Where was I?
Oh yeah. On the back of my horse.
Everything was going great. Cibolo was doing everything. Pushing through brush. Being first. Being last. Dealing with inclines just fine. Crossing water. Even deep, just below the stirrups water. We cantered around a field. We trotted for ages.
The Barn Owner was on her endurance Arab, Amigo, Cibolo's BFF. (He just placed as best condition horse in a recent ride here, and was a top 10 finisher). Her husband was on his huge gaited Missouri Fox Trotter, Cloud - who hadn't been ridden since November and he just hopped on him and off they went. Amazing horse. Adam was on Lily, who seemed happy to get out.
We were on our way back and I had just managed to get Cibolo back with me after his little crow hop (a half hearted test, really) and was marveling at how good I felt. I just wasn't afraid, even with that routine. It felt like just a breakthrough.
We came up to another set of trees and we saw the vulture.
Now, I'd just like to say, I'm a big fan of vultures. I don't think of them as disgusting. Frankly it strikes me as polite to only eat things that are already dead. I particularly came to be a vulture fan after reading a story about one at a wildlife rehab center here (you can download the story on this PDF, it's on page 5 of the 31 page document).
I love watching vultures ride the thermals, and in the mornings they sit on poles, wings spread, drying the dew from their feathers. It's lovely, really.
This particular vulture was pretty big and had that look. The "I think I'll be leaving" look. Cibolo and I were the last in line and closest to the vulture. I saw the vulture. The vulture bobbed his head and I knew what that meant. I had been warned.
He was going to take off right at me and Cibolo. It was nothing personal.
I grabbed the horn of my saddle, but didn't pull on the reins, and at that exact moment the vulture took off with wide black wings, looking exactly like a panther leaping from the brush. My horse responded in what was a completely reasonable way for a horse about to be attacked by a flying panther. He spooked. (Every horse there spooked a bit, but only we were in the direct line of flight.)
Cibolo did a sit spin (which I managed to hold on through), then did some sort of weird hop/jolt. I felt myself come out of the saddle and the next thing I knew I was holding onto my horse's neck with one leg flung over the saddle, out of the stirrup.
I was so shocked. Then I was instantly proud.
Because Cibolo stood perfectly still. He could have bolted, heck, even a few steps and I would have probably peeled right off. But he didn't do anything. He stood there stock still and waited.
I hauled my butt back into the saddle.
"Girl, you have a heck of a seat," said the barn owner.
We laughed so hard. It had to be quite a sight. The Barn Owner couldn't believe I didn't fall, and frankly, if I had, I was clinging so tightly to his neck and leaned over so far I might have fallen a total of 18 inches.
Adam said it looked like I was a cat clinging to a tree. It's nice to know I have reflexes like that, although I could have gone to my grave not quite learning it so vividly.
I think I'm going to be sore in places I've never been sore before (in fact just getting up from the computer is a terrible reminder of my age), but I'm really thrilled with the day.
Cibolo did really well the entire ride and the poor boy was so exhausted he didn't even want to pick up his hind quarters to get in the trailer. But he did. Both horses seemed tender footed afterwards, but there's no time for riding for a few days, so they'll have time to relax and contemplate vultures, loose hooves and adventures at the lake.
In the meantime, I'll be practicing clinging to walls. You know, just in case.
(And yes, I had a helmet on. I was the only one, actually.)