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Book II: A Gypsy’s Secret

October 26th, 2014 by John Royce · Book 2 Excerpts

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This excerpt is from The Golden Spark, Book #2 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy, an adventure through history―on horseback.

The year is 1666 and Meagan is given a meal and shelter at a camp of gypsies … along with a warning.

Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter.
It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark.
—Gypsy proverb

"Capriole" gold coin from The Golden Spark - Book #2 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy

The meal was of well-roasted bird and acorns, garnished with greens. For a long time afterward Meagan stared into the dancing flames that brought warmth, food and security. Early dusk had fallen, and light raindrops were still tapping softly on the tent.

One of the dark women came to sit with Meagan. She leaned over, peering into the fire. Her jewelry jingled slightly with the motion, and a tendril of her long hair trailed across Meagan’s arm. “What do you see?”

“Oh, I … nothing.” Meagan shrugged. “I was just watching.”

“It is wise to be careful of looking into fires, young one.” The woman’s voice was soft and low. “You do not know what might be looking back.”

Well that’s creepy enough, Meagan thought as the woman seated herself, crossing her legs and making herself comfortable. Meagan pulled her blanket tighter and shifted to make room.

The woman’s perfumed scent soaked into the cold air of the tent. Shadows from the fire played over the olive face. The woman was nearing middle age, but in the flickering light she could have been a mere youth—or ancient. “Who would you hope to be looking back, if it was someone?” The woman said this seriously, and leaned forward to hear the answer.

“I … don’t know.”

“Think. Look back to the fire. Look until you see black flame.”

The fire danced invitingly. It struck Meagan how the flames shifted between infinite shades of red, white, yellow and orange. She had never thought of fire as having different colors. She looked longer, until another color stood out: black shadows danced among the flames as lively and real as the others.

“The fire itself may be a shadow of darkness. If something is watching you, they will be in the black flames. Who is it you wish to see?”

Meagan swallowed. “My parents.”

The woman stretched her arm towards Meagan. “Here, give me your hand.” Turning Meagan’s hand over and gently opening her palm, the woman traced over it as if to wipe it clean.

“Do you read palms?” Meagan asked.

“No, child, I read lives. Let me see the other.”

Obediently, Meagan held out her other hand. The woman knitted her brow and peered closely. “Your life line…” The woman’s eyes grew large and she gripped Meagan’s hand more tightly. “Who are you, girl?”

Meagan tried to pull away. “Please, let go.”

“Where are you from? I want to know the place.”

Meagan wrenched her hand away.

The woman rose. “Your line has no roots. Where is your home?” She knelt and put her face close. Spice perfume washed over Meagan. They looked at each other a long moment. “Child,” the woman said finally, her voice gentle. “Tell me. I can be trusted. Where is your home?”

“The future,” Meagan whispered, holding the dark woman’s gaze defiantly.

The Golden Spark (Book #2 of the Legend of the Great Horse trilogy) won the 2011 Written Arts Awards for best Science Fiction/Fantasy.

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Links:

» See All Excerpts from The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy.

» Read the 1st Chapter online.

» See the Media Kit for more information about the trilogy.

» Order Books

The Legend of the Great Horse Facebook page (icon) Check out the trilogy’s page on Facebook!

Eclipsed by Shadow - Book #1 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy - Bookcover (straight-on, drop shadow) 142px by 203 px
The Golden Spark - Book #2 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy - Bookcover (straight-on, drop shadow) 142px by 203 px
Into the Dark - Book #3 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy - Bookcover (straight-on, drop shadow) 142px by 203 px

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The Legend of the Great Horse on Facebook

October 23rd, 2014 by John Royce · Book News & Updates

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Book II: “We are not leaping…”

October 5th, 2014 by John Royce · Book 2 Excerpts

This excerpt is from The Golden Spark, Book #2 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy, an adventure through history―on horseback.

The year is 1666 and Meagan is watching a riding demonstration of her rescued horse, Nero, at the Court of Versailles.

“They say princes learn no art truly,
but the art of horsemanship.
The reason is, the brave beast is no flatterer.
He will throw a prince as soon as his groom.”
—Lord Byron (1788-1824)

Meagan was dismayed to see a thin male form hurrying through the entrance. It was Robert Cheveley, pulling on gloves as he strode across the arena. “Your Majesty!” he called out boisterously, “I apologize for my tardiness. I was in the process of losing a tournament of cards.” He went quickly to Nero and lifted his leg to mount. No one moved to assist. Meagan wished it were acceptable to boo.

"Capriole" by Marti Adrian Gregory, illustrating a horse character performing a Capriole in The Golden Spark, book 2 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy.Pardon, monsieur,” Pierre said diplomatically, “but the demonstration is today given by riders of the Court.”

“Oh, that. No need. I shall ride my own horse, and no one else need bother. This dressage riding is in fashion and I am ready to restart my tuition.”

“But not today, Monsieur, I beg.”

“Yes, today. I am here, am I not?”

The King cleared his throat. “Perhaps, Instructor, this could be a test of the manège art. Surely our English guest’s skills are not less than the average cavalryman’s … ?”

Oui, Majesté,” Pierre said in surrender, giving a signal to his assistants. They busied themselves adjusting the tack and helping Robert to mount. Swinging his leg high, Robert sat upon Nero with a hard thump—the horse jerked his head up as if awaking to a bad dream. Robert tugged on the reins and Nero swished his tail, tucking his head behind the bit and chewing voraciously.

“He seems a bit sluggish,” Robert commented loudly. “Why? He used to be so spirited.”

“Please, monsieur.” Pierre wrung his hands. “Petit à petit the horse is become relaxed and calm.”

“Calm? But I want the horse to leap and kick. I do not want him calm.”

“The horse needs this calm to perform the leaps with élan.”

“Come now, let us not argue. You are the instructor. Instruct.”

Pierre looked at the chandeliers of the Court manège for a moment, and then spread his arms. Music commenced. “Yes, monsieur … please lower the heel. Maintain the soft contact. The heel is lower, please. Tighten your thigh, shoulders back, do not lean! Heels lower, if you please, monsieur. Head up, elbows not press, wrists out, fingers closed, hands off neck. Look up from the ground, monsieur, heels lower! Lower, if you please, monsieur, we are not dancing the ballet. Wrist strong, head up, knees back, chest open … heels, monsieur! Heels!

Robert’s face was getting redder and Nero was champing on the bit, ears pinned back. Nervous sweat was beginning to show on the gelding’s neck. Finally Robert shouted and jerked the reins. “This may be well and good, but I want to do one of those Airs!”
Pierre glanced unhappily at the King. Meagan almost stood to give her own comment, but realized her place and remained silently stewing.

“Proceed, Instructor,” the King said mildly.

“Very well, Majesté. Very well, Monsieur Cheveley. The first principle is calm, the second is balance.”

“Bother calm. We have talked of nothing else since we began. I want to leap!”

Pierre looked a final time to the King and, defeated, indicated to the attendants to stand close. Men took Nero’s bridle and Pierre took up a position near the horse’s side. Nero shook his head and yawed his mouth, prancing tensely. “Monsieur Cheveley, please attend. The leap is resulting from the horse’s obedience to the driving aids, made con brio with the aids of holding. The horse releases himself when the point of tension must become equilibrium.”

“We are not leaping…”

“In the Capriole, monsieur, the height of the leap is of second importance to the forward spring and the kick. If the kick is well finished, the landing will be light.”

Robert shrugged irritably. “This is quite tedious. Just tell me what to do!”

“Yes, monsieur, of course. Commence the Piaffe.”

Robert lifted his reins higher and spurred. Nero nearly escaped from his handlers, but they hung on grimly and the horse threw himself into an uneven fidgeting-in-place.

“Now what?” shouted Robert.

“It is not … raise the hand slightly, monsieur, slightly. Remember to be the velvet glove over the iron fist! Now, softly apply the leg.”

Robert hauled the reins high and clapped his legs on Nero with all his strength. The horse did, in fact, abandon his calm: he struck out a hind leg, tore his bridle from the attendants’ grip, planted both feet in the finely raked dirt and flung Robert off with the first hitch. The incensed gelding continued plunging across the manège … scraps of Royal tack scattered in a colorful stream behind him.

The King rose and Pierre, shaking, took the Royal chair. Meagan sat stunned in the gallery as the orchestra fell silent, though one flutist tried for a time to accompany Nero in his circuits around the arena.

Robert waved away assistance and stood, brushing himself. “I say, the horse was much better before all this training.”

“We must thank Monsieur Cheveley,” said the King gravely. “He has made our own riding seem beaucoup plus expert.

Robert picked up his hat from the dirt and shook it before bowing low to the King. “It is my pleasure, Majesté.”

The Golden Spark (Book #2 of the Legend of the Great Horse trilogy) won the 2011 Written Arts Awards for best Science Fiction/Fantasy.

__________

Links:

» See All Excerpts from The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy.

» Read the 1st Chapter online.

» See the Media Kit for more information about the trilogy.

» Order Books

The Legend of the Great Horse Facebook page (icon) Check out the trilogy’s page on Facebook!

Eclipsed by Shadow - Book #1 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy - Bookcover (straight-on, drop shadow) 142px by 203 px
The Golden Spark - Book #2 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy - Bookcover (straight-on, drop shadow) 142px by 203 px
Into the Dark - Book #3 of The Legend of the Great Horse trilogy - Bookcover (straight-on, drop shadow) 142px by 203 px

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Suffolk Downs … Preserving the Past and Welcoming the Future

September 24th, 2014 by John Royce · Horsemanship Today, Writing

The historic Suffolk Downs race track has announced it will no longer hold live racing, due to not getting a casino license. It seems the current gambling model has no future as manager/caretaker of American racing, but Suffolk Downs itself has great potential if it will focus on what it’s truly about … horses.

Suffolk Downs management has since said: “We’re willing to listen”.

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Suffolk Downs could move forward today as a horse-centered attraction to benefit the community of East Boston/Revere, as well as greater Boston and beyond. Huge potential exists for this sizeable, established, historic equestrian facility next to the Horse racing results board for Suffolk Downns track, East Boston, Massachusetts USA.	Photo: © Anthony92931 / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0international airport of an educated, affluent city with so few horse outlets and which thrives as a tourist destination. (Metro pop. 4.5 million)

Horse racing can continue at Suffolk Downs–additional uses of the unique facility can provide a revenue base. Suffolk Downs has a great deal of unused capacity: the property lies unused most of the year. Racing is held only half a day, three times a week for 5 months each year. Live racing could continue while expanding the facility’s usage to access revenue streams that have developed since Suffolk Downs racing heyday.

There are 6 potential legs to the profitability table:

I. Horse racing The first important revenue enhancement would be to promote the sport and Suffolk Downs to the broader public, something which has not been effectively done in several decades. It should be recognized that horse-players and enthusiasts are not necessarily the same as casino-clientele: horse gambling revenues are largely separate from casino profit.

Note: Opening the facility to a family focus could be done easily: the remaining area for gamblers is in the Clubhouse, set to one side of the larger, two-story open Grandstands (and open plaza) … it would be a simple act of signage to establish a soft division between a more intimate, adult, gambling-focused section, and a bigger and more family-oriented public area offering smaller ‘fun’ wagering. This would allow an appropriate space for families and also adult gamblers.

II. Other equestrian competition The facility is ready to conduct other major equestrian competition once it has developed arena space. Some 1200 stalls and related equestrian amenities exist on the 150+ acre property of Suffolk Downs … the stable block is adjacent to the mile-long main track, of which the entire infield of at least 100 acres is landscaped but otherwise unused. There is room for arenas and an International Grandprix ring (with existing seating for 15,000) AND a grassy picnic area for spectators … just five subway stops from the Waterfront at the heart of historical downtown Boston for exhibitors. The airport is less than 3 miles away.

III. Horse-themed retail/events Public-oriented horse events have discovered economic benefit through providing quality retail shopping areas … here is an ongoing horse event! Outdoor facilities at Suffolk Downs could be developed, and ample room also exists within the Grandstand buildings, side areas and numerous paved lots for permanent/semi-permanent spaces of equestrian-themed shopping. There is also existing space for conference rooms, exhibition areas, galleries–all contained in a unique and classic equestrian-themed setting.

IV. Corporate sponsorship There are greater possibilities for beneficial sponsorship in an inclusive public facility, including not only title sponsorship, but for educational horse-themed exhibits, volunteer/hospitality centers, pony rides, children’s play areas and other wholesome family-oriented facilities. The site can give exposure in a sport that literally invented the concept of sponsorship over 2000 years ago.

V. Donor Opportunities Humans have never been without horses before … our relationship is older than history. Today’s mechanized age has presented maybe the greatest crossroads the horse and human relationship has ever faced. Philanthropy is part of the ancient equestrian tradition, and there is opportunity now to sincerely contribute to humanity’s future by helping preserve horses for future generations. Suffolk Downs could offer an important way for donors to be remembered.

VI. Public partnership As our technological era continues and we face greater loss of connection with the natural world, our living historical link with horses will become more important–not less. Some limited governmental role seems appropriate to protect this investment for our future.

In return, Suffolk Downs could benefit area education as a partner in school field trips and various educational opportunities with horses. Lead-line rides and even beginner-level riding instruction could be made available through privately-run programs, with recommendations to local stables for interested students. There could be tie-ins with local art and museum interests and historical groups/events. 4-H, FFA and other youth programs, farrier schools, medical veterinary resources, equine therapy and other aspects of horsemanship could find a new home.

Moving forward

Variety and universality are strengths of horse activities today. Private investment by an individual interest is one path. It is also possible that a non-profit organization could manage the entire property to specific (and reportable) mission goals including attendance, business participation, revenue, tax allocations, public outreach, local community benefits, etc.

Activities and areas could be managed within this umbrella to create ‘free enterprise zones’ that allow for private business activity to achieve their own visions within a specific sphere … security and facility assurances (and a clear path to continuity) could foster a positive environment for investment and private initiative.

Suffolk Downs is a going concern—the property simply needs to be run effectively as an actual business. Permits and drainage and access issues have been worked out over the decades: the difficult work has been done. Suffolk Downs also has the advantage of a period of somnolence to spring from … a new initiative could creditably and truthfully be announced as an exciting new start.

Events have made it clear that Suffolk Downs must expand from a part-time, single-use equine facility with a focus on casino interests. If the property can be repositioned and refitted for a broad love of horses AND is focused on sharing it with the public … not only would the public respond, but Boston, the horse world and future generations would greatly benefit.

Suffolk Downs could be on the edge of a great and renewing historical adventure, preserving the past as it welcomes the future.

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