THERE IS MORE to chariot racing than its appearance of runaway horses, Meagan soon learned. The game was more about survival than speed. Charioteers rode as upon a galloping skateboard, using their weight to change direction. Communication with the horses was limited to slaps and pulls.
Of course, the true horseman’s challenge of chariot racing was in keeping the animals sound. The most popular chariots were teams of four horses, the Quadrigas, which meant sixteen delicate legs exposed to overreaching and missteps, apart from the disaster of collisions. Because of these risks, chariot horses were not raced until five years of age.
As spring took hold the workout track was swamped with spectators hoping for a glimpse of the Emperor’s team. Ajax and Saxon were now sound, with only bare spots to mark their injuries. Trotting out with floating strides, the recovered Saxon was applauded for his beauty. With his large eyes and dished profile, the sleek stallion resembled an Arabian, the oldest pure breed of horse. He had been born in the fiery deserts of Persia, and each year a fleet of mares sailed the fabled stallion’s blood back to his homeland. Indeed Saxon had one of the most beautiful heads Meagan had ever seen, if the horse would only stop tossing it.
Ajax was a special favorite of the guards. The men stiffened in salute whenever the stallion jogged past, as if to a wartime hero. The short-backed, burly horse had been raised in a barracks in Gaul. He was trained to a simple, brutal code, and was eager in the extreme.
The stallion Cerberus was a daily spectacle, scattering grooms into his flocks of admirers. The Emperor’s infamous favorite had been born free in a Greek village’s semi-wild band of horses. In his youth the stallion had been allowed to choose his mares peacefully, but when the new Emperor Trajan’s preference for black horses was made known the stallion had been hauled away to Rome. It was clear from the stallion’s flashing limbs and teeth that Rome was not forgiven.
Excerpted from Eclipsed by Shadow, the award-winning 1st volume of “The Legend of the Great Horse” trilogy. (Hrdbk pg. 145)
Book II: The Golden Spark will be published soon.
Read the 1st Chapter online!
Copyright © 2008 John Royce