It was a day of new beginnings and endings.
With the laneways between paddocks filled with the sound of tyres on gravel every other day, the sounds of change were in the air as one by one old horses were sold to new homes. Around the stable, staff continued on their merry way, however there was definitely a bittersweet cloud overhanging the grounds as favorites were farewelled to greener pastures. This change in direction heralded an influx of new faces as well as stalls emptied, and new goals. The Arabian Warmbloods were the most prominent of these, with three colts on the ground that season and more breedings planned. However, this day a horse of a different breed was scheduled to pull up the driveway between the majestic gums for what was rumored to be a future polo team.
Purchased from the well known and also recently revamped KhanCohban Farms, the bay colt had a beautiful topline, great musculature and a pretty face, and they’d heard he was a good mover too. Preparations were made for his arrival, and after all, it was about time. It had been a few years since the move to Australia, purchasing an Australian Stock Horse was long overdue.
The afternoon was sticky, with clouds amassing on the horizon that brought the promise of a storm, though proving no respite from the burning ball above. Horses huddled under the shade of eucalypts and snowgums, seeking shelter in the deeper groves and valleys further out on the property. The staff too took refuge indoors, huddling around the fan in the main office as icy water was passed around gratefully. The familiar cloud of dust signaling the arrival of another car finally appeared in the distance, and the staff crowded out into the main stable courtyard, eager to take a look at the latest purchase. Aamir murmured a soft word and disappeared into the deep shadows of the stable block, to prepare in case the colt had suffered any minor heat stroke in the long trailer ride to the property.
There was a little squeal of excitement from the trailer when the dark ute pulled to a stop, shortly followed by the impatient clatter of hooves. Jamie shook hands with the driver and together they went to release the trailer door. Immediately there was another high pitched whistle, as a pair of fuzzy ears and bright eyes emerged from the gloom, shoving his face towards the light. Adriane laughed and advanced with a lead rope, helping the excited bay reverse out of the trailer. Standing in the dappled afternoon light, his coat reflected the sky in hues of blue across his back, fading to rich red on his flanks. In the office, the phone rang to the answering machine.
“Lets see him walk and trot,” instructed Jamie, filling in for Nina and Stacey who were oversees on the hunt for new horses and maintaining Willowglen’s American branch. Adriane clucked at the colt, who was something indeed to behold. Already tall, lean and leggy, he was sure to become something magnificent with the baby fat trained off him. Heads tilted this way and that as the staff examined him trotting back and forth, throwing in a couple of kicks to work out any stiffness from being cramped in a trailer. There were nods of approval.
“He’s nice – very nice,” remarked Lottie from her perch on the fence, fiery hair haloed in gold from the setting sun. The rest of the staff had originated from different parts of the world, she was perhaps the most qualified to comment on the colt. “We’ll need to get a herd of cattle for him to muster now.”
The faint notes of Someone Like You wafted from Jamie’s pocket, who to his credit only turned a mild shade of red, quickly snatching his phone out and frowning at the unknown ID on the screen. “See if we can get him hosed down and stabled,” he instructed, turning away to take the call.
“Is this Willowglen Downs?”
“Yes? Jamie Hare here,” a note of uncertainty crept into his voice as he glanced back to where the rest of the regulars were busying themselves with hosing down the colt and removing his protective wrapping.
“We need you to make the call sir. She’s suffering,” came the voice from down the line.
Jamie’s frown lines deepened. “Who is? What call?”
“Your stable owns the mare Sha Sabbah, correct? There’s been an accident, on the highway.”
Any residual colour drained from his face, and the immediate stiffening of his posture caught a couple of the other staffers’ attentions. “What happened?”
“Its hard to say exactly sir, however there’s been a collision between your mare and the car. Her microchip listed your stud as the owner, and we need your permission to put her down. She’s snapped her front right leg, and we can feel numerous other fractures. The full extent of her injuries is unclear, though we had to sedate her to stop her from injuring herself further.”
“Don’t do anything yet we have a vet clinic on site, where are you?” Jamie demanded, heart rising in his throat, memories of the mare’s arrival flashing through his mind.
“Jamie?” Pip turned off the hose uncertainly and marched over towards the blond man. “What’s going on?”
Sensing trouble, Lottie jumped off the fence and took the colt’s lead, ushering him into the stable while Adriane and Aamir also moved in closer to find out what was going on. Jamie waved a hand to shush the group before any more questions came as he strained to hear the man on the line.
Jamie’s expression was grim. “I’ll have a trailer there in ten minutes. Don’t do anything until I get there.”
He hung up, and though he was putting on a brave face there was misery in his eyes.
“What? What’s happened?” demanded Pip, usual quips evaporated like the moisture on the pavement.
“Its Sheva, she’s been hit by a car,” he replied, already turning to the driver of the pick up. “Can we borrow this? Nazur, get the vet here, prepare the clinic.”
No one questioned his authority, though their expressions fell similarly into dismay. Pip disappeared into the stables to quickly emerge with bandages and lead ropes, jumping into the passenger seat beside him. The ute pulled away in a cloud of dust and squealing tyres as it careered off back down the long driveway.
Feeling lost, Adriane retreated back to the office, switching on the tv in hopes that there might be something on the evening news. She was in luck, as an aerial view of the familiar highway came into view. Paramedics and police swarmed all over the road, while a firecrew was partially hidden by trees, presumably helping the driver of the car that had hit the black mare.
“…and we cross to the highway where there has been a reported collision between an escaped horse and a car. The red four-wheel-drive swerved off the road in an effort to avoid the animal and into bushland. The driver and passenger have just been airlifted to the Royal Prince Albert in Sydney reportedly in a critical condition. We also have unconfirmed reports the animal involved with the collision is still alive, however there are no reports on its condition. More as this story unfolds.”
Adriane froze as the camera switched to a ground view of the vehicle, crumpled around a tree trunk so it was impossible to tell what damage had been caused by their mare or the collision with the tree. There was also a green tarpaulin nearby surrounded by a team of people which would be the injured mare. Judging by the thrashing movements whatever sedation they had given her was beginning to wear off. Mercifully, the camera wasn’t broadcasting the audio from the scene; Sheva’s screams would have been too much to bear.
Adriane drifted from the office in a trace, expression dazed and shocked. “What? What is it now?” demanded Amir, arms full of supplies.
“The car,” stammered Adriane. “The car. It was Stacey’s.”