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The horse’s hooves thunder across the hillside, and with each bunching of its muscles, I feel my heart pound. My hair breaks free of its pins, and pale strands sweep across my cheek. The warmth from the horse’s sides radiates through my thin breeches, and I’m thankful I hadn’t bothered with a riding habit this morning, though what I wear in its stead is highly improper.
I glance over my shoulder at my brother Robert, who follows on his long-legged chestnut mare.
“Careful, dear sister,” Robert calls out, the wind snatching at his melodic tenor voice, “I’m gaining on you.”
I laugh, the wind snatching it away, too. “Your leggy mare will refuse to jump this next bank just as she always does.”
I press my booted heels to the stallion’s sides, and a little thrill jolts through me as he charges forward. The thrill is not my own—the horse shares his emotions with me, the physical contact with my body creating the connection. He is aware of the snow giving way beneath his hooves, the smell of the crisp air, the feel of my weight on his back. He is torn between wanting to rid himself of a rider entirely, and being grateful for the chance to run free.
The mare behind him is on his mind, too, a speck of awareness that I take advantage of—it tells me how close I am to reaching the creek before my brother, therefore winning our little race.
The bank jump approaches. It’s nothing but a fallen log on a hilltop, but from this direction, the horses will have to jump down about four feet. My horse’s ears prick forward as he notices the log, and he tries to increase his strides. I ask him to hold himself back with a squeeze of my fingers on the reins, and he responds—grudgingly.
One heartbeat, two, and then my beautiful horse arches over the log. I lean back to aid in his balance on the landing, and his legs stretch toward the snowy ground beneath us. His front hooves land, the rest of his body follows, and I give him his head. He stretches forward greedily, proud of himself for making the jump. In five strides, we are at the creek, so I sit back on my heels and spin him around to face the bank.
I expect to see my brother peering down at me from the top of the hill, so sure that his green mare would refuse it, but instead, I watch her arch over the log. I smile at first, proud of my brother for convincing her to jump, but my face falls when the mare slips on the landing.
Too fast, her legs are folding beneath her weight, dragging my brother down with her. I drop the reins and sit up straight in the saddle. My arms fling away from my body as if I’m trying to catch my brother, but instead, I let the magic do it for me.
Golden light springs forth from my fingertips and bathes my brother and his horse in light. It stops the horse’s fall and supports her weight until she can sort out her tangled legs. Once she rights herself, the light fades away, leaving them safe at the bottom of the hill.