January special offer! The Horse Who Would Be Emperor * only 99p *

Enjoyed Bucephalas' story of Alexander the Great in "I am the Great Horse"? Want to meet another proud stallion from history?

Allow me to introduce you to Emperor Caligula's favourite racehorse, Incitatus the Swift, who has 18 slaves to look after him, wears jewelled headcollars, attends the Senate, and eats golden flakes - and sometimes his grooms - for breakfast.

Here, his stylist Livia risks her fingers for a few of those golden flakes...

Thinking of the vital medicine it would buy for her mother, Livia grabbed the largest flakes from the manger and slipped them into her pouch. Her mistake was feeling under the oats for more gold, just as Incitatus opened his mouth and chomped his strong teeth together. The pain came a heartbeat later, when the emperor's favourite racehorse spat out the tip of her forefinger and curled his upper lip at the taste of her blood.

Livia bit off her scream, snatched the fingertip out of the stallion's feed before he could eat it too, and stumbled to the door. It was a long way to safety, because Incitatus slept in the largest stable in Rome. Her stomach heaved, and she threw up over the thick mat of fresh straw waiting beside the door to make Incitatus' bed.

"What in Jove's name is going on here?" The Head Groom, a wizened old charioteer called Cornelius who had been luckier in his career than most, pushed through the curious stable boys crowded around the door.

"Nothing, sir," Livia mumbled, trying to hide the end of her finger under her tunic along with her pouch of stolen gold.

But Cornelius had already seen the bloodstained oats in Incitatus' manger and assumed the worst. "What have you done to the Emperor's horse?" he gasped, opening the door to see better, and then quickly closing it again when Incitatus' hooves crashed into the wall near his head sending chips of marble flying across the corridor.

The boys hanging around outside scattered.

"He's still eating, sir!" warned the lad responsible for the horse's bed. "You told us never to go in there while the Little Pig's eating!"

"I also told you not to call this horse 'Little Pig' in my hearing!" Cornelius snapped. "If the emperor hears, you'll be breaking rocks in the quarry tomorrow, and Incitatus will have a new slave to make his bed."

Even through her pain, Livia smiled. The stallion's official name was engraved above the entrance to his stable in golden letters: INCITATUS IMPERATOR. But the eighteen slaves appointed by the emperor to tend his favourite racehorse's every whim called the horse by his stable name of 'Little Pig', which suited him a lot better. There could be only one emperor of Rome, anyway, and that was currently Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, or (to everyone else) 'Little Boots' Caligula. The matching nicknames were just too perfect to resist.

Find out what happens next in "The Horse Who Would be Emperor", on special offer for Kindle until January 31st.