Anna Sewell's endearing and poignant story of Black Beauty opens in a large, pleasant meadow with a clean pond at Farmer's Grey in the English countryside, the first home of the young colt. After he is grown, "Darkie" as he is called, is sold and moves to Squire Gordon's park which "skirted the village of Birtwick. There Beauty lives in a comfortable stable with Merrylegs and Ginger; sometimes he is turned out into a paddock or an orchard.
When the mistress of Birtwick must move to warmer country, Beauty is ridden to Earls Hall Park. There he lives until he injures his knees and is no longer handsome; the Earl sells him to a livery stable in Bath. After enduring the whip and other hardships, Beauty is sold to Mr. Barry, who also lives in Bath. However, after Beauty develops thrush, a fungus of the bottom of the hoof, he is sold after he recovers.
Following his experience at the horse fair, Beauty becomes a London cab horse with a new master, Jeremiah Barker, a kind and good man, until Jerry falls ill and can no longer drive a cab. So, Beauty is sold to a corn dealer and baker whom Jerry thought would care for the horse. However, such is not the case as Beauty bore heavy loads and lived in a dismal stable in London.
His new master is Nicholas Skinner and Beauty is a cab horse again, but it is a wretched life as he is overworked and underfed. After he falls, Beauty is nursed back to health and sold a few miles from London. It is at this sale that Mr. Thoroughgood buys Beauty and puts him in a meadow where he can recover his strength until he is sold--of all people--to Joe Green, who does not recognize the black horse at first. Then, Beauty is promised he can live out his days there.