woman said something to her, and the girl pulled her hand in, apparently reluctantly, then the pair walked off toward the arena.

Suddenly I felt bad- if I'd have stepped up to her, let her touch my face, maybe they'd have stayed longer.  Even though I couldn't understand what they were saying, just their presence would have alleviated the dullness of the day, and I resolved to not let another chance to socialize pass me by.  

After about ten minutes, they both returned, leading horses.  The girl had my neighbor, the brown horse.  The woman led a tall black horse who I watched with close attention as they approached.  

The girl led the brown horse by, headed for the far crossties.  The woman put the black horse on the ties outside my stall, then walked off.  It was a mare- I could tell by her smell, even as she'd approached, but what was more interesting to me was that she looked like my reflection.  

As I was, she was solid black, and about 16 hands in height, a Friesian horse, I believe we were called.  Her mane and tail were somewhat wavy; her hooves large.  Black tufts of hair- feathers, they were called- covered her pasterns.  But most attractive to me was her carriage- she held her neck arched, almost looking like a living chess piece, the black knight.  She looked at me with her dark eyes, her ears forward and alert.  I'd never really paid much attention to horses before I became one, but she wasn't something I'd have imagined as real- she looked more like an idealized horse from a Disney cartoon, someone's fantasy of a horse.  

We stared at each other.  I saw a lovely creature of stunning beauty.  What did she see?  Another horse, a stallion?  Would she have cared if I'd been a donkey, as long as I was a male equine?  When she nickered to me, I began to nicker back, my nostrils flared to gather as much of her scent as I could, and I started wondering which pasture she was in- I could jump over the gate and...

"Hans."  The spell suddenly broke.  Caroline was standing at my stall door, looking at me with a hopeful expression on her face.  Caroline, I'm sorry- I didn't mean to look at another woman, it's just that...well, I'm a horse.   I walked over to her, pushing the stupid thought from my mind, and lowered my head to allow her to put on my halter.  I was determined to be absolutely perfect today- no matter what, she would leave the barn pleased and happy.  

As Caroline led me from my stall the woman who had the black mare had come back, carrying a saddle, and began to talk to Caroline, who stopped, leaving me nose to nose with my reflection.  I drank in the mare's smell- we exchanged breaths in greeting, and she nickered to me softly.  She's in heat.  I want her, and she wants me too.  And I'm a horse, not really by choice, so there's nothing wrong with...stop this, stop this.  Caroline is right here.  It was agonizing, having the mare so close, but I gritted my teeth.  

Finally, she lifted the crosstie slightly and led me by.  As I passed the mare's rear end, she swished her tail slightly, all the better to spread her delicious aroma.  I started to pull my nose toward her tail.  Maybe just one whiff- just to be polite.   Caroline tugged on my lead rope and spoke sternly, pulling me back to attention.  

She hooked me to another set of crossties, close to the tack room, and brought out the English saddle again.  She didn't put it immediately on my back, but instead picked up a brush and began to work on me, talking all the while.

I didn't understand what she said, but the tone of her voice was pleasant, and the brushing was perfectly stimulating.  I hadn't realized it, but I'd started to itch around my shoulder, and I leaned into the brush.  She apparently knew what I wanted, since she brushed there even harder, and I started to feel relaxed.  

The brushing ended all too soon- she followed up with a softer brush on my face, which didn't help the itching as much, and tentatively reached up for my ears- I lowered my head and allowed her to brush them inside and out, which seemed to surprise and please her.  

She then produced a small tool that looked a little like a bent screwdriver, and reached down and touched my left front pastern.  I guessed that she wanted me to pick my foot up, which I did- slightly awkwardly, since I hadn't practiced.  She held my foot, scraping the bottom and dislodging a bit of dirt, then repeated the process for my other three legs.  It wasn't a big deal, but she again seemed very pleased and made some favorable noises.  She also rubbed my face, which was far better than the soft brush- I rubbed my head up and down against her hand; Caroline seemed to find this amusing and tolerated it for quite a while.  

She ended up with a plastic brush- a plastic curry I'd bought for her, part of her birthday surprise, starting to comb my mane, starting near my head, drawing it slowly through my hair, untangling it.  This was the absolute best- the plastic teeth scratched against the base of my mane, along the crest of my neck, and the feeling was nearly erotic, driving even the thoughts of the black mare out of my mind for a moment.  

As she finished, Caroline stood by my head, looking in my eyes.  I held my ears forward, feeling nothing but love for her.  I can't wait to hold you again, tell you that I was your birthday surprise.  This can't last forever...can it?  At that moment it almost didn't matter- to see the joy on her face was enough, even if I were to be a horse for the rest of my life.  I wanted nothing more than to please her, and if being a horse was what it took then that would be enough.  

A harsh sound came from behind me, and I turned my head slightly.  Caroline looked suddenly disappointed and almost a bit afraid.  It's the trainer.  Why is he angry?   He walked by me, saying something to Caroline.  She almost seemed to wilt backwards, as if she'd done something wrong.  

I considered biting him, but remembered my promise to myself- I was going to do nothing wrong today, nothing that would disappoint Caroline.  The trainer continued to lecture her as he unsnapped me from the ties, putting the lead rope back on my halter- the chain again over my nose- and he snatched down on the rope twice, to punctuate whatever he was saying.  

He led me to the arena, Caroline trailing behind.  The brown horse and the black mare were out, being ridden already.  I had no saddle, and as the trainer hooked the long rope- the longe line- to my halter and picked up the whip, I knew again what I was in for.  

CRACK!  The whip came down unnecessarily on my rump, and I jumped forward into a fast canter.  He snatched on the rope, and the chain bit down on my nose, pulling me into a tight circle.  I flipped my ears backward against my head, which brought another snap of the whip.  I sped up again, the chain tore again at my nose and I slowed to a trot.  CRACK!  The whip came again, striking my rump, and again I jumped to a canter, which immediately brought more snatching at the chain and an angry response from the trainer.

Caroline stood by the side of the arena, looking miserable.  As I went round and round, I looked at her every time I passed.  Why are you letting him do this to me?   He kept alternating- snatches of the rope and snaps of the whip, leaving me confused.  What do you want me to do?  Just tell me, I'll do it.  

Help unexpectedly came- the thin woman who rode the black mare stopped and was saying something to the trainer; I could hear the anger in her voice and his as he responded.  The trainer suddenly snatched hard at the chain, pulling my head toward the middle of the circle.  I stopped as he continued to argue with the woman on the black horse- I realized I was trembling slightly and had broken out in a cold sweat.  

He abruptly pulled on the rope, dragging me back toward Caroline as he continued his heated debate with the thin woman.  When he reached Caroline he began to lecture her again in a sharp voice, gesturing toward her then me repeatedly.  He began to punctuate his remarks with the butt end of the whip, poking it into my ribs, and I pinned my ears and tossed my head.  

This produced a sharp yank on the chain and I pulled backward, snorting,  trying to get away.  Caroline stepped forward- I could hear sudden concern in her voice.

The trainer turned away from me and waved the end of the whip at her.  He's threatening my mare.   I lunged at him, sinking my teeth deep into his arm.

This produced very satisfying results- he screamed, dropped both the whip and the longeline, and the sleeve of his shirt turned a crimson red- I could taste his blood, and shook my head, holding tight with my teeth.  Let's cause maximum damage. He finally pulled away from me, still screaming and half doubled over in pain, trying to pick up the whip.

Fear suddenly overcame me, and I took off at a gallop, the longeline trailing behind me on the ground.  I flew by the brown horse, who bolted along with me, running from the unseen danger, or perhaps the long rope that trailed behind me had frightened him.  

I reached the other side of the arena and stopped, my respiration fast and my heart pounding.  The brown horse stopped by me- the young girl clung to his neck; she was crying, and I felt terrible.  The thin woman rode up on the black mare, getting off and running to her daughter- the mare stood near me but for the moment wasn't drawing my attention.  

Caroline was running up to me- she slowed when she was about ten feet away to a walk, coming to me slowly, watching my face as she picked up the longe line and slowly coiled it.  As she got near my head, I waited for the sharp yank and the punishment I was sure would come.  

It didn't.  "Hans, Hans," she said.  She reached up and started to rub my face- she was crying too; and suddenly threw her arms around my neck.  

I stood there, as still as I could.  I couldn't hold her in my arms to comfort her, letting her cry, her face pressed in my mane, was all I could manage.  I didn't notice the other two horses leave the ring, and stood there, focused on her, until Harrison came out and gently took me away, leading me back to my stall and closing me in.

He stood outside the door, speaking to her in a very serious voice as she continued to cry.  I've done it now.  She's afraid of me.  Biting the trainer was too much, but what else could I have done?  

The thin woman came up and started to talk with them, making sympathetic noises.  Harrison listened to her, looking at me several times as she gestured toward me then pointed back toward the arena, and he nodded his head.  

Harrison opened the stall door, hooking the longe line to my halter, then led me back to the arena as Caroline and the thin woman followed.  I felt uncomfortable coming into the arena- it suddenly seemed a very dangerous place, and I wondered if Harrison was to repeat my whipping.  

Instead, he let me out to the end of the longe line, and moved slightly behind me- I walked forward, moving in a large circle, as he walked in a small circle himself, staying slightly behind me all the while.  He suddenly stepped toward me quickly, and I broke into a trot, watching him.  He didn't speak, but his gestures were clear to me.  

Finally, he stopped, moving backward across the circle so he was in front of me- I stopped, looking at him, relaxing from the release of the unseen pressure.   He slowly approached me, coiling the longe line, then took me back to Caroline, speaking to her in a confident voice.  

She took me back and put me on the crossties, again brushing me down, getting the matted and dried sweat from my coat, then took her hands and started to massage my legs.  I was tired out but thoroughly enjoyed it- I would have even if I was human.  But I am.  This isn't me.  

The stall was a welcome sight as she put me away- the straw bedding promised a good rest.  She led me in, turning me back toward the door, then removed my halter.  Instead of immediately leaving the stall, though, she ran her fingers through my forelock, speaking to me.  I lowered my head and breathed in.  She doesn't smell too bad for a human.  Maybe...what am I thinking?   Unexpectedly, she kissed me on the end of my nose and stepped out, closing the stall door behind her.  I watched her walk off, feeling my emotions churn.  But then Harrison came with the feed cart, and I focused on the next important priority.  

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That night I slept well- at least for a few hours.  I woke up in the middle of the night, wondering what time it was, but feeling totally refreshed.  I was starting to find out that horses don't sleep as much as people- I was guessing that I would sleep for four hours, maybe less, and then would spend the rest of the night awake.  

As soon as I woke and stood up, the brown horse started up, raking his teeth across the steel bars between our stalls.  I'd been ignoring this but tonight I felt irritated.  Pinning my ears back, I lunged at the wall, slamming into it noisly- this startled the brown horse, and he jumped away to the other side of his stall to my immense satisfaction.  

I stood at the grating, staring at him, trying to look menacing, with my ears pinned back.  Eventually, he walked over slowly, his ears forward and his head slightly lowered.  Touching his nose against the bars near my face, he inhaled deeply, smelling my breath.  

As he breathed out, I inhaled, flaring my nostrils.  His breath contained many smells- none were exciting, but some felt familiar and comforting, but unidentifiable to my human consciousness.  Unlike the mares, the smell of his breath was flat, without the musky and exciting odor.  

We both seemed to tire of this simultaneously, and stood beside each other quietly.  I felt better- finally, I'd been accepted by someone else; I had a friend to keep me company.  What are we going to talk about?  The hay? He's a horse.  I should concentrate on trying to find some way to become me again.   But even as I argued with myself, I felt a calmness at being part of... part of what?  A bunch of stupid animals?  But still, I stood by the brown horse, taking mutual comfort in standing together.  

Our truce ended at breakfast- as soon as Harrison started walking down the aisle with our feed, we moved to our buckets, sending occasional hostile glances at each other.  He got his feed before mine, which seemed suddenly very unfair, and I grabbed my bucket with my teeth and shook it.  What in the hell am I doing?   I released the bucket as Harrison entered, backing slightly away from it.  I can't lose touch with who I am.  What if I'm losing my humanity?  I have to stop acting like a horse before it's too late.  

Harrison was looking at me, making concerned noises- I realized it was pretty strange for a horse to be standing and not eating, so I stepped forward and stuck my nose into the bucket.  I didn't want another visit from the vet, and I was hungry besides.  This time I managed to eat pretty fast, or at least at a more 'normal' pace, since I finished almost simultaneously with my neighbor.  

I stuck my head into the other bucket, drinking deeply- the water buckets in the barn were changed every day, emptied and refilled, and the one in the pasture hadn't been emptied since I'd arrived- it was a bit slimy looking in the bottom, and though the water tasted fine, my human sensibilities protested every time I drank from it.  

Pulling my nose from the bucket, I let some water dribble from my mouth, then waited expectantly for our turnout.  I'd learned a bit last night about being a horse, and was determined to try it out on the white horse.  Harrison finally came and got me, and I was virtually prancing as he led me out past the other pastures.  I spotted the black mare in one of the fields as we walked out, and whinnied to her- she looked up from the bale of hay she was eating from and called back to me.  

I tossed my head from side to side- it seemed natural to do, and I felt adrenaline rush through my veins.  Harrison said something, firm but not harsh, tugging down slightly on my lead rope.  I didn't care- I felt good this morning, though the day was cloudy and overcast; the clouds threatened more snow though it was late in spring.  
We finally reached my pasture- the one that I shared with my four companions.  Harrison led me in, turning me around as he shut the gate.  I noticed he was watching me carefully and I snorted at him as he unclipped my halter.

I immediately spun around and galloped toward where the other horses stood at the hay bale.  The brown horse looked at me, his head held slightly up and his ears forward- I was starting to learn that head and ear position was a signal, a not too subtle visual communication.  He's not hostile- he's wondering why I'm running up, but not alarmed since I'm not.   The other two horses- a bay horse and a palomino- ignored me, as they had the previous day, but the white horse stuck his head and neck nearly horizontally, his ears back, bobbing his head in a clear threat.  

I ran straight at the white horse at a full gallop.  The white horse continued his threats, then reared.  I tried to stop, but slipped on the wet and frozen mud and careened into him.  

We both fell in a tangle, striking each other with our hooves as we scrambled to our feet.  I held my ears pinned back, biting at him- he was better at this, and dodged aside, biting my flank and back.  I tried to turn, to reach him with my mouth, but he kept pressing into my side, driving me in a circle as I pivoted around my front end.  This isn't working out too well.  

I'd done a bit of wrestling in college, but never as a horse.  The tactics, though, had to be the same.  What I was doing wasn't working, so I stopped and instead pushed back into him, trying to turn away- I'd kick him if I couldn't bite him.  

He stopped biting my back and started biting my neck instead, as he pivoted around his front end- I was heavier, and was shoving him around me, but I couldn't get to where I could kick him or bite him, but he was exactly where he could bite me.  I tried to jump forward- he matched my move.  Since I was getting the worse of this by far, I decided the best course of action was to run away.  I broke into a gallop, racing across the pasture, the white horse in close pursuit.  He finally slowed, then turned back toward the hay.  

This was what I'd waited for- I wheeled about and lunged at him, sinking my teeth into his rump.  

Wham! Both of his hind hooves slammed into my chest, and I let go.  He ran back to the hay, tossing his head, the other three horses scattered.  The palomino and the bay ran off together, the brown horse circled around and came over to me, tentatively reaching over with his head stretched out.  

I sniffed at his nose in greeting.  He looked at me, then turned to look at the white horse, who stood eating hay.  We walked together toward the hay- the white horse looked at us, pinned his ears and tossed his head, but kept eating.  Standing by my newfound ally, I began to eat hay from the bale, ignoring the slight pain that I felt from where I'd been kicked and bitten.  

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I felt quite pleased with myself as I ate.  I'd tear out a bunch of hay with my mouth, then pick it up from the ground, it was too compressed in the bale to get a good mouthful otherwise.  The brown horse stood next to me occasionally looking up at the white horse- it seemed that I'd disrupted the pasture by my presence, and the fact that the white horse was now the odd man out let me gloat.  

The brown horse unexpectedly turned and nipped at my jaw- he didn't move toward me aggressively, just nipped at my jaw, then stood looking at me expectantly, his ears forward.  I stopped eating, wondering what this meant.  He moved his ears halfway back, not quite pinning them, and nipped my jowl.  

This felt like being pinched.  I reached over and tried to nip him back, he turned his head and bit at my lip.  Neither of us moved; we just stood there, each trying to avoid the other.  So you want to play bite?  I can do this just fine, I'm bigger than you and...  I suddenly felt as if I'd been figuratively kicked in the stomach.  I'm actually enjoying this- I'm acting like a mindless animal, doing something that's totally pointless, and I'm enjoying it.   As I abruptly stopped, the brown horse nipped me, then realizing I'd stopped playing looked around in alarm, thinking something was wrong.  

The white horse had walked off and was licking a salt block near the water trough.  I felt an irrational anger- somehow, the white horse had become the focus point, the blame for all that had gone wrong in my life.  Three days ago I'd been someone important.  Now I was an animal in the field, nothing more than property, and I was actually finding pleasure and satisfaction in roughhousing with another animal and smelling my own manure.  

I snorted and started trotting toward the white horse.  The brown horse followed along behind me- I wasn't sure exactly why, nor was I sure why I was doing this, but I was mad at the world in general and the white horse was going to pay.  

He stood there in the mud near the water trough, facing me and watching my approach, his ears pinned back and his neck slightly arched.  He started to bob his head slightly then bared his teeth and lunged at me when I got close.  

This time, I was somewhat ready- as his teeth sunk into my neck mine did into his.  I was bigger than he was, and used my height to my advantage, pressing my weight into him.  I wasn't much good at being a horse yet, but I did know the laws of physics, and I leaned on him hard, pushing him backwards.

The brown horse came up next to me and started biting the white horse as well- I hadn't expected this at all.  With both of us attacking albeit clumsily on my part, the white horse turned and fled, galloping toward the other side of the field.  I chased him for a bit, then turned back to the hay- I wasn't hungry any more, but I was king of the pasture, at least for the moment.  

I stood by the haystack, watching the white horse, who now didn't dare approach.  The other three horses munched on the hay, but I wouldn't let the white one near it.  

"Hans!" a voice called from the gate.  Caroline's come to see me!   I turned and started running to the gate, whinnying excitedly, my ears forward.  I slowed, so as to not splash mud on her, and walked to the gate.  

She seemed upset as she put on my halter.  Now what have I done?   I flinched as she touched my neck, and I realized how sore I was.  I followed her as she gently pulled on the lead rope toward the barn- she was walking slowly, and I started to nudge her with my nose.  Come on, let's go!  I'm not broken.  

She suddenly stopped, turned around and looked into my eyes.  I could see that she was crying again, and my heart sank.  All I can do is hurt her.  Maybe I do deserve this.   My head sank, and she suddenly pressed her forehead against mine, letting the lead rope sag into the mud.  

I stood still, letting her pour out her heart in words that my mind could no longer comprehend.  It was no different than before- I hadn't listened then, so hadn't understood.  Now I listened, but couldn't understand.  Caroline finally finished, then led me again toward the barn, up the path between the pastures.  I glanced at the black mare, who stood near a haystack in her own pasture, along with four other mares- they were eating the hay, ignoring me, but the black Friesian mare watched me, her eyes hungry.   She's just a horse.  Caroline is the one that I love.  

We reached the barn- she me through the arena.  Two other riders were riding; they pulled their horses to walks and spoke to Caroline as she led me through to the crossties.  I was rather muddy and expected a good brushing, but Caroline left me there, returning with towels and a bucket of water.  I watched with interest as she soaked one of the towels, then spoke to me, approaching cautiously.  

The wet towels stung as she began to clean out my wounds- I was surprised, it seemed that my whole neck was on fire.  I flinched and pulled against the ties, then forced myself to stand still as she cleaned the mud from my neck and chest.  

Draping the towel across a blanket rack, she left me standing there again.  I shifted from side to side impatiently until she returned, shaking a spray can.  I popped my ears forward and swished my tail, knowing that nothing good could come from this.  

She began to spray me liberally- it didn't sting, surprisingly, but felt cool, like sunburn lotion.  I turned my head slightly to see that the left side of my neck now had numerous large yellow spots from the ointment- it contrasted quite well with my black coat, and if I could have I'd have laughed as I looked like some kind of a cartoon horse.  

Caroline kept talking to me as she sprayed, then she stood back and surveyed her work.  I hadn't been bitten on the back, and hoped that she'd ride me- it made me feel... I want her to ride me?  Why not?  It's almost like dancing, sort of.  

My hope was rewarded when she walked off, returning with the saddle.  I started to nicker, which seemed to surprise her- she held the saddle near my nose so I could smell it.  It wasn't new, and I could catch a medley of odors of horses past.  A quilted pad went on my back, followed by the saddle, and I stood still as she fastened the girth beneath me.  

Caroline placed the reins over my neck, then unbuckled my halter.  I lowered my head, opening my mouth for the bit.  This seemed to please her, so I resolved to always do this- it made me feel good, that at last I'd done something right.  

She led me into the ring and took me near the mounting block.  I knew that a normal horse wouldn't stand so quietly- or at least I didn't think they would- but I stood close beside it, not moving until she was in my saddle, then I jumped out immediately to what I hoped was a smart trot.  

She began to pull on the reins, saying something in an alarmed voice.  I'd figured out that this meant 'stop', so I did so, and felt her weight shift suddenly forward.  I snorted- I'd done something wrong, and stepped forward again.  

Her weight settled better into the saddle, and I felt her legs bumping against my side.  In the movies, they always kicked the horses to go, so I broke into a canter, straight from the walk.  She didn't pull on the reins, but she did start to bump up and down in my saddle, landing hard on my back every time my right foreleg landed.  This was quickly making my back sore.  I thought you knew how to ride.  Maybe we both need training.   But it was Caroline- and sore back or no, I was going to please her, and I kept cantering along, sweeping by the other horses.  I glanced in the windows of the lounge as we went by- it was easy to do, since I had eyes on both sides of my head.  We looked great- she in her cute riding outfit, me with my head tucked back, my black mane and tail sweeping behind us.  I'm much better looking as a horse than I was as a man.  Maybe I should... no, don't even think of that.

We went around the ring twice.  Caroline found my rhythm, and we began to move together better.  I was starting to daydream, about how I'd be a better person for all this- she'd be amazed when she found out that I'd been her horse.

The door to the pasture abruptly opened as we cantered by, startling me, and I jumped away.  Caroline grabbed at my reins to hold on, tugging hard, the bit suddenly painful in my mouth.  Confused, I broke into a full gallop, and was halfway around the ring when I realized she'd dropped the reins and was screaming.  

Abashed, I slowed- carefully, so as to not unseat her- to a walk, and then stopped, breathing hard and snorting.  It was as if I couldn't control myself- I'd panicked, something that I didn't do.  Caroline was shaking, but she didn't get off me.  

The thin woman came up, leading the black mare in from outside, making apologetic noises.  I looked at her, then at the mare, who flared her nostrils slightly- I knew that she could smell me, as I could her.  The thin woman wasn't paying attention to her horse  as she spoke to Caroline, and the mare came very close to my face, making a very low nickering sound.  Well, I'll sniff her nose, just to be polite.

It was as if every nerve in my body suddenly lit up.  I wanted the mare- right now.  Caroline, the thin woman, becoming human again- all pushed aside.  I arched my neck, nickering myself.  Well, since I'm a horse, there's nothing wrong with me.  I'm sure that Caroline won't mind if...STOP THIS!  

As if to reinforce that thought, the two women suddenly took notice.  The thin woman quickly led the mare away, and Caroline pulled on my reins, making me back up.  I felt ashamed of myself, but still couldn't tear my eyes from the black mare as she walked away, her head turned to the side so she could watch me with one eye, her tail lifted and held slightly to the side, the gesture and her intent unmistakable.  


****************

I dreamt that night, not of the black mare, but of being myself again, making love to Caroline.  But as I kissed her in the dream, she began to change- with a shy smile, as I cried out, she slowly transformed to a horse, her toes melting together to hooves.  I shouted for her to stop, but she shook her head, and I watched as her ears turned pointed and her hair grew long and black; her soft skin sprouting dark and thick hair like mine, and as she finished changing she turned her rump to me and lifted her tail invitingly.  And my human self in the dream was unable to resist; I hurled myself onto her and felt myself willingly becoming a horse again, my human self melting away and my horse self taking charge.  

The sound of rattling buckets suddenly woke me- I opened my eyes and got to my feet.  The sun outside was already up, and Harrington was coming down the aisle of the barn, already tossing pads of hay into the other horses' stalls.  I heard the black mare nicker as he tossed her breakfast hay in, and my mind turned again to the lovely mare.  

My hay finally arrived, and I tore into it with gusto.  I was quite hungry, and the hay was fresh and good.  I ate most of it before I started on my grain, then drank half of my bucket of water.  I couldn't wait to get out to the pasture this morning, to join my brown friend.  Today was going to be nothing but fun for me- being a horse or not, I was determined to enjoy today.  

Harrington finally came out and snapped on my halter, but instead of putting me out with other horses, took me to a smaller pasture in front of the barn.  It was nice- plenty of grass, two large shade trees, and a water trough- but no one else was in it.  I waited impatiently by the gate, then after a bit realized that he wasn't bringing anyone out to join me.  

I began to pace, then run up and down by the fence, trying to get his attention.  I'm out here alone.  How about some company?   I began to neigh loudly, almost a shrieking noise, and heard my brown friend in the other pasture answer back, along with the black mare.  

Stopping, I lifted my head, flaring my nostrils.  It seemed the right thing to do- and I was rewarded with the faint smell borne by the wind of other horses.  This made me feel reassured- as if I wasn't totally alone- but made me feel more lonely at the same time.  

I started thinking about the pasture- Harrington had called it a 'stud pen'- and why I was there.  It can't be from trashing the white horse- he deserved it.  And no one helped me when I was getting beat up.   I began to paw, snorting and tossing my head, then stopped.  I'm acting like a horse again- it's time to think.  I'm not a horse.    I turned my attention to the gate- the latch was straightforward, a metal snap attached to a ring.  It was laughably simple to open- if I'd had fingers.  But try as I might with my lips, I couldn't work the snap open.

Frustrated, I walked slowly around the perimeter of the pen.  It was fairly large- about twenty by thirty meters- with a fence about four feet high, sturdily built, and topped with an electric wire.  An ordinary horse would not be able to escape.  

The black mare began to call again.  I lifted my ears, listening to her voice- it was almost like music, and made my heart pound.  She's just a horse.  Stop thinking like this.  Don't give in to lust.  

I heard my friend the brown horse call for me again, too, and suddenly felt very alone.  No longer a human had made me lonely enough, now I didn't even have other horses for companionship.  I called back, and they both whinned back to me, their voices carrying- what?  An emotion?  Did they miss me as well?   The realization came to me suddenly that I'd underestimated horses- they might not have the same complexity of emotion or thought but they did have the same basic needs.

I walked over and stood beneath one of the trees, reaching down and taking a mouthful of the grass.  It was softer and tasted different from the grass in the other pasture, and as I contemplated this I saw a car come in the drive.  The thin woman got out, along with a man, and they walked over to the fence.  

I came over to stand close to them, and listened.  She said my name twice, but the rest of the words were a blurred muddle.  The man looked at my legs, then looked me over in a way that made me uncomfortable- it was as if he were sizing me up.  Did Caroline decide to get rid of me?  Did this man come out to buy me?   I began to panic, wondering again if I'd be sent off, never to see my love again.  

The two walked off to the barn, and I began to walk about the paddock nervously, the tasty grass forgotten.  Harrington came out with a halter, then walked into the small pasture.  I thought for a moment about running off- if I dashed away, it might take him hours to catch me- but decided if I'd been sold, there was no point, so I stood patiently as he put the halter on me, attaching a lead rope.  Strangely, he didn't lead me from the paddock but instead led me away from the gate, standing me under the tree.  

I heard another car arrive- it was Caroline, she came over and stood by the gate to the paddock.  I looked back at her- she looked over at me, and I tried to read her face.  She doesn't seem upset- she almost seems... I shuddered a bit; the look on her face was too much like in my dream.

I heard the black mare call to me, and looked up.  The thin woman was leading her to the gate, and she brought the mare into the pasture, releasing her.  Harrington unsnapped the lead rope from my halter, and as the mare galloped toward me I realized what I was expected to do.  

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She was beautiful- no matter that I was a horse or not, the mare was gorgeous.  I found myself running toward her, and we circled each other, our ears upright and nostrils flared.

I stopped, and she boldly walked to me, nickering.  Our noses touched, and I drank in her breath- the instincts that were written into my horse self all told me of the erotic pleasure that the mare promised, and I found myself getting hard as the mare suddenly squealed, pawing at the air wth her foreleg.  I felt my upper lip involuntarily curl back, and I closed my eyes, enjoying her scent that was so intense that I could taste it.  

Opening my eyes, the mare had turned away from me.  She had her head to the side, watchimg me expectantly, and her tail was raised and pushed to the side.  Her vulva was pulsing- 'winking'- and all thoughts of anything but breeding the mare were pushed from my mind.  I walked up slowly behind her, wondering exactly what I had to do- how would I get on top of her?

Then I caught sight of Caroline, standing by the gate with Harrington and the thin woman.  How can I do this?  Have sex with another woman in front of...but the mare's not another woman, and I'm not me...but I am me.  But it's all right, Caroline wants me to do this.

The black mare nickered impatiently and waved her tail, her intense scent assaulting my senses.  I reared behind her and lunged forward onto her back- she bucked a little; obviously I'd done it wrong.  I was on top of her back, my forelegs awkwardly splayed to either side of her, her butt pressed firmly against my midriff.  But I was in about the right position, and I thrust forward, finding the right spot, and she pushed back, her muscles grasping me rythmically.

All of my humanity was gone from my mind as I began to thrust into her repeatedly, almost desperately pounding in and out.  The mare staggered slightly from my weight but pushed back against me as we both nickered in an almost subaudible deep rumbling.  

I felt her shudder- so mares have orgasms, too.   Then I exploded insider her,  letting out a shrieking call that told all the other horses of my conquest, pumping madly as waves of pleasure assaulted my body and my very being.  

Suddenly it was over.  I was covered with sweat, exhausted, and I pulled back from the mare, almost collapsing.  My lust satisfied, I was suddenly hit with a cloud of guilt, and I tried to see Caroline but not meet her eyes.  What will she think of me when she finds out- when I'm human again?  How can I explain why I screwed an animal?   The mare had no such compunctions- she was grazing nearby.  Harrington came into the pasture and looked at her shoulders, making sure that our amorous encounter had not left her injured, then he came over to me.  

I felt ashamed as he looked under my belly, then he patted my shoulder, saying something that sounded reassuring, but the two women laughed, which made me feel even more embarrassed.  Then he left the field, and the three of them walked off leaving me with the black mare.  I looked at her for a time, as she ate, content, without any shame at what she'd just done.  It was right for her- to try to bring new life to the world, to help continue her kind.  Our kind.  I'm a horse now.  After this, I don't deserve... but no, Caroline wanted me to do this.  But would she have if she knew?

Giving up on trying to sort out the rightness or wrongness of what I'd just done, I gave in to my hunger instead, and began to graze, eating the tender grass.  I found myself standing by the mare, our heads and eyes only inches apart as we ate grass, and thought of waking in bed with Caroline, and how beautiful the mare's eyes were.
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The mare and I were left alone in the pasture the rest of the day.  I gave in and bred her three more times- every time as pleasureable for me as the last, every time ending with pangs of guilt- but the guilt lessened each time.  It seemed so natural, the mare so willing, and I began to consider that this might be my fate- to never be human again, to be doomed to being a horse, but the day with the mare made it seem less onerous.  Late in the afternoon, the skies began to darken, a storm brewing.  It was part of living in the midwest- the weather was seldom unpredicatable, but when it was, it was devastating.  

The two women came back to our pasture to bring us in- they were in a hurry.  Caroline seemed particularly agitated as she slipped my halter on, and for an instant I wondered if she'd suddenly realized it was me.  I pressed my head against her- she ran her hands over my poll, just behind my ears, and said something soft to me-I could hear worry and concern in her voice.  I wanted badly to take her into my arms and comfort her, but the best I could manage was to nicker softly and rub my head against her.  The thin woman took the black mare by, but I could only pay attention to Caroline.  Darling, I hope you'll forgive me for betraying you.  

She snapped the leadrope to the halter and led me back toward the barn.  The black mare kept turning her head as the thin woman led her ahead of us, nickering to me and confused by my not responding.  As we walked in through the doors, the clouds   cut loose and it began to pour.   

Caroline led me down the aisle and hooked me to the crossties in front of my stall.  She opened her tack box and pulled out some grooming equipment then began to brush me, starting with my neck.  I'd found that this was what I enjoyed most- when she'd use the hard plastic brush that would massage my skin, and when she'd brush where it was hard for me to scratch with my teeth.  She was brushing me with determination, and I turned my head to the side, sticking it out so that my neck would tense and I'd get the most from the brushing.  

It was going rather well until the thin woman walked up, and Caroline slowed her brushing to talk to her.  I was slightly annoyed, but even the slow brushing was better than none.  She continued on, brushing my back, then switching to a softer brush for my legs.  For some reason, she seemed to be very careful brushing my legs, as if they'd fall off.  

There were large tufts of hair above my hooves- 'feathers', they were called- and she brushed these thoroughly, spraying something onto them out of a bottle.  I guessed it was some kind of hari conditioner.  

I knew my hooves were next, and picked each up as Caroline came to them with a pick- it seemed to amaze and please her every time that I did this, apparently normal horses didn't.  She worked quickly- I could feel the pick as she cleaned by the frogs of my hooves, but it wasn't painful.  The thin woman continued to talk with her,and Caroline paused as she cleaned the last hoof- my right hind one.  
As she finished, she suddenly walked off with the thin woman- this confused me, as the next step in her routine was always to brush my face with the soft brush, finishing with my tail.  I looked at them as they walked off, my head arched and ears forward, and I whinnied, trying to get her to come back.  Hey, you're forgetting me!  

I pulled slightly against the crossties- I knew I could break them but Caroline would be upset, so instead I stomped my hoof impatiently.  The other horses were eating- I could hear them- and I was hungry.  It seemed like she was gone for an hour.  I started to worry, as she hadn't left me alone on the crossties before.  

*************************

She finally came back- her eyes were red, as if she'd cried.  I tried to reach for her, stretching my nose out and rubbing it against her shoulder, but she just loosened me from the crossties and put me back into my stall.  There was food in my bucket, but I ignored it and stood at the door, whinnying to her as she walked away.  Something had upset her, and I was frustrated- I couldn't hold her and comfort her, nor could I even understand what had happened.  

The next morning I woke to hear rain pounding on the barn's roof.  I wondered if we'd be going outside- Harrington fed us our normal rations, but when he didn't come back to start letting us out, I realized we'd be staying in the barn all day.  It was bad enough being a horse when we were free to move about- but inside the stall, it was like being in a prison.  After finishing breakfast- there was nothing to do- I began to pace around the stall in a circle, listening to the other horses as they finished last bits of hay.  Most of them seemed relaxed, as if this was a normal part of everyday life- and I realized with a sinking feeling that now it was for me, too.  

The brown horse next to me began to rub his butt against the wall between us.   I watched the boards flex slightly from his weight, and for no particular reason I turned and kicked the wall.  This startled him, and he jumped to the other side of his stall, snorting.  I felt satisfied for a second, but then guilty- the brown horse was my friend, and there was no reason for me to have done that.  I came over by the steel bars between our stalls, my ears forward in an invitation, and he cautiously came over.  He snorted out, and I breathed in, smelling his breath, the faint odor of the oats we'd eaten for breakfast, and the slightly flat smell that told me he was a gelding.  I snorted back, and he breathed in; I wondered if he could tell more than the rudimentary things that I'd been able to discern in the past few days.  After all, he'd been a horse all his life.  

He seemed to relax.  We stood there, facing each other, then he turned slightly to the side so I was standing by his shoulder.  I couldn't quite reach through the bars with my nose to scratch his withers with my teeth, but I turned as well, facing the opposite direction.  It was sheer boredom, staring at the door and listening to the rain pound on the roof, but at least there was company.  

After a time, Harrington came in accompanied by a teenager.  The two walked about, then the teenager came back, pushing a wheelbarrow- she wasn't the normal stall cleaner, and I looked at her curiously.  There was some kind of lettering on her T-shirt- it was frustrating that I couldn't read any more- but the colors of it and odd shaped letters, along with a cartoon picture of a slightly offensive version of Mickey Mouse let me guess that whatever it said, it wasn't polite.  She had several earrings, only one of which was actually attached to her ear- there was one through her nose, and one above each eye.  With my improved sense of smell I could tell that she'd been smoking, and not tobacco.  

She placed a radio on one of the tack trunks and turned it on, blaring some kind of rap music.  I watched as she started two stalls down.  She took the horse out- a sorrel who didn't turn out with us- and placed him on the crossties, then began to shovel out his stall.  It didn't take her too long- she apparently at least had this skill- and as she finished, she pushed the wheelbarrow up, then returned the sorrel to his stall.  

The brown horse- my friend- was next.  She opened the stall door- he was facing away from it- and swung the halter hard, hitting his butt.  He jumped and spun around, snorting, from the unexpected assault.  She began to speak to him in a harsh voice, placing the halter on then shanking him with the chain.  The brown horse put up with it- though he was clearly frightened- and he stood on the crossties while she cleaned his stall, dancing slightly from foot to foot and turning his head to watch her.  

As she finished, she came over and hit the brown horse pretty hard with the lead rope.  He jumped aside, still snorting.  I could smell his fear; he was restrained by the crossties and unable to evade her pointless attack.  Again, she fastened the lead rope, chain over his nose, then snatched it several times before unfastening him and returning him to his stall.

I was next- she opened the door, and I walked forward, lowering my head.  Her shoulder was tantalizingly close as she reached up to buckle the halter- I thought of sinking my teeth into it, and started to open my mouth, but thought of what would happen if I did.  She'd lie- say I bit her for no reason.  And with my reputation, Caroline would believe it.  The opportunity was past, and she was pulling on the lead rope.  She clipped me to the crossties, and I turned my head slightly to watch as she cleaned my stall.  It took several minutes, so I thought hard about what I could do- the brown horse was my friend, and I intended to not let this pass.

She came and unclipped me, and not using a leadrope turned me around in the aisleway.  This was her mistake- without the lead, she had little control.  I jumped forward as if I was frightened- she let go of the halter, and though she was cursing, I could see a little fear in her eyes as I tossed my head.  I bolted forward, knocking over the wheelbarrow and sending manure and wet shavings flying about the aisleway.  For good measure, I kicked it as I ran past, the metal crumpling with a satisfying noise.  I galloped down the aisle, listening to the other horses jump, startled at my freedom, and I raced out into the empty riding arena.  It felt good, being out after the confinement, and I galloped around the arena madly, bucking and kicking, whinnying to the world that I was free.  I was a horse, and I savored the feeling of the blood pounding through my veins.  Stop- I'm a man.  I'm not a horse.  I'm not a horse.  

I abruptly slid to a stop, my giddiness shattered.  I was starting to enjoy this, and I wondered what was wrong with me.  As the punk teen came toward me, though, I turned and trotted off, as I could only guess what treatment I'd get.  She hurled curses at me, along with a clump of dirt, and I broke into a gallop.

We kept it up for at least an hour- every time she'd get close to me, I'd turn and run to the other end of the arena.  Finally she left, and returned with Harrington.  She was gesturing with her hands, pointing at me.  Harrington listened, then walked toward me, calling.  "Hans."  

I obediently walked to him and lowered my head.  He slipped the halter on and began to walk me back toward the stalls.  The teen came up, and Harrington said something harsh to her.  I turned my head as we walked by and wrinkled my nose- actually, more flared my nostrils, about the best gesture I could do.  He took me back to my stall; the teen followed us, and I could tell from the tones of their voices that she was arguing with Harrington.  

He stood in my stall, talking to her- I stood quietly, trying to appear harmless.  He finally took off my halter, and closed the door.  I was actually a little frightened at what she might do once Harrington left, but he stayed in the barn for the rest of the morning, until the stallcleaner left.  The next day, she didn't return.

********************************

Several days passed, and it was finally Saturday.  I could still remember the concept of weekdays, and Saturday was pretty obvious- hordes of children descended on the stable for lessons, along with the 'once a week' horsemen.  Many of the horses, including myself, would be kept in and only turned out at noon, so that if our owners came out to ride, we'd be in the barn and they wouldn't need to catch us in the field.  I looked forward to Saturdays, as Caroline would come and see me most of the day.  

Caroline came out, as I'd hoped.  She seemed pleased to see me, but troubled all the same.  I came to the stall door, nickering to her softly, and she opened it, placing the halter on my head when I lowered it to her.  Our faces were close together, and I looked deeply into her eyes.  Caroline, can't you see me in here?  Look into my eyes, it's me.   

A strange look came to her face.  "Hans..." she reached to touch my face, and I could see a tear in her eye.

Someone called her, and she turned away, the spell broken.  She took me to the crossties, and I relaxed, knowing I was about to get a good brushing.  She started with my face, stroking it with a soft brush- I wasn't very fond of this, the brush tickled my face, and I'd have preferred the stiffer one, but she was religious about using the soft brush on my face and lower legs.  My neck and shoulders along with my mane got the much more satisfying stiff brush, which felt good, then my back and belly, followed by my rump.

After she'd done this, my tail got brushed- this was a curious sensation, having my tail held up while she carefully brushed through it, not using a comb- the comb pulled my hair out.  I enjoyed it, since it was a very pleasant feeling.  She put the brush away, then I carefully held my feet up one at a time to have them cleaned.  I could feel the small tool scraping the dirt and manure out of my hooves, from the grooves to either side of the frog.  It didn't take very long, then Caroline was spraying me with bug spray- it kept the flies off me, which I liked, but it smelled kind of funny, and I turned up my nose at it and curled my lip, which made her laugh.  

As I stood on the crossties, I watched as Harrington walked up with two people I didn't recognize- a man and a woman, wearing matching yellow T-shirts.  They stopped by the brown horse's stall, and I watched them, getting an uncomfortable feeling.  They spoke to Harrington for a few minutes, and I was only vaguely aware of Caroline putting on my saddle.  When Harrington went into the stall with a halter and brought the brown horse out, I suddenly felt very upset, and whinnied loudly.  The brown horse called back as Harrington led him out of the stall, and the two people began to look at him, poking and prodding him as if they were buying him.  No!  He's my friend!   I screamed out loudly, and pulled against the crossties, feeling Caroline's hand against my neck and hearing her voice, soothing.  

The brown horse turned and called to me, but the man in the yellow shirt tugged at the lead rope and he walked off down the aisle toward the door to the parking lot.  I whinnied again, and felt a tug at my halter as Caroline tried to get my attention.  I turned my head aside, looking at her, and fighting my emotion- it was only another horse, after all.  Caroline undid my halter, putting on my bridle and slipping the cool metal bit into my mouth, then led me toward the doors as well- we were going to ride outside.

We got to the door in time to see a truck and horse trailer pull away.  The brown horse was inside, and I let out another loud whinny, feeling my heart sink.  I'd looked forward all week to being with Caroline, but now my friend was gone away.  She said something- I looked over to her, she seemed somehow to understand as she put her hand against my face, rubbing me beneath my ear, then she pulled the reins over my head, pulled the irons to the ends of the stirrups and climbed into the saddle.  

I hadn't been on the paths near the stable- I remembered Harrington telling me about them- and wasn't exactly sure what to expect.  Caroline guided me toward a path that was adjacent to the road, and I followed along it.  It was invigorating to be outside again, away from the dullness of going round and round the ring, and the thoughts of the brown horse leaving were pushed aside for a few minutes as I began to enjoy the day.  The grass on the path was soft and my steps were almost silent as we made our way along the path as it wound through the trees.  Caroline tapped at my sides and I broke into a trot- it felt good, almost like jogging.  I'd always enjoyed hiking and this was almost better- I felt full of energy and was tempted to break unbidden into a run, but thought better of it, as I didn't want to startle Caroline.  

We soon overtook another horse and rider, and Caroline pulled me to a walk.  I walked along next to the other horse, surveying him critically- he was a grey gelding, shorter and stockier than me, and I felt smugly superior- I was a stallion, and the little grey horse knew it.  Just to be certain, I pinned my ears and moved my head toward him, and he shied away submissively.  Caroline tugged a bit at my reins in warning, but I'd made my point, and we walked along together.  

I'd been focused on the horse, and realized with a start that Caroline had been talking to his rider.  The grey's rider was a tall man, wearing a red cowboy shirt, and though I couldn't understand what they were saying, the tone was friendly.  I looked at the man critically- he was a bit older than me, or at least older than I'd been as a human, and wasn't as good looking as I was- either as a human or as a horse- but he was there, and talking to Caroline.  

This was unendurable- I wouldn't lose her, not to this jerk.  I thought for a moment about bolting, but thought of a better plan.  The trail went near a picnic area and parking lot, and there were certain to be children there who would run up to see us- horses attract children like magnets.  I'd jump a little, and frighten the grey horse so he'd run off.  

As we rounded the trees, I was satisfied to see the picnic area filled, and as I expected several children stopped playing and began to hurry toward the trail.  I picked up my ears, stopped abruptly and snorted loudly, but the grey horse only looked with interest.  What's wrong with him?  There's danger near.  I began to toss my head and back up, which was a clear signal to the grey horse we should flee, but he stood there, calmly watching the children who were still approaching, but now cautiously.  

I ignored Caroline's tugging at my reins, focused on the little grey horse as I backed up.  He's standing there like there's nothing wrong.   Something suddenly poked me from behind, and I jumped forward, away from the attack.  Caroline started to slip, grabbing my mane and tumbling forward.  I tried to move under her and succeeded, but she was half out of the saddle, clinging to my neck, and she slid to the ground, shaking.  The tall man got off his horse and came over, making concerned sounds and helped her to her feet- not exactly the outcome I'd hoped for.  I could only look helplessly as he comforted her and helped her to her feet, and could only follow helplessly as she led me back toward the barn, walking by the grey horse as our riders continued talking.  

Caroline put me hurredly in my stall- she only paused to take off my saddle and bridle- then rushed off.  I stood in the corner and watched her go.  She's already forgotten me- I wonder what she thinks happened, why I'd suddenly vanish.  Well, I haven't done much to make her want me as a horse, either. It had been an awful day- I looked at the empty stall next to mine.  My friend was gone, and now I'd lost Caroline to some stranger she'd met in the park.  

Harrington came, filling our feed buckets.  I didn't feel much like eating, but my stomach did, so I walked over and began to halfheartedly munch on the sweet pellets and oats.  The other horses nearby were all quiet as they ate, as if they could feel my despair and didn't want to disturb me in my sorrow.  

There was no point in being jealous- Caroline was lovely, and I knew that she couldn't be alone the rest of her life.  I was a horse- plain and simple, I was a horse now, and couldn't be anything more to her than a pet.  An entertaining convenience, who she had no deep ties to.  I walked away from my feed tub and looked through the steel bars into the empty stall next to mine- I was an animal, mere property, and she might even sell me if I became inconvenient or too much of an annoyance.  

The barn was quiet all night- most likely the other horses were tired from their busy Saturdays, and with only an empty stall next to me I had no companionship.  I'd grown used to the presence nearby, squeezing my lips between the bars to nip at my friend, not in anger but as an equine gesture of friendship, and now there was nothing there but yet another emptiness, and I fell into a mood of dark despair, worse than any I'd suffered.  Death seemed an attractive idea- a release from this prison, from the agony and loneliness I felt.  I wondered what it would be like- I'd never believed in the supernatural before, but here I was, a horse.  Something existed beyond my comprehension, and I wondered what would happen.  It wouldn't be too hard to do- barns are designed with the knowledge that horses have common sense, and what I was considering would be beyond the comprehension of a normal horse.  There was a set of crossties outside my stall, and I walked over to the bars beside them and reached through with my lips, grabbing the thick nylon rope and pulling it in.  There was a snap at the end, and I carefully worked this with my lips and teeth.  It took me about a half hour, but I eventually snapped the rope back on itself, forming a loop.  I stuck my head through- my neckbones were too deep inside me to snap, but I figured if I pulled back against the nylon it'd cut my air off and I'd suffocate.  One of the nearby horses whinnied nervously, as if realizing what I was contemplating.  Caroline, I hope you forgive me, but I can't bear this any more...

I pulled back against the rope, feeling it tighten and crush against my windpipe, and when I suddenly couldn't breathe began to panic, my body's survival instincts telling me to run, to struggle.  I fought against it, pulling back as hard as I could, then tumbling to my knees, feeling a darkness settling over my mind as I lost consciousness...

**********************************************

I woke suddenly, terrified.  I was on the ground, confused, where any predator could attack me, and there was something beside me.  My neck was sore, and my sides ached as I gasped for breath, but the panic within me forced me to immediately try to scramble to my feet.  I rolled onto my stomach and pushed my forelegs out, calming almost instantly- it was Harrington, the human that fed me.  

I got to my feet, trembling.  Harrington made soothing noises; he held the nylon crosstie in his hand, the crisply cut end telling the story of my salvation.  He came to me slowly, touching my neck, and I relaxed, wondering if he had any more food for me.  Instead, he felt where the nylon tie had dug into my neck, and I flinched from the soreness, stepping away from him.

He left me, closing the stall door, but leaving the barn lights on as he walked out.  I waited for a bit, the other horses stirring restlessley- it was too early for breakfast, but they still nickered to Harrington as he walked back in, striding purposefully to my stall and carrying a small plastic bucket.

It wasn't food but several tubes and jars and a sponge.  He took my halter and opened my door, so I turned to face him, allowing him to slide the hatler over my head, and I followed him as he led me down the barn aisle to another set of ties.  I felt uncomfortable as he hooked them to the halter- there was nothing to be afraid of, I knew, but I still felt uneasy at being restrained.  He began to rub in the ointment- it was yellow and stung where it hit raw flesh.  I curved my neck slightly to turn my head, watching him through my right eye, and was a bit startled- there was a lot of hair missing, and I looked awful.

As he worked, I wondered what had brought him to the barn so late at night- it had to be well after midnight.  If he hadn't come out, I'd almost certainly have strangled, and though it had been my intent, I shivered realizing how close I had come to death, and wondered what had been so bad about my life that I'd wanted to end it.  Then the memory came crashing back- I had totally alienated Caroline, as if she even really cared about me at all now.  Depressed, I carefully lay down- the raw areas were very painful, and I wanted to keep the shavings out of them- and went to sleep.

One strange thing I'd discovered is that though I could snooze standing up, I had to lie down to get a good sleep- when I napped standing, I didn't dream.  Although the first few weeks I'd usually been human in my dreams, now I was more and more dreaming of being a horse, and tonight was no different.

I stood in the arena, waiting patiently, my saddle on.  Caroline came out and took my reins and climbed into the saddle- I felt pleased, as if she could have picked any horse and she't chosen me.  She asked me to walk- I moved my feet, but we didn't go anywhere.  I was confused- it was as if I were walking on a frictionless surface, my feet moved but I didn't go forward.  Suddenly there was a jab in my ribs- I could tell she was getting angry at me for not moving.  I broke into a trot, then as she angrily began to strike me with her crop into a gallop; but we remained motionless...

She suddenly got off, and I found myself in my stall, watching as she handed my halter to the man who we'd seen in the park.  She started walking away- I felt betrayed and tried to call to her, but she wouldn't listen to my anguished cries, and I watched her walk out of the barn, the large doors closing behind her.

I turned to the man, heartbroken, but he was gone.  The barn walls around me suddenly vanished, and I found myself standing in a dense fog- I could see only a few feet around me and was afraid to move.  I whinnied in fear, but could only hear cold laughter in reply.

I woke with a start.  Sunlight was streaming through my window, and as I got to my feet I could hear the reassuring normal morning barn sounds.  The other horses were calling as they heard the rattle of the feed cart's wheels- I found myself standing by the door, my ears up, peering anxiously as Harrington went from stall to stall, doling out the oats and sweet feed that had become my diet.  

Finally he got to my stall, and I backed away from the door to let him in.  He made a friendly noise, dumping my feed into my bucket.  As I started to eat, he paused, looking at my neck, and making a concerned noise.  I was quite hungry, and my ration was quickly gone.  

Hay came next, and I was soon tearing at a few flakes of alfalfa hay.  I'd grown tired as a human of eating the same food frequently, but now the lack of variety was somehow reassuring.  I knew from the small bit of studying I'd done that horses don't tolerate diet changes well, but I brushed the thought aside.  Alfalfa hay was delicious, and if I ever became a human again- when I became human again- I'd determined that I'd do my best to make it a legal requirement to feed it to horses.

I snorted at the thought- it seemed rather absurd on reflection, but it seemed fair.  Today, I decided, I'd just enjoy being alive, and was soon standing by my door with anticipation again, waiting to go outside.

Disappointment again.  Harrington let all the other horses out, but left me standing in my stall.  I whinnied, banging my feed bucket in frustration, trying to get his attention and wondering if I had again messed up- was I stuck in my stall, deemed 'accident prone'?

I stood in the stall, staring out the window.  There was little to do- the stall had seemed so big when I'd rented it, and now it seemed tiny for my huge horse body.  The stall cleaners came in, moving from stall to stall with their muck rakes and wheelbarrow, and I actually looked forward to them putting on my halter and leading me to another stall while they cleaned mine- it broke the sheer monotony.  

I stood in the stall, sniffing the bucket- there was nothing there, the horse who lived in it had polished off his- no, her- breakfast.  I could tell from the faint odors- something in my brain told me that a  mare lived in this stall, and I felt compelled to dig around in the shavings on the floor.  It was something to do, and it seemed interesting.

Distracted by my hunt for new smells, I didn't realize until I heard the door slide open that it was time for me to return to my stall.  I felt a little put out, and thought of giving the stall cleaner a hard time, but thought better of it- my reputation was already bad enough.  He put the halter on, carelessly grabbing it instead of using a lead rope- I followed him, though, acting the part of the obedient horse.  He put me into the stall, leving the halter on as he walked off- a bit careless, but I wasn't in the mood today for suicide so it wasn't a big deal, and I returned to my vigil at the window.

It was a bit before noon, judging by the shadows, when Caroline's car came in, and I perked up my ears, excited.  This meant at the very least that she'd take me out into the ring and ride me, or at least I hoped, but again was disappointed- she came to my stall and was clearly not dressed for riding.  She also hadn't brought down my brushes from the tack room, and my mind began to race, wondering what was going on, as she seemed quite upset as she looked through the iron bars on the door at me.  

I heard a truck pull into the driveway but ignored it, focused on Caroline who stood outside the stall.  She hadn't taken me out, and I nickered to her, trying to hurry her along.  This just seemed to upset her more, and she turned away as Harrington and a stranger walked into the barn.

  **************************************************************************

The stranger was an attractive woman- or at least she was to my taste, tall but not too thin, with auburn hair and an authoritative confidence to her motion.  Harrington seemed a bit distressed- since I'd become a horse, I was much better at reading people's body language- he was tense, and kept a distance from her.  Caroline said something in greeting, and the stranger walked up to her and spoke briefly, but then their attention turned to me.  

I felt uncomfortable, as the strange woman stared at me, and I turned slightly aside and backed away from the door.  The three spoke for a few more minutes, the woman staring at me the whole time- I watched her uncomfortably with my left eye, an ear cocked to listen to the conversation and frustrated to not understand a bit.  

She suddenly opened the stall door- it hung by overhead rollers, and the wheels let out a grating sound as she slid it open and walked in, carrying my halter.  I didn't move toward her but tensed up- she saw it but moved confidently to my shoulder, reaching over my poll with her right hand and firmly pulling my head down and sliding it into the halter.  I was annoyed by this and thought of pulling back, but didn't want to upset Caroline, so tolerated it as she buckled the halter and snapped on the cotton lead rope.  

I followed her down the aisleway.  Curiously, she was leading me toward the front doors, not toward the riding ring- I'd supposed she was another trainer of some sort, and riding outside was not what I'd expected.  Harrington and Caroline followed a bit behind, and I turned my head slightly to see her.

Caroline seemed uncertain- I flicked my ear around and nickered to her, but this produced a sharp snatch on the lead rope and a verbal rebuke from the stranger.  She led me outside the barn, and I froze- a large silver horse trailer was hooked to a truck in the drive.  She sold me...  I began to panic and pull back.  I couldn't leave Caroline, or the barn that had become my home- they were the only connections I had left, somehow the only hope to regain my humanity.  

The stranger pulled on the lead again, and I felt the end of the rope slap against my flank.  She wanted me to go forward, toward the gaping doors of the trailer that seemed like the gateway to doom.  I pulled back hard, rearing slightly, and felt the lead rope stinging against my chest as the woman snatched down repeatedly on the lead rope.  

Harrington said something in an angry tone, and the woman said something back to him, keeping her eyes focused on me the whole time.  She tugged me forward- I held my head back as high as I could, but the pain of the metal chain over my nose was too great and I walked forward to the back of the trailer.  Both my human self and horse self screamed out at me to not get into the trailer- it was a big one, and in good condition, but I dreaded entering it.  

Caroline was suddenly there, standing by the woman, and I forced myself to calm down as she took my lead rope and spoke in a gentle voice.  She began to talk up the ramp into the trailer.  If this is going to be your last memory of me... I walked behind her obediently, and touched my nose against her shoulder.  She reached up, rubbing my face reassuringly, then snapped a nylon rope to my halter- it was shorter than the lead rope, and another snap on the other end was attached to a ring set into the trailer's side wall.  I turned my head as much as it would allow, and watched her walk out.  She turned to face me as the strange woman shut the trailer's ramp, blocking my view.  I whinnied out desperately, pulling on the rope- it was strong, and there was nowhere I could go anyway, trapped inside the trailer.  

Outside, I heard the three talking briefly, then the truck's door slammed and I heard it's engine start.  When the trailer moved, I almost fell- I'd expected the motion, but unable to see anything outside wasn't prepared for the exact second the floor began to move.  It was an uncomfortable experience, as the trailer changed direction I almost fell again and had to scramble desperately to keep from falling to my knees.  

We travelled for at least a half hour- partly on a freeway, or at least I guessed we were on one from the constant speed and heavy traffic.  I'd thought that I was used to the motion, until the trailer changed direction abruptly several times, but I'd gotten used to it to some extent and found that I could lean against the trailer's side, bracing myself at least to not fall when we went through right turns.  

The truck finally stopped, and it's engine was shut off.  I turned my head slightly, watching as the woman opened the ramp, then came up beside the trailer, opening a small door beside my head and unsnapping the trailer tie.  I carefully and slowly backed out of the trailer- it was a bit disconcerting, as the trailer shifted slightly as my weight came behind it's axles, and the ground felt unsteady beneath my hooves as I slowly backed down the ramp.

As soon as my head was clear, I paused to look around.  There was a barn- smaller than Harrington's, and newer, with several small white fenced pastures nearby.  They looked appealing- the grass was green, and they all featured oak trees, but they contained no horses.  This seemed odd, as the day was near perfect.  

She led me into the barn.  Inside, like outside, was neat and spotless.  A young girl got up abruptly- she'd been sitting on a tack trunk- and came up cautiously.  I guessed she was about ten years old, and the plastic rimmed glasses she wore made her look bookish and seemed out of place with the jeans and gingham western shirt she wore..  She seemed a bit nervous, saying something that produced a harsh response from the woman who punctuated her conversation by snatching on the lead rope several times.  I stood there, too depressed by my situation to protest.  

The woman finally finished her tirade and handed my lead to the girl, then turned and walked briskly off.  The girl seemed as listless as I felt, and led me to a set of crossties.  They smelled new, with the same odor as a new car.

I took stock of the barn.  THere were eight stalls, much like Harrington's, about twelve by twelve feet with wood halfway up then metal bars to the ceiling.  The floor appeared to be concrete with rubber matting all the way down the barn's center aisle.  The one thing that had struck me was how clean and orderly it all was- there were no cobwebs, no saddle blankets tossed over racks drying, no brushes lying around outside their tack carriers.  It was as if it were all tidied up for a picture to be taken.  

The girl brushed me methodically, saying nothing.  Caroline had always spoken to me as she brushed, and I had found it reassuring, but the girl was silent, only speaking when she touched my lower left foreleg.  I picked my hoof up, holding it so that she could clean it easily- I turned my head slightly to watch., and picked up and held my hooves up one after the other.  It was something that always seemed to please Caroline, but the girl seemed to not care.  

************

The barn was silent and empty, and I realized with a start that it didn't smell of other horses, but of new wood and fresh paint.  My brushing finished, she pulled a new sheet off a rack and carefully put it on me.  It was green, and had a plasticy smell of having just been taken from it's wrapper.  I waited on the crossties, expecting her to put me out, but instead she walked away, leaving me standing there.

The sheet wasn't too thick, but the day was warm, and it was itchy and uncomfortable.  I didn't know why she'd put it on me, thinking perhaps it was to see if it fit.  I stood for a time, starting to get annoyed- I wanted to go out into the pasture, to move around, to roll and itch my back.  

I also needed to urinate- I hadn't in the trailer, and it had been several hours now since I'd gone.  I started to fidget on the crossties, not wanting to wet the rubber mat, since it'd splash up onto my legs.  It seems trivial, I know, but I hated having  my hind legs smelly and sticky.  Besides, it would attract flies.  

The woman came back, and I picked up my ears, still squirming.  She walked up to me, picking up a lead rope, and I pulled against the crossties, close as I could to her, to save the fraction of a second and get outside or into a stall quicker.

She swung the cotton rope like a whip, and the heavy brass snap slammed against my neck.  Not expecting the attack, I jumped back in fright, almost falling as I hit the back of the cross ties.  She swung the lead rope again- like the girl, saying nothing, but smacked me again with the lead rope.  I pulled hard- Harrington had safety clips on his crossties and I would have been loose, but these ones were nylon, and the snaps were quite solid.  She hit me four times, then attached the leadrope to my halter and released the crosstie snaps.  

I was shaking from fear- the attack had been unprovoked, I didn't think I had done anything wrong, and didn't understand why she had beaten me.  I was too frightened to try to pull away as she led me into a stall, then turned around so that she could step out of the door.  Leaving my halter on, she unsnapped the lead rope, closing the heavy door and latching it.

She walked off, still silent.  I was relieved to see her go, and turned to look around my new stall.  It was big, about fourteen by fourteen feet, and like the rest of the barn seemed brand new.  I walked to the bucket, looking inside- there was no smell of feed, just the strong odor of new plastic.  The water bucket was clean and full, but I wasn't thirsty.   

Parking out, I stretched my back legs and released my bladder.  Despite the shavings, it splashed a bit, but I had to 'go' so bad that I didn't care.  One problem with being a male horse was that urine tended to land right in the middle of the stall, which meant that later I'd be lying on a damp spot if I lay down to sleep.  I tried to only urinate outside, which had made me a favorite no doubt of Harrington's stall cleaners, but here it looked like I was going to spend a lot of time indoors.  

The rest of the day was utterly boring.  The stalls were arranged so that the sides were solid, all the way to the roof, so the only view that I had was into the aisleway through steel bars that went all the way to the ceiling.  There was a window to outside, but it was set too high in the wall for me to see out.  I whinnied once, hoping that at the very least another horse might be in earshot, but there was no reply.  Neither the girl nor the woman came back until late in the afternoon.   

The girl apparently had feeding chores, as she brought an armful of hay into my stall.  I was hungry, and went to snatch some right away, but she held out her hand and firmly pushed my nose away.  Tossing it into a wall mounted hay rack, she turned and walked out of the stall.  

It was rather careless- I was, after all, a strange stallion, and she should never have turned her back on me.  I had no intent on harming her, but I wondered why she was so inattentive.  A moment later, she came in with a plastic bucket of feed.  Minding my manners, I stood at the hayrack, watching her and eating, as she dumped some sweet grain into the feed bucket.  

Waiting until she stepped out and closed the door, I walked over and started on my feed.  It tasted a bit salty- she'd put some kind of minerals onto it, they weren't bad tasing, but I had an unreasonable reluctance to eat the feed as a result.  Hunger got it's way, and I picked at the food, watching the girl.  She stood outside the stall, staring at me as I ate, but still silent.  It was a bit unnerving, and I snorted at her, flaring my nostrils.  

She still said nothing, so I ignored her.  Finishing the grain, I turned back to the hayrack, and didn't notice when she left.  After I ate, I waited for the other horses to come in, but they didn't- I was alone in the barn.  I whinnied as the sun went down, listening for someone else, but no one answered my calls.  


The next day was the same- in fact, the next week was, falling into a grinding routine.  Every day, the girl would come out and feed and water me, then leave.  The woman would come out, stare into my stall, then walk off.  I'd spend all day there, pacing back and forth, with nothing to do.  There was no other horse, not even a cat or dog to keep me company, and despite the nice paddocks, I'd not get turned out.  Late in the afternoon, the girl would come back, take me out, remove the blanket and brush me on the cross ties- it doesn't sound like much, but I started to look forward to it.  Being brushed felt good, and just getting out of the stall was a wonderful feeling.  After the brushing, she'd put me back, then after an hour or so the woman would come in again, look at me, then leave.  The girl came back shortly afterward, and would give me my hay and feed, then water me again.  I started to strain to listen for cars driving by in the distance.  It was something to alleve the boredom.

The other thing I found was my mouth.  After a week or so, I'd gotten so bored that I decided to see if I could pry my water bucket loose from the wall.  I grabbed the handle in my lips, and found that it had an interesting metallic taste, and the smooth texture of the new steel handle felt interesting.  I tried the bucket itself, tasting the vinyl, then biting it to try to release some of the polymers.  Licking it, I found it was a little bitter, and curled my lip from the odd taste, sucking in air through my nostrils- I found that I could get a more intense jolt of sensation that way.  

This may sound stupid, but it was better than staring out at the wall.  The feed bucket was black rubber- it felt interesting against my lip, so I bit into it.  It was starting to get a bit salty from the minerals I got with my food, so I held it in my mouth and started to lick it with my tounge.  Pulling on it, the rubber made a satisfying sound as it began to split.  

Wham!  I hadn't noticed anyone come in, but a whip tore into my flank.  Wham!  I jumped away from the bucket, turning to face the attack.  The woman stood there, a lunge whipe in her hand, her eyes flared in anger.  She said something to me, then the whip came down again onto my face.  

I backed into the corner, shaking in fear.  I couldn't understand what I'd done so wrong to Caroline, to be sent off to this monster.  The whip came down on my face again, and I turned my head, trying to get away, but the stall was too small and I was too big.  She hit me a half dozen times more, then stepped out of the stall, slamming the door shut and leaving me there in the corner.  

She began to shout, and the girl came running in.  The woman gestured toward me several times, shouting angrily, then swung the whip again- this time striking the girl, who fell to her knees, rolling into a ball.  The woman walked away, leaving her curled up on the floor.

I came up to the stall door and looked down at her.  She was crying, but not making a sound, as if she were afraid to.  Somehow I felt responsible, as if I'd brought this on her, and it pained me more than the beating had.  There was no way for me to open the door and come out and comfort her, so I nickered to her softly.  I'm like you, afraid and alone.  

She looked up, and for a second I thought I saw life in her eyes, then she looked away, as if afraid to make eye contact with me, and slowly got up, walking to where a halter and lead rope sat on a hook.  She started to pick this up, then put it back and moved away quickly.

The woman returned, and picked up the halter.  Flinging my door open she walked directly to me, pulling the halter over my nose and buckling it, then attaching the lead rope and taking me out of the stall.  I thought of biting her, trampling her and running out of the barn, but I was afraid to- she might catch me, then I'd get a worse beating.  Instead, I followed her meekly to another set of cross ties- not the ones outside my stall where I was brushed, but some near a tack room, and I hoped we'd be going for a ride, to get out of the barn and it's stifling boredom.  She hooked my halter to them, removing my blanket and replacing it with a saddle pad.  

The saddle was an older one- a dressage saddle, it didn't fit me terribly well and pinched a bit, but I didn't care, I was getting out of my stall.  I started to paw impatiently, but stopped when she picked up a whip.  Next the halter came off, replaced by a bridle with a very mild bit- I hadn't expected that, from the harsh treatment I'd received, but the bridle carried a egg but snaffle bit with a thick mouthpiece that lay gently across my tounge and the bars of my jaw.  She didn't put splint boots on me, which I didn't mind since they felt funny when I trotted, but reached down and pulled my legs forward one at a time so that the leather girth wouldn't rub or pinch me.  

Taking up my reins in her left hand and a crop in her right, she led me toward the barn's door, and I started to think.  Maybe if I bolt, or act badly, she'll sell me.  Nothing could be worse than this.   It seemed reasonable, so I stood quietly while she got on, then walked calmly as she began to ride me out into a large field, waiting for the right moment.  

It was a nice day outside, and I looked around, my ears up, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  The woman rode well, much better than Caroline, not bouncing but sitting very balanced in the saddle, her hands light on the reins.  I'd actually enjoy this, if she wasn't so harsh.  The field was grass, almost up to my knees, and smelled really good, and I was finally too tempted and snatched a bite.  

The crop came down hard on my rump- she didn't snatch at the bit, but instead smacked me hard and kicked me up to a fast trot.  This was my chance- I broke from the trot into a gallop, running faster and faster through the field, then started to buck.  I had found that bucking was a lot of fun without a rider, and with one that I despised was even more so.  She wasn't too bad, and stayed on through my best efforts.  

I finally got tired- she hadn't yanked or kicked during my bucking, just sat calmly, but when I gave up she spurred me on again, the crop coming down, and drove me up to a fast canter, challenging me.  I started to buck again, mainly on principle, but she stayed on.  I was determined to win this one, but tired out again and fell back to a trot.  Again, the spurs and crop came- I was too tired to buck this time, and stayed at a canter.  

She pulled me up to a stop, then got off, rubbing my face, and I felt relieved.  She's not mad at me. Maybe if I'm good, she won't hit me again.  She led me back to the barn, and as we approached I saw the girl, standing silently by the door.  The woman handed my reins to her, then turned and walked off, saying something that sounded like a command.  The girl led me in to the crossties by the tack room, silent as usual, and I stood quietly while she took off the bridle, replacing it with the halter and fastening me to the ties.   After removing the saddle, she hooked the lead to me, then took me outside to a washrack.  


*******************************

After the run and bucking, I was hot and sweaty, and enjoyed the cold water that she sprayed me with.  The water blasted away most of the grime, then she took a sponge and began to wash my neck with soapy water.  She placed the mixture on with the sponge, then brushed it into my coat with a plastic curry brush, rinsing me then moving on to my back and rump.  

Unlike Caroline, who'd wash my legs next, she washed out my tail and mane, then finished with my legs.  My face didn't get washed, which I found disappointing, but she instead wiped it off with a damp towel.  As she finished, I hoped I'd get turned out, but once again was disappointed and I was returned to my stall.  

It was the start of a new routine.  Every day, the woman would ride me in the field, then I'd get a wash down.  After the lengthy confinement in the stall, it was like being let out of prison.  I didn't try bucking again- it seemed pointless and a waste of energy.  This continued for a few weeks.  

My salvation finally came.  It started like the other days, but after breakfast I heard a car come in.  I stopped eating my hay and listened intensely to the voices, then began to nicker excitedly, calling out.  Caroline!  You've come back for me!  

I danced back and forth in my stall, whinnying loudly.  SHe finally walked in- it must have only been a minute, but it seemed forever.  The woman and Caroline walked in, stopping in front of my stall and talking.  Caroline started to reach for my face with her hand, but the woman said something and Caroline stopped, pulling her hand back- she seemed to be disappointed.  

I was praying that she'd come to take me back to Harrington's barn- where I'd be allowed out with the other horses and be free from the violent and unpredictable treatment.  For once, they were answered- I heard a truck pull in and the rattle of a trailer, and Caroline took my halter and opened my stall door.  I pushed up against her- the woman seemed angry but Caroline didn't seem to mind as she put the halter over my head and finally stroked my face.  

She led me out, down the barn aisle, out of my prison.  Harrington was standing outside, beside a truck and trailer.  It all seemed like a dream, and my feet seemed to float over the ground as I walked to the back of the trailer, anxious to get in before Caroline changed her mind and left me here.  

Harrington opened the door, and I stepped in.  The girl who had shared my misery was standing beside the barn, silently watching as I was loaded, and I felt a little guilty leaving her here to her fate.  But there was a haybag tied over the trailer's manger, and Iquickly forgot her as I took a mouthful of delicious alfalfa hay.  

As the trailer rolled along the road, I ate and reflected on my recent experience.  I was determined now to be a perfect horse- so that Caroline wouldn't send me off again to some trainer, or decide to sell me.  It seemed impossible to hope to ever be a human again, and my life as one seemed more a memory of a story that had happened to someone else.  It felt natural to me now.  I was a horse who had once been a human, no longer a human who had become a horse.  

I was lost in my thoughts and the hay when the trailer abruptly stopped, and I looked up to see that we'd returned to Harrington's barn.  I whinnied loudly, and was pleased when my friends called back to me.  Impatiently I pawed at the trailer's floor until I heard the door open, then backed out as soon as Harrington released the safety tie.  

Caroline was waiting there, reaching for my halter with a lead rope.  I stood still, then followed her as she led me toward the pasture.  There were other horses out, and I wanted to rush to the gate, but followed her half a step behind, my head next to her shoulder.  

We stepped through the gate as she opened it, then I waited while she took my halter off.  I didn't run over to the other horses, though they were watching and waiting for me- my friends, my herd- but let Caroline scratch my neck.  I nuzzled her gently, then waited until she stepped out, closing the gate, and I turned and ran to the other horses.  


 



Tpony 2 years ago 0
Out fucking standing!

All I can add is a great big thank you for such an excellent submission.

Please tell me that there will be further offerings!
ThunderSpirit 2 years ago 0
Alas, it would appear that much of my earlier works were lost when my board was wiped out. I am trying to recover my old computer, but if not- nothing wrong with a rewrite I suppose...
Adobefats 2 years ago 0
Your stories are always a fun read... but the rewrites are even funnier... as the rewrite inspires the adding of details that spark a reader to better imagine, and I imagine well, as you know.

Great story !