“Multiple Use” a story

I’m posting a small fiction story today. I have a few pieces that describe the principals of Reserve Design that I will be posting over the course of the week. Often times advocates get labeled as “emotional hippies that just want the horses free to over run the range.”

DC Rally (photo by Mom and Tom)

Reserve Design is a management strategy…. but it can be a bit dry. So I took a very small piece of how I see it working and created a fiction story this morning. I hope you enjoy it.


The bus from the juvenile corrections center pulled up outside the “HOPE” center near the Ely district Herd Management area in Nevada. HOPE was an acronym for “Healing of People and Equines.”

“This is stupid,” he thought “even the name is stupid. Why wasn’t it HOPAE? Because it doesn’t sell. People only do something if they can profit.”

Outside the screened window he could see the rolling mountains. He could see corrals and the buildings marked Dorm and Center.

A young woman with a blond ponytail bounced onto the bus. She was wearing a light blue t-shirt with the HOPE logo on it. Over her arm was a stack of yellow ones she began to pass out to the occupants of the bus.

“My name is Ashley,” she said with enthusiasm, “I’m here to tell you that you will never be the same after today. So say good-bye to what you think you are as you leave the bus!”

“Gag,” he muttered ” you bet I’ll never be so bored again.”

Someone like “Ashley” could never understand someone like him. His life had been filled with abuse. His father was an alcoholic and his mom was addicted to drugs. In and out of foster care he declared his independence that day he stole a rich man’s car and went for a joy ride.

Ashley led the group of 10 young people off the bus. He figured they’d head into the center, have a lecture and then meet the “shrinks.” Instead she led them toward the corrals.

They walked past a plaque that read “HOPE, built in 2013. Named after wild horse advocate Hope Ryden and new legislation that mandated multiple use to benefit the public.

They were taken to the stable and given chores.

“Now this makes sense!” he thought, “free labor.”

He couldn’t believe they had left him alone! He shirked his chores all afternoon. He scouted the area for anything of value he could smuggle under his shirt and back onto the bus.

Near sundown he could hear voices moving in his direction. So he ducked through a small door in the barn.

As his eyes adjusted to the dark he realized he was staring into a set of dark piercing eyes. Those eyes were attached to a jet black horse! The horse was much larger than he was and he had its complete attention.

Big Mare at Broken Arrow

His heart raced. His feet froze.

The horse made a deep nickering sound and took a step toward him. He thought he might pee himself.

“Oh great,” escaped his lips.

The muzzle came forward and he braced himself to be bitten. The velvet softness of the muzzle brushed his hand. That muzzle proceeded to make its way to each of his pockets and then messed his shirt. Cautiously he put his hand out to touch the horses neck. It was heavily muscled but soft. The big black horse moved into his hand and reflexively he scratched. The horses lips began to move.

He began to cry.

“Stupid,” he said.

“Shayla.” A soft voice behind him replied. It was Ashley. “Her name is Shayla, not stupid.”

The boy tried to hide his tears.

“You can’t hide anything from her,” Ashley said “and she wont hide anything from you.”

Ashley stepped forward and offered Shayla a carrot. She gently opened the boys hand and place several pieces into it. She showed him how to hold his hand to offer them to Shayla.

The big black mare munched happily. Then she made that deep sound again.

That sound brought tears again to the boys eyes.

Ashley brought her hand to his shoulder.

Yearlings at the Holding Area

She told him Shayla’s story. How Shayla had been born in the wild, taken from her family at one year old before the new management. How Shayla had gone from owner to owner that couldn’t take the time to listen to her. A graduate of the center discovered Shayla two years ago and brought her to the center.

Ashley stated, “She’s one of our best therapists.”

The boy laughed.

“I graduated a year ago from this center,” Ashley said ” you and I and Shayla have a lot in common.”

His tears came in earnest now.

“You didn’t believe me when I said you wouldn’t be the same” she laughed.

Normally that would have made him angry but he laughed, too. He felt lighter like he had shed several pounds. It was as if some internal dump truck had finally showed up and taken the trash piled at his curb.

“It’s dinner time,” she said.

He replied, “I don’t want to leave here.”

“Not for you,” she smiled “for them.”

He eagerly followed her out of the darkness into the fading sunlight.

Calico Complex


4 thoughts on ““Multiple Use” a story

  1. Laura, This is what they call a short-short story. They are very difficult to write. You just did one of the best I have read. This could be in a competition or sold to a literary magazine. Thanks, I really enjoyed it. mar

  2. oh, I want to add. Obviously it is wrong of people to be criticizing the advocates all the time for supposedly giving the horses feelings like humans. But maybe we do see how their lives do equate with ours on many levels. This cannot be avoided. If we have reached an understanding with the equine then let it be respected for the insight it gives us to our world and theirs. hugs, mar

    • Laura Leigh says:

      Thank-you for the compliment.
      : D

      Actually in the story I don’t give the horse “feelings.”
      The horse just clears our way to our own.

      I agree with you that the horse deserves recognition for being a wonderful bridge.
      New studies are beginning to prove that horses can do amazing things for humans beyond the physical. I read one study that showed a 50% reduction time in PTSD therapy using horses… among all the other data with autism, etc.

      I think those that are critical are simply those uncomfortable with their own feelings.

      I’m working on some dry data and watching my computer choke rendering video.
      Glad you like the story…

  3. jan eaker says:

    Would that this fiction becomes true, I had the opportunity to take part in a “horse day” in an inner city(chicago) park, my usually nervous mare stood for 2 hours with her head in the arms of a teenager, I believe horses touch our souls in the deepest places and leave us changed forever, I know I have been, a life without horses is inconcievable to me,

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