Once there were 2 old mares in a field together, they each had a foal.
One mare had won a lot of races and thought a lot of herself. She spoilt her foal dreadfully, she told him how clever he was and how he would win a lot of races when he was older if he could get a jockey good enough for him. He was very valuable and called Fire of England.
The other mare was very plain and had won only one small race. Her foal was plain like her and called plain Jack. “You will have to work very hard if you are to be a winner, Plain Jack.” She told him sternly, “You don’t come from a family of great winners like Fire. All the same”, she said tartly “he’ll come to a bad end if he doesn’t behave himself.”
Jack remembered her words and when they went to the sales he behaved his very best. But he only fetched a small price. He was bought by a man called Bill who lived in the North.
But Fire, in spite of behaving disgracefully as he was too proud to settle for any of the buyers who wanted him, was sold for an enormous price to a very rich owner, and went to live in the best stable in England.
“I will try very hard to make Bill pleased with me” thought Jack. A lad called Barney looked after him and his jockey was called Joe. They liked Plain Jack because he was so even tempered and tried hard. When he was ready to race, they took him to Yarmouth. To Jack’s surprise he found Fire was entered in the same race.
Fire was ridden by the best Jockey in England. Everyone admired him. But he was very naughty indeed and bucked his jockey off. The crowd booed and someone threw a rotten tomato.
But Plain Jack tried his hardest and came 5th out of 23 horses.
Bill, Joe and Barney were very pleased with him.
Every time Jack raced he tried his hardest ad the crowd liked him because he always tried his hardest. Barney read to Jack from the racing pages of the newspaper “Plain Jack is a great favourite with the racing public” But on the last page it said “Fire of England disappointment.” It said Fire was to be sold as he was no good.
Plain Jack did not see him again until he was sent to run a race at Epsom.
The racecourse was on the downs, and people were picnicking and playing cricket. Some children were riding along by the rails.
One of the horses was a very thin poor chestnut. When it saw Plain Jack going down to the start of the race it put up its head and whinnied. Jack got a great surprise, recognizing his old friend Fire.
Jack did not want to race, he wanted to stay with Fire. When the race started Jack hung back. Joe did not know what was wrong with him. Fire bucked his jockey off just like old times, jumped the rails and chased after the race. He ran like the wind.
“Look at that thin old nag” everyone laughed “he’s the fastest of the lot”
But at the end Fire was caught and led away in disgrace.
Plain Jack had come last and Bill and Joe and Barney were very disappointed with him. It was the first bad race he had run.
They took him home, but Jack would not eat and stood with his head in the corner thinking of poor Fire.
He got very thin. Bill called the vet, but the vet could find nothing wrong with him.
“I don’t understand it,” said Bill, “Ever since Epsom…” Barney had an idea. He told Joe to go to Epsom to find out about the thin chestnut horse who seemed to have upset Jack so. Joe searched all the riding stables and at last found Fire in a grotty shed with no food and no water. He was thinner than before and very miserable. Joe examined him carefully.
“Why! You’re Fire of England – I recognize you! The day the Guv’nor bought Jack, you were sold for half a million pounds! But you’re not worth tuppence now”
Joe told Bill and Bill bought Fire from his nasty owner. Joe fetched Fire home. When he walked in the yard Jack put his head out of his box and whinnied with excitement.
Bill laughed “So that was the trouble! Put him in the box next to Jack, and get them each a good feed. I can use Fire for my hack.”
Barney brought 2 big feeds. Both horses ate up every oat – and wanted more!
So Fire of England came back into a racing stable and grew fat and happy again. Plain Jack went on running races, trying his hardest and never giving in, and the racing public loved him because he never let them down, except that one time.
When Fire and Jack got old and were retired, they were turned out together. They stood under the trees in the shade, swishing their tails – the horse with a great talent who never used it, and the horse with little talent who used it all.
(So who would you rather be? Which way would you like your children brought up? If you look back on your life until now have you behaved more like Fire or Jack? If you look to the future when you’re all alone and decrepit, will you still hold onto arrogant ideas of yourself? It’s never too late to change Do animals really feel such deep empathy that they get ill when they know of the mistreatment of others? Humans are animals too.)