The Death of Fire Heart - A true story

Mustangs in Utah USA - Wikimedia

This short story I've written is based on a true event I witnessed over 20 years ago at a racetrack I used to help out at.

The Death of Fire Heart - a true story

I don't recall his name after so many years. All I remember is a fire-coloured, sweat soaked hide and the white of the eye. He was just four years old. One of the young kids that helped out at the track had called him Fire Heart - because no-one could ride him. Sired by the fine stallion Sharivari out of well bred race mare - he should have been destined for greater glory, than being left to rot in a back pen.

Too much spirit so his owners had said. At 16.2 hands, four white socks and wicked eye those who saw him decreed him to be nothing more than a dirty outlaw that deserved nothing but the hardest of handling. They didn't see the spirited nature - only the fear they had instilled into his mind. Man was not the master - he was but the enemy. Truly the wilderness ruled his heart - there within straining to break out. He was there waiting as all wild things wait - for that moment when that day of reckoning would come with his tormentors.

I used to see him standing there head high watching life continue. Young two year olds - learning the daily routine of being galloped around a 2400 metre sand track, brought back in by the trackwork rider, unsaddled put in the sand roll then hosed off and rubbed down. Covers back on then put into the truck for the journey back home. He would call out to them as they passed by dancing on hind legs head tossing sideways - always always on the move. They just said he was crazy - others said he was just spirited. They knew better than those who only saw the outlaw - but they could do nothing. They could only but watch and hope someone would come that would understand his nature. His owners said otherwise.

Fire Heart had waited for an entire year for this day of reckoning. Something within his ancestral instincts had stirred. The wilderness had risen with the power of a hurricane, as the man they called the 'Buster' had approached with halter in hand. He rose up to to full height when the pressure on his had had come on. It took three of them to drag him rearing and stag leaping across the yard and into the sand roll. "Nice and safe in there", so the Buster had decreed, just an hour before, as he sat a rolled smoke in hand planning his battle with that chestnut hell demon his old friend had just bought for a song just a day before. Now there in that small piece of existence man and beast facing each other as the others roped up a front leg then saddled the fire demon up.

Perhaps I saw it then. That look - a brief gleam of resolve to fight unto the bitter end. You will never break my spirit man - you break my body but you will not have me.

The 'Buster' jumped onto Fire Heart's back wrenching hard on the bronc halter they had put on the gelding's head. He didn't ride a rough horse - he was stuck on the back of a raging whirlwind. Fire Heart spun, twisted, backed and smashed himself again and again at the well built walls that held him back from longed for escape.

For two long hours man and horse had battled. After such a long time fighting back - Fire Heart suddenly stilled. Stood there, sweat glistening across his chestnut coat. His ribs and flanks heaving as the Buster confidently smiled to himself that truly he as man had won this battle for supremacy over the other's will. Yet - again I saw that gleam there in those wild eyes. A want to prevail. A need to remain independent - the spirit untamed. Now though, he was nearing defeat - he was losing this war with man.

He stood head high the whites of his eyes now showing. The 'Buster' was smiling to himself. Yes he had won he was telling himself in that moment. No outlaw had ever thrown him and this was just another one he had ridden into the ground. He was mistaken.

A moment of brief stillness. No one there moved. Dust and steam rose in the chill, early morning air. Only the sound of Fire Heart's rasping, exhausted breaths broke the tense silence. It was over so we all concluded. Defeat though for Fire Heart - was not yet conceded.

Those eyes were looking upwards as if searching for the path to his freedom. It happened in a split moment. A chestnut horse rising up to full height into a full rear - screaming as the stallion screams when he challenges his rivals. Higher he rose - the top of his head smashing against the aged rafters. With the 'Buster' still clung to his back - Fire Heart fell over backwards.

No further sound came from the Fire Heart as he fell upon the churned up sand beneath. Just the last of breath escaping from lungs that no longer breathed in the morning air. There he lay on his side death chosen over defeat.

Fierce tears from many eyes. Anger in minds and hearts. How could this have happened - so so wrong. Yet it had happened. Never again would Fire Heart rise. He was dead - his head fractured by the impact with the rafter. The Buster walked away shaking his head in disbelief.

"He killed himself. How can an animal reason like that? I don't understand it"

One of the old men there had that answer. He said quietly to us all now wanting to turn away.

"Take this as a lesson all of you. Understanding him would have turned him around. Taking time would have calmed the hurt inside. But no - it took a fool with only anger in his mind to destroy him. Anger hurts - understanding heals. Don't ever forget that - one day you might need to remember what I've said."

He lit up a well used pipe, shaking his head at the 'Buster' as he hobbled away back to his old rusty van. The Buster closed his eyes - swore darkly then went off to drown his sorrows down at the local tavern. He was never forgiven - but in death Fire Heart now was truly freed.

The clean up crew at the track dragged out Fire Heart's body later that day throwing it into a jumbo bin to be taken away and buried at a dumpsite. It didn't matter anymore - Fire Heart was no longer there - but his memory is.

C.2009 Liz Clark


  1. This is a story with power, grace, emotion, and skill, Liz...It is brilliant. We can join you in morning the spirit of this creature.

    Thank you.

  2. Hello you two lovely people

    Patricia - My friend Leon Basin who is a young writer inspired me to start writing again. I actually really enjoyed writng that story. Sad but it had a meaning to it as well.The grammar needs to be looked at. Lots of commas left out! And THANK YOU! for your support. Hugs & Love

    Tina - Oh thank you. You're so lovely. Hugs and love to you

    Thank you both of you
    Love Liz