art by Tim Stewart
H is for Horse
by Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, Greg van Eekhout
The old mare trots out into the valley an hour before dusk every night. The other retired horses are all show horses, or they used to be, when their backs were strong and their coats shiny. They still practice their prancing routines in the yard in front of the big red barn, picking up their feet in prim unison, tossing their once-glossy manes, their balance slightly off without the tall white feathers strapped to their heads. But the old mare was never in show business. No, she was a racehorse in her younger days, a brood mare once she was past her prime. She'd been fast in her youth, but her offspring fared better, more than a few racing in the Kentucky Derby. Her daughter won, once. But even at her peak the mare never took racing seriously. Her deep brown eyes were always scanning the horizon, as if she were looking for something that would come from the air, far away.