Chapter 29 Summary

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Another kind of driver which horses-for-hire experience is the "steam-engine" driver. Most of these drivers are cockneys, working-class people from town; they have never had a horse of their own and usually travel by train. They tend to think that because they have paid a fee to hire a horse, the animal can go as far and as fast, and with as heavy a load, as they wish. Whatever the road conditions—muddy or dry, stony or smooth, uphill or downhill—they drive on without any consideration for the horses.

Cockneys never get out and walk a particularly step hill; they believe horses were made for pulling people uphill and surely must be used to it. They are quick to ply the whip and scold horses for being lazy, even though the animals are doing their best under adverse conditions. They use the drag [brake] improperly, often causing accidents. They leave the stable at a full gallop and pull up so suddenly when they want to stop that it is dangerous to both horse and carriage. They also speed too quickly around corners, disregarding anyone else on the road. Cockneys wear horses out very quickly.

One spring evening, Black Auster and Rory, the horse he is most often paired with, are returning from a pleasant day with one of their own stable drivers. They are coming home at twilight, rounding a corner close to a hedge with plenty of room on the road for an approaching carriage to pass by. Black Auster hears a carriage coming toward them, very fast, but cannot see it beyond the hedge. Then it appears suddenly; it is moving too fast for the driver to pull his horse to his side of the road. Rory is harnessed next to Black Auster, on the outside of the team with nothing to protect him. He suffers the entire shock of the impact; he staggers back with a terrified cry as the shaft of the other carriage runs straight into his chest. The other horse, also from their stables, is thrown on his haunches. Rory is nearly killed. It most probably would have been better if he had died, as he never really recovers; he is eventually sold to cart coal laboriously up and down hills.

After Rory is disabled, Black Auster is often paired with a mare named Peggy. She is not high-bred. Although she is quite pretty and sweet-tempered, the black horse occasionally sees something in her eyes that tells him she has had some kind of trouble in her life. The first time they go out together, he notices the mare has a rather odd pace: part trot and part canter for three or four paces, then a little jump forward. It is an unpleasant gait to match, and it makes Black Auster “quite fidgety.”

When he has an opportunity to ask her about it, Peggy explains that she acquired this odd pace because she has always been expected to go faster than she is able to go with her short legs. This is her way of compensating for being slower than one unkind master wanted. Black Auster sympathizes, for he knows how difficult it is for a slower horse to be paired with a faster horse; all the whippings go to the slower horse. With lady drivers, Peggy does very well pulling the phaeton [a light, open carriage] by herself. She is eventually sold to two ladies who want a kind, gentle horse. The black horse sees her several times after she leaves, being driven in the country, and she seems happy and content.

Another horse replaces Peggy in the stables, a young horse with a reputation for shying and starting, the reason he had been sent away from his previous home. He is a rather timid horse. When he had been driven by his former master, he had been continually harnessed with blinkers, which had frightened him because he only saw bits and pieces of his surroundings rather than the whole. If he had been able to see everything around him, he would not have been afraid and jumpy; he would not have been whipped so frequently. On one occasion, an old man scolded his master for whipping him, but it did nothing to stop the beatings. Black Auster is thankful for both his former masters. He wishes every young horse could have had masters as good as Farmer Grey and Squire Gordon.

Sometimes the stable horses have good riding experiences with drivers who recognize and appreciate a willing and able horse. It is a joy to be driven by them, for they know how a good horse should be treated in harness. Black Auster especially admires one of these drivers, who treats him very kindly. The man, who likes Black Auster very much, saddles him several times and goes riding. Eventually, he persuades the stable owner to sell Black Auster to Mr. Barry, one of the man's friends who wants a safe and pleasant horse to ride. Mr. Barry becomes Black Auster’s next master.

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