Copyright 2012 Linda Davies
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Buffalo river valley, Wyoming,
The wind blew the scent of terror into the horse’s flaring nostrils and he began to dance and skip beneath his rider. She shortened her reins, just enough to let him know she was there, not so much as to provoke him further. Here in the wilderness, his instinct was infinitely better tuned than hers. He was not spooked by leaf shadows dancing on the rugged path, nor by the pulsing roar of the wind in the silver birch. The river in spate interested him, but warranted no more than a few checking glances. She could feel his panic now, his flanks trembling, and she shared it. She attempted to fight it, tried to be the calm one, to offer quietude. She failed. She looked around, trying to divine the source of her mount’s fear, but the valley looked unchanged. Then she heard it, coming from behind, a wild and throbbing sound, drumbeats of flight, and she knew what it was as her horse began to leap beneath her. She reined him in. ‘Easy there, easy now, quiet boy, it’s all right.’ But it wasn’t. A horse burst into view, galloping out of control, as if pursued by the hounds of hell. A rider clung desperately to its back, stirrups lost, reins flailing. The horse was going full pelt, heading for the trees half a mile away. There the rider would have no hope. He’d be flung off, hit a tree, break his back, snap his neck. Jesus. Sarah reacted automatically. She squeezed her knees.