The poignant story of a beautiful black horse who, interestingly, is the narrator of the novel, Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was extremely effective is bringing about the humane treatment of horses and other animals, in general.
Beauty is born on a horse farm and resides with his mother in "a pleasant meadow." After he is conditioned to ignore loud noises such as a train and he is broken for riding, he is sold to Squire Gordon who resides at Birtwick Hall. There he is named and is introduced to his stablemate, Ginger, who becomes his good friend, and the Cob pony Merrylegs. Beauty also learns to pull a carriage with Ginger. From Ginger, Beauty learns much about cruelty as she has had some difficult experiences in her past, such as when Samson harshly pulled on the reins so much that her mouth was injured at the corners and her sides bleeding from the spurs, or when she was made to wear the bearing rein, a device that forces a horse's head to remain tilted upward in a fashionable manner.
Beauty enjoys his life at Birtwick Hall and becomes a valued horse after he refuses to cross a dangerous bridge. However, his life changes when the Gordons must move because the mistress has health problems. He and Ginger are sold to Earlshall Park where the owners are not so kind, where the mistress demands the use of the bearing rein. When the stable hand Reuben Smith get drunk and takes Beauty upon a very dangerous ride, Beauty falls and scars his knees; then, because his appearance is forever marred, Beauty is sold to a livery stable and lives a rather hard life. One day, though, a kind man purchases Beauty, but the groomsmen do not care for him properly and Beauty goes without food sometimes or gets thrush on his feet because the groosman did not properly clean out his stall.
Mr. Barry, the owner who is weary of trying to care for the horse, sends Beauty to a fair where a kind man, Jerry Barker, purchases the horse to pull his cab. For Beauty pulling a cab is a wearisome and difficult life, but Jerry and his loving family care for him, and Jerry allows Beauty to rest on Sundays. However, this life does not last because Jerry becomes ill and can no longer work as a cab driver. Beauty is then sold to a corn dealer, who is humane, but his foreman overworks the horses. One day, Beauty sees poor Ginger who has been treated so cruelly that she finally dies in the street as her owner has whipped her so much because she cannot pull a heavy load up a hill.
Beauty lives in a dark stable that nearly makes him blind and he is so overworked that he collapses one day. But, he is saved from being put down by a farrier who realizes that Beauty's lungs have not been damaged. This man brings Beauty back to health and takes the horse to the fair where Farmer Thoroughgood purchases him. He and his grandson Wille rehabilitate Beauty and sell him to Miss Blomefield and Miss Ellen on trial. One day the groomsman, Joe Green, who was the boy at Birtwick that let Beauty drink cold water after a hot run which made him ill, recognizes the horse. He tells the two ladies all about Beauty, assuring them of his quality. So, Beauty is kept and promised to never be sold. He lives a contented life and is called by his old name; Willie often comes to visit him, treating him as a friend. Beauty is happy and imagines sometimes that he stands with his old friends at Birtwich under the apple trees.