A soft breeze blew over the ocean, carrying its salty scent with it. The breeze lifted the wings of birds. As it came to a small island, the wind played with the grains of sand that made up the beach, carrying them a few centimeters inland before leaving them on the beach.
This was the same gust that ruffled the manes of a small herd of horses that lived on Sable Island. There were three bachelor stallions, male horses that had been cast away from their herds. Two were from the same herd and chestnut- coloured. Their names were Pico and Joe. They had become bachelor stallions only weeks ago. The third, a seven-year old bay stallion named Popeye, had lost his mares to another stallion.
They had been grazing the tough island grass when a strange horse was scented, not far off. As the colt came into view, the three could make out his physical appearance. He was bay and had a small star upon his forehead. His name was Shadowstar.
Shadowstar slowed as he neared the three horses. He did not want them to see him as a threat. He would probably have to stay near them for a while. The youngest of the three bachelors, Pico, walked up to him before he even reached the herd, though.
The two horses met nose to nose, exchanging scents on a breath. The other two stallions followed and also exchanged their scents with Shadowstar. The three walked off, not showing any sign of wanting him to follow.
He followed anyway. They led him to one of the freshwater ponds that dotted the island. It was a hot day and Shadowstar was thirsty, so he barged ahead to take a drink from the pool. Popeye put his ears back and showed his teeth at him, causing Shadowstar to back off a little. He stared at the cool water longingly for a moment before trying to take a drink again.
Popeye threatened him again, but Shadowstar did not back off. Instead, he made threatening gestures in return. He wanted that drink. The older stallion snapped at him once, causing Shadowstar to back up a couple of steps. He then advanced again and bit Popeye on the shoulder, causing him to allow Shadowstar access to the water.
Once the colt had had his fill to drink, he let the other horses refresh their thirst. While they were drinking, he thought back to his life with his old family. He had been born on a warm summer night with no moon. His first sight had been of his mother, looking upon her newborn colt. She had been kind to him and he remembered her with such affection as only a foal would feel for his dam. He had been playful and friendly with the other foals from the very beginning. He remembered many days spent chasing his friends around a field or play-fighting with his half-brothers.
One day, near the end of his second summer, Shadowstar was driven away from the herd. He had been not-so-secretly admiring a filly around his age when his father caught him. The stallion drove him away from her and the rest of the herd with very little struggle, leaving Shadowstar too surprised to react. Once he had gathered himself, he had made one pathetic resistance before being chased away. After Shadowstar’s attempt, the lead stallion reared up over him. Out of fear of his sire’s wrath, he fled across the island, doubting he would ever see Gracil again.
He had wandered alone for the remainder of the summer before joining a bachelor band. There were only two colts in this one, but they had been a lot more aggressive. It was during this time that he had learned to hold his own. He stayed with them for the whole winter and the first few weeks of spring. After leaving the herd, he had wandered for a couple of days before finding another horse. This was how he had come to the herd that he was currently in. He returned from his thoughts when he heard another horse approaching. He looked in the direction that the sound was coming from and flared his nostrils, hoping to catch the scent of one or more of the horses in the group. He saw a stallion and his two mares.
The stallion was a little smaller than Shadowstar, with his brown-black coat gleaming in the afternoon sun. You could tell that his two mares were his pride and joy the way he led them to the pond. He certainly took notice of the bachelor band but felt confident that he would not lose his mares for he didn’t leave and find another pond.
The mares were both bay, though one was slightly older and darker in colour. It was not she who caught Shadowstar’s attention, though. It was the younger one. She looked very much like the filly that he had known in the past, though he could not be sure that it was her. He didn’t dare hope so, for fear of disappointment.
He observed the stallion, Bandit, and his mares from afar for a moment, noticing everything from the way he moved, to the way he communicated with his mares. Shadowstar noticed when he was least alert to the presence of the lone stallions. It was in one of those times that Shadowstar decided to challenge Bandit.
He trotted up to him, neck arched with his tail waving in the wind with the likeness of a king’s banner. His ears were pinned back and his way of going was threatening. He cried a challenge to his opponent, a high note that was heard by all horses within a significant distance. He fought for a family, the family that he had dreamed of and longed for all of those winter months.
Bandit responded to the challenge with his own battle cry. He reared up and put his ears back to show that he was not going to just give his mares away. Shadowstar matched his move with a rear and a charge forward to meet him.
Bandit dodged the charge and, when Shadowstar turned to face him, he bit his flank, hard. Shadowstar lashed out in pain with a swift kick before rearing up. The harem leader also rose up on his hindquarters, seeming unaffected by the kick, however, Shadowstar spotted a small spot of tenderness on his barrel before returning his mind to the battle.
Just as he returned to the battle, Bandit was lashing out at Shadowstar’s neck with his teeth. It would mean death if he pierced the tender flesh that was there. He ducked under his opponent’s outstretched head to bite his chest. The brown stallion squealed in rage and pawed at Shadowstar with his front hooves.
The young stallion went down on all four feet at not quite the right time, since the smaller stallion had seen what he was about to do and had repositioned his hooves to strike at Shadowstar’s head. If it was hard enough, it could kill him. Though Shadowstar dodged it, he still felt a hoof hit his ear.
He spun around the stallion and threw his whole body, from shoulder to hindquarters, at Bandit in a full body check. That might not have made any effect if Shadowstar’s opponent were standing still, but the small brown-black horse had also spun to keep facing him. Due to the bay stallion’s speed, however, it caused Bandit to lose balance and fall in the sands beside the pond, leaving Bandit’s underside exposed.
Shadowstar reared up over his adversary. His eyes were narrowed, teeth were bared, and with his hooves pawing at the air, he looked absolutely menacing. This image inspired fear within Bandit, who gathered himself up as quickly as he could and raced away. Shadowstar chased him a little to make sure he stayed away and then went to meet his mares.
He walked up to them, a much softer image than that he had just portrayed. His ears were pricked forward and his head was outstretched to meet them. The first one to come up to him was older and darker-hued. She exchanged her scent with him as if it were a job. He would obviously have to earn the respect of her, of Moondust.
The second mare was younger, closer to his age. She was the one that had seemed like Gracil. Both their eyes widened with recognition after they had exchanged scents. They had known each other in the old herd. The young mare was in fact, Gracil. They showed their affection by standing head-to-tail and grooming each other’s withers while Shadowstar watched Moondust graze the tough island grass. The stallion of Sable Island had found his family.
© 2004 The Richmond Hill Public Library Board