Ruined and Going Down-Hill
Once his knees are sufficiently healed, Black Auster is sent to a small field to recuperate. He enjoys the freedom and the sweet grass; however, after being used to the company of others, he finds himself quite lonely after a short time. He especially misses Ginger. When he hears horses on the road, he neighs but seldom gets an answer—until one day when Ginger is turned into the same field. Both horses are thrilled to be reunited, but Ginger is there for a sad reason, as well. She has been ruined by hard riding. She is now allowed to rest in the hope that she will recover.
Young Lord George is to blame for Ginger's poor health. He will not accept guidance or take good advice, and he is quite careless with his horses. On the day of a steeplechase, he insisted on riding Ginger, even though her groom advised against it; Ginger, he said, was in no condition to race. Lord George refused to respect the groom's judgment and rode Ginger, despite his warning. During the race, he goaded her to keep up with the lead horses. Because she was bred to race, Ginger did as she was asked and passed three horses ahead of her; however, Lord George was too heavy to ride her, and her back was injured. After Ginger and Black Auster learn each other's stories, Ginger tells him, "And so . . . here we are, ruined in the prime of our youth and strength, you by a drunkard, and I by a fool; it is very hard." They both understand that they are not young and strong as they once had been, but they enjoy each other’s company and their easy life until the family comes home from London.
One day the Earl and Mr. York come into their meadow and examine both horses. The Earl is agitated that good horses have been ruined; even more disturbing to the Earl is that the horses had come from an old friend who trusted they would be safe with him. He decides that Ginger will be allowed a year’s rest, but Black Auster must be sold, for the Earl cannot have in his stables a horse with such scarred and damaged knees. York knows a man in Bath, the master of several livery stables, who is not concerned about appearance when he can buy a good horse for little money. York believes the black horse would be treated well there; he is certain the man would accept the Earl’s recommendation—or his own—regarding the horse’s good character and temperament.
The Earl tells York to contact the man in Bath regarding the sale of Black Auster, noting that a good placement for the horse is more important than the money he might bring. After the men leave, Ginger is upset that her one true friend will soon be going away. About a week later, Robert comes to the field to get Black Auster. He is led away before the two horses can say good-bye: "[W]e neighed to each other as I was led off, and she trotted anxiously along by the hedge, calling to me as long as she could hear the sound of my feet." The horse is sold to the man in Bath, and he travels to his new master by train. It takes much courage to endure the noises and movements of the train.
Black Auster is treated fairly well in his new home, although his new stall is not as airy and appealing as those he used to have. It is set on a slope so that he must stand at an angle at all times, which is quite fatiguing. Because his head is tied to the hay manger, he is not free to move about. Unlike men, Black Auster understands that horses can work more effectively if they are comfortable in their stalls. Aside from his lack of freedom, the horse is generally well cared for and works regularly, pulling carriages for hire, driven by those who rent them or by the owner’s men.