Chapter 10 Summary

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A Talk in the Orchard

Standing over fifteen hands high, Ginger and Black Beauty are more racehorses than carriage horses; they are as good for racing as they are for driving, and the Squire likes things to serve more than one purpose. Their happiest moments are enjoyed when they are saddled up for riding, the Squire on Ginger and his wife on Black Beauty, with his daughters on Sir Oliver and Merrylegs. The horses’ spirits are high when they are cantering together. Black Beauty has the best of it, since the mistress is light to carry and her voice is sweet.

When a horse’s mouth has been unspoiled, it takes only a little pressure or the slightest movement to make the rider’s wishes known, which is why the mistress prefers Black Beauty to Ginger. The mare expresses her jealousy regarding this preference and the better treatment Black Beauty has had, but Sir Oliver tells her she should be proud that she is strong enough to carry a grown man’s weight and still maintain a sprightly step. A horse must take things as they come and be content when treated with kindness.

One day several of the horses spend time together in the orchard. Sir Oliver has a very short tail, only six or seven inches long, and Black Beauty finally has an opportunity to ask him about the accident that caused his shortened tail. Sir Oliver snorts at the word “accident”; there was nothing accidental about being taken to a cruel place, being tied up so that he could not move at all, and having his tail cut off through flesh and bone and taken away. It was dreadful for him to have such pain, but it is just as dreadful to have lost one of his finest features and have nothing with which to swish away the flies. All horses at that time got their tails docked simply because docked tails were the fashion.

Ginger agrees that fashion is a terrible thing, for it is what made her masters keep her head in the terrible bearing rein. Sir Oliver says dogs are not exempt from this frenzy for fashion and talks about a friend of his, a brown terrier, whose five puppies were taken away from her to have their tails and ears docked. They came back to her "bleeding and crying pitifully." Because of fashion, they would never have the flap designed to protect their ears from dust and injury. He wonders why humans would not do such things to their own children but are perfectly content to “torment and disfigure” God’s creatures.

Sir Oliver’s stories cause Black Beauty to feel a bitterness rising in him against humans, something he has never before felt. Ginger is quick to agree regarding the cruelties of men. Merrylegs has seen similar cruelty to dogs but reminds them all that they have good and kind masters; his words temper the heated discussion. To change the subject, Black Beauty asks if any of them understand the purpose of blinkers. Justice says they are supposed to keep horses from getting frightened and causing accidents, though Sir Oliver is adamant that they serve no good purpose at all. Justice adds that they do not seem effective because horses can adapt better to what they see around them rather than to glimpses of things out of their natural context and setting. Sir Oliver argues that blinkers are most dangerous at night, when horses can see better than men; he tells of a tragic accident which could have been prevented if the horses had not been wearing blinkers. Also, an accident with their own master’s carriage would have been prevented if the horse (old Colin) had not been wearing blinkers. Ginger summarizes by saying that men are foolish to think they can improve on the design for eyes which God created.

When the conversation begins to heat up again, Merrylegs says he has overheard John tell the Squire that he thinks colts should be broken without blinkers, as they are in other countries. He then suggests they go for a refreshing run to the other end of the orchard. The wind has blown down some apples, and they enjoy a very sweet treat.

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