General Fiction posted September 24, 2023 Chapters:  ...6 7 -8- 9... 

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Flying and Swimming

A chapter in the book Four Horse Island

Horse Number Four

by w.j.debi

Ava Revel frees herself from debris after a shipwreck, searches the ship, and finds she is alone except for four horses and a goat in the cargo bay. Ava is attempting to free the animals one by one.
As we headed down the corridor to the freight elevator, the colt shied at every noise he heard: the echoing of his hooves in the cargo bay, a creak in the floorboards, the fluttering of one of the blankets that I'd put up as temporary walls, or some unidentified sound in the dimness around us. He bumped me into the wall a few times as he reacted to his surroundings. Twice, he stepped on my foot making me wish I was wearing my riding boots instead of tennis shoes. At least I wasn’t wearing sandals.
At last, we reached the elevator. I took a deep breath. How was he going to react? A vent kicked on, which was lucky for me. The colt looked up to locate the noise. In three steps I had him in the elevator before he realized it. I booted the wooden block holding the door open out of the way.
As the doors closed, his eyes grew wide. He snorted. Bang, bang, bang. He kicked the elevator wall several times with his left, hind hoof. The elevator shuddered. I could swear it suddenly developed a new squeak.
“Whoa, boy.” I held the lead rope firmly in my left hand and stroked his neck with my right. “We’re okay. We’ll be in the sunshine and out of this box in a few moments.”
The colt settled down enough to prance in place as we journeyed upwards. Some horses walk the entire time they are being transported in a trailer so I chalked it up to that habit seasoned with a healthy dose of his nervous energy. He whinnied which echoed loudly in the enclosed space. Could he hear the other horses or was he hoping they would answer his calls?
As soon as the doors opened, he backed quickly out of the elevator and skidded onto the deck, pulling me with him. Facing him, I braced my feet and held onto the rope with both hands.
“Whoa, boy. I can see you’ve traveled in a few trailers. You backed out of those doors as soon as they opened. Just like a real pro.”
We started toward the back of the ship at a brisk walk. Though the colt wanted to bolt, he stayed with me all the way down the main deck, tugging lightly on the lead as he walked sideways. It would have been a great dressage performance had he been doing it on command. Of course, such an advanced move would be years in the future if he were to do it in a show ring. But he had a natural knack for it. I envied the trainer who was fortunate enough to school him on it.
About ten feet from the top of the ramp, I released him. The other horses were calling to him and he was close enough to figure out where they were. I immediately wondered if I'd made a mistake. He took off at a run, skidding and sliding as he went.
He hesitated at the top of the ramp, prancing in place as he called excitedly to the others. Was it the slope of the ramp or the gap between the ramp and the deck that spooked him? Whatever it was, it gave me time to catch up to him. Just as I reached him, he bounced forward on all four feet. First bounce—he landed several feet down the ramp. Second bounce—several more feet. On the third bounce, he leaped into the air.
My heart caught in my throat as I watched him arc upward and then start plunging downward. Where did he get the energy to gain that height? He was going to get hurt. I should have walked him down the ramp.
Down, down he came. I clutched the railing as I watched.
To my amazement, he landed on all fours just beyond the bottom of the ramp. His knees buckled when he hit the sand, but he recovered instantly, tossing his head. He immediately began bucking and kicking.
Apollo came to greet him, quickly followed by Titan.
I let out a deep breath I didn’t realize I’d been holding. How did the colt survive that? It was like…like watching the god Hermes launch into the air with wings on his feet. I started laughing with relief. The youngest horse had revealed his name.
“Hermes, I’m glad you’re okay." Then I called out to the first horse, "Apollo, take care of him.”
The horses raced back and forth to celebrate their freedom.
I lingered on the ship’s railing to watch their revels. There was a sense of satisfaction in freeing these creatures. It had been hard work, but worth it. Apollo, Titan, and Hermes settled down and started munching on separate piles of hay. I scanned the area. Where was the other horse? 
Apollo neighed. An answer came from the surf near the beach. The missing horse was out in the water up to his belly. He seemed intent as he pawed and stomped at the undulating waves. I smiled. It looked like he was trying to subdue the ocean. Well, Poseidon was the god of the ocean. He was also said to have created the horse. I smiled. It seemed a fitting name. 
“Poseidon, my boy, please, tell the ocean to bring someone to rescue us soon.”
I looked up at the sun and sighed. There wasn’t much time left before sunset. I’d better go get the goat.


Dressage is considered either the ballet or the gymnastics of the horse world, depending on who you ask. Precision movements and communication between horse and rider grow more complex over time as the horse is taken through various levels. It takes years to master.
Here's a definition from the Internet:
The Olympic sport of dressage is derived from the French term meaning "training." Its purpose is to strengthen and supple the horse while maintaining a calm and attentive demeanor. The Pyramid of Training offers riders a progressive and interrelated system through which to develop the horse over time.
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