One Spring morning a girl and her faithful old horse went for a ride. As they meandered through a beautiful Aspen grove, they came upon a young, wild mare lying alone. She was solid black with no markings, a bit thin, and dirty. The solitary horse watched as the other horse and rider approached, alert to the potential danger. But the wild mare did not stand and flee.
As they passed, the girl spoke softly to her old gelding, letting him know this frail horse was not a threat. They took a wide berth and continued their stroll.
The next day they saw the mare was still there, looking small under the towering trees. With bits of light shining through the grove, the girl could see the mare’s back was deformed with a sloping hump where, if domesticated, a saddle might sit. She now realized why the young horse was isolated from the wild herd that roamed this land—the mare was weak, deformed.
Something came over the girl. Today she would not go about her ride as though this creature did not exist. She slid from the back of her gelding, tied him to a nearby tree, loosened the strap on his bareback pad, and pulled some carrots from her pack. “Wait here gramps, and stay calm. I’ll be right back. And don’t worry, we have more than enough treats to share.”
She turned slowly and took a few steps toward the wild mare. The black horse watched her approaching. With each step, the girl could see the mare’s fear become more intense, but still she remained on the ground, vulnerable to predators. The girl took a few more steps, approaching from the horse’s side while breathing deeply to calm the frightened mare. When she was close enough to touch the horse, she slowly lowered to the ground. She watched for signs the wild horse may stand and bolt, but the mare’s fear did not seem to intensify.
“Hello beautiful,” the girl spoke in barely a whisper.
Velvety black ears turned toward the human, intrigued by the kind voice, but the mare kept her regal head positioned where she had a clear view of the girl. The girl leaned toward the mare’s nose and exhaled softly, hoping the young horse would realize she was a friendly being who meant no harm. She broke one of the carrots in half and cautiously placed it on the ground in front of the horse’s nose. The mare hesitated for only a moment, then wrapped her soft mouth around the treat and took it into her teeth.
The girl spoke to the mare as she was chewing. “Why are you so sad and alone? You’re too thin and you need a good grooming, but you look quite healthy to me. Sure, you have that hump on your back, but so what! Who needs a saddle anyway? With a bit of love and nurturing, you could be flying across the open land with your herd, free from whatever keeps you alone in this shadowy grove.”
The black horse finished her carrot and turned to face the human. The girl could feel her own emotions stirring, deeply touched that this wild, vulnerable creature was so willing to trust. She placed the other half of the carrot on her palm and extended it toward the horse. The mare leaned in and nuzzled her softly before taking the treat. The girl felt a tear run down her cheek.
At that moment, a soft light started to glow around the black horse. The girl blinked to get rid of the tears that were surely clouding her vision, but still the light grew brighter as the mare rose to her feet. The young horse was larger than the girl expected. As she gazed up, the hump on the mare’s back seemed to change shape. The girl closed her eyes for a moment, convinced her vision was playing tricks. When she opened them, she could see the hump was not a hump any longer – it was a pair of wings. White wings.
The girl was stunned, sure she was seeing things. She looked into the horse’s eyes and stammered, “Are-are you an angel?” She expected the young mare to answer, but heard only the sound of wings fluttering softly. The girl reached out, needing to feel fur against her hand to know the horse was real. The mare lowered her head to meet the girl’s touch and nickered sweetly. Then the flapping of her wings intensified and she lifted her head. The black horse reared, released a triumphant bugle, and rose in flight.
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