Angel and the Flying Stallions (11 page)

BOOK: Angel and the Flying Stallions
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Chapter 13

As the Sorraia bore down on them, teeth bared and ears flat back, Issie had only one thought.
She turned Angel and kicked him on, cantering back down the path between the trees and scrub, towards the narrow mouth of the canyon. Unfortunately the other stallions had also been alerted to her presence and the black stallion had already anticipated her next move. He had circled around the herd to the right and now stood guard in the neck of the canyon, blocking Issie’s path.

Issie pulled Angel to a halt. Should they try and barge their way past the black horse? Issie took a good, hard look at the stallion, snorting and quivering, holding his ground in front of her, and she knew that it would be
foolish to try and make a dash past him. There wasn’t enough space to get through the narrow canyon neck, and if the black stallion attacked they would have no hope of getting out of his way. So they stayed trapped where they were – with a wild stallion blocking their exit, while another cantered up behind them, getting closer with every stride.

The Sorraia had Angel in his sights and his eyes shone with hatred. His ears were flat against his head, making him look almost demonic in his fury. Issie had to do something.

“Come on, Angel!” Issie took the only route left, riding away from both of the stallions, taking the rocky path through the lantana bushes that veered off to the right of the canyon interior. The path led nowhere. She would still be hemmed in by the dead-end of the high canyon walls where the mares were being held. But at least it bought some time and got her away from the Sorraia.

Angel was cantering, but he kept slipping and losing his footing. The path they were riding on was little more than a goat track and to get through Angel had to plough his way through the undergrowth and sprawling lantana bushes. There was no way to avoid the tangle of branches
as they scratched and gouged at Issie’s skin. Still, she figured it was better to get a few scratches than face a wild stallion!

The path through the bushes would take her and Angel all the way to the back of the canyon, circling behind the herd of mares. They could continue to avoid the stallions for a while this way, hiding in the undergrowth and sticking close to sheer cliff face of the canyon. Issie’s goal was to try to reach the mares. Her plan was to mingle in amongst them, staying hidden from the stallions until Alfie returned.

Unfortunately the mares weren’t so keen on her plan. Margarita was already on edge after being harassed and bullied by the Sorraia, so when Issie and Angel emerged from the lantana bushes and tried to ride up close to her Margarita put her ears back. As Angel brushed past her hindquarters the mare lashed out. Issie hadn’t been expecting this and Margarita’s flying hooves caught her off guard. The mare managed to clip Issie’s leg with one of her hooves and Issie felt a sudden, searing jolt of pain in her calf.

For a moment the pain made everything go black. Issie looked down at her leg. There was a rip in her jods
and blood was soaking into the fabric, but she didn’t think her leg was badly injured. She knew now though that she mustn’t get too close to the mares.

Making sure to stay away from Margarita’s hindquarters this time, Issie rode Angel in amongst the herd, weaving between Aliya and Amira, trying to stay near but making sure that she didn’t spook the mares or prompt them to lash out. The kick to her leg had been incredibly painful, but she didn’t have time to think about it. Her main concern was getting past the stallions and out of the canyon. A fully-fledged attack by a stallion could do much worse damage.

Stallions like these, young bachelors with something to prove and a harem of mares to protect, were dangerous. She remembered what Avery had said about how they often postured and bullied each other, rather then getting involved in a real fight. But she also remembered his final words –
occasionally their fights can become lethal, and when humans are involved or their herd is under threat then yes, they will go on the attack and may kill.

Issie was again relieved that she hadn’t chosen to ride Storm today. Angel, thankfully, had an unbelievably docile nature for a stallion. He was a true Andalusian
horse, and the breed was famed for its quiet, even temperament. Angel would do whatever Issie told him to do. And right now all Issie wanted to do was escape.

Issie had been aware for some time that the Sorraia stallion was closing in on her. He’d followed Issie and Angel on their path through the lantana bushes and in amongst the harem of mares. It was getting impossible for Issie to keep mares between her and the Sorraia, so she retreated and trotted in a wide loop around the herd to end up at the back of the canyon once more. Unable to go any further, with Angel’s rump against the cliff face, Issie urged her horse to move sideways away from the Sorraia. Angel responded, crossing his legs neatly in a half-pass, but the manoeuvre was only taking them straight back into the lantana bushes where they had started a few minutes ago. Issie’s skin was getting scratched to bits on the dense thickets as she was pressed back further into the canyon by the Sorraia.

Riding past a large lantana bush, she seized the opportunity to reach out and grab a thick stick, snapping it off and wrenching it loose. It was about the size and length of a dressage whip. Not much in the way of protection against three wild stallions, but at least it was
a weapon of sorts. She gripped on to the stick and kept Angel side-stepping further along the canyon wall. The Sorraia was only a few metres away now, preparing to attack. The stallion sounded his clarion call once more. Issie knew she had run out of time. They had to go now! She urged Angel on and expected him to gallop forward. But the stallion gave a surprised snort and reared up instead!

“Angel!” Issie shrieked and flung herself forward, gripping the grey stallion’s silky mane to hang on.

Startled by his rider, Angel promptly put all four feet back on the ground. And then Issie realised that Angel hadn’t been rearing at all. He had simply been doing exactly what he thought Issie had asked of him – he had been performing a levade!

Issie must have mistakenly cued the stallion by tapping him with the lantana stick. The skinny branch in her hand might prove to be a greater weapon than she could have possibly anticipated. What if she were to use it as a dressage whip? She remembered what Avery had told her about the
haute école
, how the origins of the movements came from the battlefield. They were war manoeuvres!

OK, so the bachelor stallions were not your typical enemy, but hadn’t Avery said that rearing and attack stances were often enough to defuse a fight between stallions? The skills that she had learnt in the dressage arena might be enough to intimidate them. If she could make Angel look like he was on the attack, would that be enough to warn the Sorraia off?

The Sorraia was circling back to strike again. Issie had to act. She tried to focus, gathering up her reins and sitting up straight in the saddle. Issie shook the negative thoughts out of her head. This time she couldn’t afford to mess up. Her life and Angel’s depended on it.

Gingerly, Issie gave Angel his cue, tapping his shoulder. The grey stallion rose up balanced on his hindquarters and, instead of shrieking Issie sat perfectly still, at one with her horse. Then, with a deft flick of the stick, she tapped Angel on his flank in just the right spot. The Andalusian stallion gathered all his power in his hind legs and then leapt forward balancing on his hindquarters in a perfect courbette!

haute école
movement had exactly the effect that Issie hoped it would. The Sorraia was suddenly dwarfed by the Andalusian towering above him. As Angel leapt
towards him in enormous bounds, the Sorraia was totally outclassed. He began to retreat as Angel leapt onwards, spurred on by Issie’s rhythmical whip taps on his flank.

Angel was almost clear of the lantana scrub when he suddenly lost his footing on the rocky ground and came crashing back down to earth on all fours once more. It was enough though. The courbette had worked. The Sorraia had been thoroughly intimidated by Angel’s physical power and size and had retreated back in amongst the mares.

The dun stallion, however, had now become a threat. He was moving in fast to launch his own attack on Angel. He had circled the mares and was coming at them from the rear, his teeth bared.

The dun stallion was only a few metres away when Issie saw him out of the corner of her eye. She reacted on pure adrenalin, preparing her horse with lightning speed. Once again she urged Angel back up into a levade. She held Angel there for just a moment, until the dun stallion was so close that he was about to strike.

“Now!” Issie shouted. And with a quick, deft flick of the stick she touched Angel’s rump and he leapt up into the air. Angel flew out like a gazelle with all four legs
off the ground. He seemed to freeze in mid-air as Issie reached back and gave the crucial tap in just the right spot on his hind legs. The grey stallion took his cue and lashed out, thrusting both hind legs in a balletic kick. Angel managed to land both his hind hooves squarely on the chest of the dun stallion, connecting while he was still in mid-air. The dun was sent reeling by the unexpected blow. He fell to the ground, landing hard on his side, legs akimbo.

Issie was horrified. She had only been trying to protect herself, but what if she had actually hurt the dun? She held her breath and then felt utter relief when the horse got up to his feet, clearly stunned but not seriously harmed.

Preoccupied by her concern for the dun, Issie never saw the black stallion coming at her. The black horse struck swiftly and violently, rearing up over Angel bringing the full force of his front legs down on the grey stallion’s left shoulder. The unexpected blow from the black horse sent Angel reeling. He fell to the ground, landing flat on his side. As he went down, Issie flew out of the saddle.

When you are falling off a horse and you know the
impact is about to come, you try to prepare yourself for the crash. Issie was practised at it and knew how to tumble-roll to absorb the shock. But this time she wasn’t prepared at all. She hit the ground badly, landing hard on her side, the wind completely knocked out of her. She was gasping for breath, and shaking with panic. Angel was lying beside her on the ground and there was a deep cut in his shoulder where the hooves of the black horse had struck him.

“Angel?” Issie’s vision was blurred by grit and tears. “Angel!” She dragged herself through the dust to the grey stallion’s side. “Angel!” Issie shook the stallion with both hands. “Get up! I need you!”

On the ground, without Angel to defend her, she was totally vulnerable. A single blow of a stallion’s hoof could be deadly.

Issie looked around wildly. Where was Alfie? Issie desperately wished he was here. She needed help now! Angel wasn’t getting up and Issie was still feeling winded and finding it hard to breathe.

The black stallion meanwhile, was about to move in on Issie and Angel to strike again.

“Angel!” Issie tried to rally the horse once more, “Angel!
Come on, get up! You have to get up. Please…”

The sudden sound of galloping hoofbeats entering the canyon seemed to come out of nowhere. It must be Alfie! He was back after all!

“Alfie! I’m over here!” Issie called out.

But no reply came. And then Issie heard the familiar whinny, and she knew who it was. Help had come at last, but not Alfie or the riders of El Caballo. She looked up at the narrow neck of the canyon and the sight of the dapple-grey gelding galloping towards her made her heart soar. It was her horse.

It was Mystic.

Chapter 14

A moment ago the black stallion had been ready to attack, but the sight of Mystic drew his attention away from Issie and Angel. The stallion focused on this new horse, wondering what kind of a threat this latest intruder might be to his harem.

This was Issie’s chance and she seized it. “Come on, Angel, ughhhh!” She grabbed the grey stallion by his bridle and pulled as hard as she could, trying one last time to force him to stand up.

The blow he had taken must have almost knocked Angel out. Snorting and quivering, the grey horse propped himself up on his front legs and then, with enormous effort, and the help of Issie’s encouragingly
vigorous tugs on his reins, the Andalusian stallion stumbled to his feet again.

“Good boy, Angel!” Issie was so relieved. He was wobbly, but at least he was standing. They needed to get out of there. Mystic couldn’t possibly keep all three stallions away from them forever.

Issie had expected the grey gelding to come for her, but instead Mystic headed towards the mares. She saw him galloping and darting through the lantana bushes with the black stallion and the Sorraia both following. Mystic was circling back around the harem, trying to encourage the mares to move, flicking his head and nickering as he cantered around them.

Issie understood what he was trying to do. If Mystic could get the mares to stampede towards the canyon neck then the three bachelor stallions would have no choice but to follow them, and they would leave Issie and Angel alone.

Margarita was the first mare to dart towards the canyon mouth. The grey gelding was offering her a chance to escape and she took it. As Mystic drove the mares from behind, she led them from the front. As Margarita began to canter in the right direction the mares willingly
followed her. It didn’t take much urging from Mystic to get them into a gallop and the herd moved in unison, heading for the exit.

The bachelor stallions tried to stop the mares, cantering alongside them, trying to nip and cajole them back again. But Margarita fought back! She bared her teeth and lunged at the black stallion when he came near her, warning him off. Then she led the mares on with Mystic behind them galloping towards freedom.

, Issie thought. If the mares made it away from the stallions and out of the canyon then they would be on their own and Issie might never find them again. Still, it was better for the mares to roam wild than be trapped here by the stallions. Not that Issie had much choice in the matter. Right now, with Angel badly wounded, her only thoughts had to be for herself and her stallion. They had to get out of here themselves and get back to the hacienda. They couldn’t risk staying here any longer when the stallions might return and attack again.

Issie bent down to look at Angel’s wounded shoulder. Blood was still oozing from the cut where the black stallion’s hooves had struck, but it was a clean wound,
and not too deep. She stepped the horse forward. He was lame all right, but he could walk. They could get out of here, but it would be a slow walk home.

Issie was just thinking this when the sound of hoofbeats began thundering towards her through the canyon again, getting closer, louder.

Terrified, she began to lead the stallion back towards the lantana bushes. Issie didn’t know what else to do. They couldn’t run, but perhaps they could hide…

“Isadora!” She heard Alfie shouting above the sound of the hoofbeats, “Issie! Are you OK?”

The sight of Alfie and Avery riding towards her made Issie literally weep with relief. “Ohmygod, Alfie!” she shouted back. “I thought you were the wild stallions!”

Alfie shook his head. “We passed them at the other end of the canyon. They scattered when they saw us. Roberto and Francoise managed to corral the mares. They’re leading them back to the hacienda. We came here looking for you.”

Avery, meanwhile, had flung himself down off Sorcerer’s back even before the horse had come to a stop and raced over to Issie. “Are you all right?” he asked,
looking at Issie’s tear-stained face and the wound on her leg. “Are you hurt?”

Issie wiped her face with her sleeve and nodded, “I’m all right now, Tom.” Then she managed a smile. “You should have been here a few minutes ago,” she told him. “Angel did a perfect capriole!”

When Issie walked in through the gates of El Caballo Danza Magnifico leading the battered and bloodied Angel beside her, the first thing she saw was her mother sprinting across the courtyard. Mrs Brown flung her arms around her in a hug that was so tight Issie couldn’t breathe.

“Thank goodness you’re safe!” Mrs Brown had been clearly quite beside herself with worry. “When Alfie came back without you and said you were out there on your own with those stallions I began to think the worst had happened…”

“I’m OK, Mum, don’t worry,” said Issie.

Mrs Brown finally loosened her grip on her daughter and stood back to take a good look at her. “You’re filthy!” she exclaimed. “And you’re covered in blood!”

“Most of it’s Angel’s blood, Mum,” Issie said. “I’ve just got a cut on my leg, that’s all.”

“She got kicked by one of the mares and she’s had a bit of a fright and a bad fall,” Avery said.

“Tom!” Issie turned and pulled a face at her instructor for telling on her. “Honestly, the fall was fine,” Issie explained, “it was just the landing that sucked!”

“We should get a doctor to look at your leg.” Mrs Brown sounded really worried.

Issie turned to Avery, “We should get a vet to look at Angel’s shoulder too.”

The vet arrived late that afternoon and put six stitches in the wound on Angel’s shoulder. While Roberto and Francoise watched, Issie held the lead rope of the big, grey Andalusian as the vet gave him a sedative to numb the pain. She gently stroked the stallion’s face as the stitches were swabbed and a salve put on the wound. The scar left behind was in
the shape of a horse shoe. Issie had been right though – the wound wasn’t deep and the vet said that Angel would be ready to ride in the dressage school again by the end of the week.

Issie stayed in the stall with Angel and Francoise while Roberto saw the vet to the gates. “How are you feeling, boy?” Issie asked Angel after they’d gone. Angel nickered softly and nudged her with his velvety muzzle as if to say, “Don’t worry, I’m OK.”

“The sedative will wear off soon and you can feed him dinner if you like,” Francoise told Issie when she returned. “And you heard what the vet said – by Thursday you can ride him in the school again.”

“It’s so weird,” Issie said. “Last week I would have been celebrating if the vet told me I could have a few days off from dressage training. Now, it’s the opposite. I can’t wait to try a capriole again!”

The fight with the stallions had changed Issie’s views forever about the
haute école
. It was no longer some outdated art. It was a living, breathing powerful weapon. Now that the awfulness of her clash in the canyon was over, Issie realised that she’d never experienced anything quite as amazing as the moment when Angel leapt into the air and performed a stunning capriole that floored his opponent with a quick thrust of his hindquarters.

Issie was awestruck that she was capable of unleashing
such power in her horse. She also felt terrible though, worrying about the dun stallion. What if they had really hurt him?

“You were fighting for your life,” Francoise had reasoned with her. “You didn’t have time to assess whether you would hurt the horse you were fighting against. Besides, when we arrived at the canyon all three stallions were galloping with the mares. The dun seemed perfectly fine.”

Avery, Roberto and Alfie confirmed Francoise’s story at dinner. But strangely, no one made any mention of Mystic. Was the dappled-grey still with the herd when they had recaptured the mares, or had he simply disappeared before the others arrived? Surely if he had still been there following the harem then someone would have seen him?

Issie didn’t question it too much. All she knew was that Mystic had been there when she had needed him the most. If Mystic hadn’t arrived when the black stallion was about to attack her and Angel…well, she didn’t like to think too hard about what might have happened.

Mrs Brown was still in overprotective-mother mode the next day. So when Issie insisted that she was well enough to go riding again on Storm, her mother decided that there was nothing else for it and insisted on coming with her.

Issie was stunned. She had spent so many years trying to convince her mother to come riding with her. “If I’d known that all I had to do was have a horseback fight with three wild stallions to get you to ride with me,” Issie joked, “then I would have done it sooner!”

As they saddled up together Issie helped her mum to tighten the girth and adjust the stirrups on Ferdinand’s saddle. The chubby chestnut pony dozed in the afternoon sun as Issie did up the straps on his bridle. “He looks a bit frisky,” Mrs Brown said dubiously.

“Mum!” Issie giggled. “He’s a twenty-three-year-old bomb-proof Spanish pony. He’s about as frisky as a garden snail!”

Once she’d made sure that Mrs Brown was ready and mounted up, Issie unlocked the top door of Angel’s stall to check on him before they left. She was pleased to see that the stallion was standing quite comfortably, happily munching his way through the last scraps of his hay net.

“You were super brave out there yesterday,” she told the stallion. “You beat the Sorraia, you know that, don’t you? It was three against one, and you managed to hold them off until help arrived.” She gave Angel a loving stroke down his velvety nose and her fingers ran over the lumps and bumps of the stallion’s
scars. They were like a map of his life experiences – and now there was a new scar forming. The wound inflicted by the black stallion was healing and very soon only a thin line would be left behind, almost like a brand on Angel’s shoulder. “It’s the mark of the
haute école
,” Issie murmured to the stallion. She knew that whenever she saw that scar she would remember how they had used their dressage skills on the battlefield against three wild stallions and lived to tell the tale.

Issie emerged from Angel’s stall to find Mrs Brown wrestling with Ferdinand, who was helping himself to the hay bales stacked on one side of the corridor.

“Thank heavens you’re back! I was petrified that he would bolt while you were gone,” Mrs Brown said.

“Bolt?” Issie giggled. “Mum, you’ll be lucky if you can get him to move after all the hay you’ve let him scoff!”

Nightstorm was already tacked up to go. When Issie brought him out into the corridor and mounted up she noticed that her mother was giving her a rather odd look.

“I was just thinking,” Mrs Brown said, “how grown-up you look on that horse of yours.”

Issie rode over to her mother and Ferdinand. “I’m taller than you!” she grinned. It was true – sitting on her sixteen-three stallion, Issie positively towered over her mother and the stocky little Ferdinand!

“Would you like me to put a lead rein on Ferdy,” she offered with a straight face, “or do you think you can manage on your own?”

“I’m fine, thank you,” Mrs Brown said sniffily. And then she added. “But no trotting! I still haven’t figured out how to do that rising thing!”

Once they were outside the gates of El Caballo’s compound and on the soft, dirt track that ran through the fields, Issie decided that the time had finally come to get her mother trotting properly.

“Rising trot is easy,” she insisted. “All you do is go up when the pony throws you up.”

Mrs Brown shrieked and wobbled at first as Ferdinand
set off at a trot, but with Issie right there beside her explaining how to use the stirrups to rise up with each bump, Mrs Brown began to give it a try, doing a few shaky rises in the saddle.

“That’s it! Don’t try too hard. Let the horse lift you out of the saddle and then down again…and up…and down…and up…”

It wasn’t long before Mrs Brown was posting up and down with ease.

“This is fun!” she laughed.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you for years!” Issie rolled her eyes.

“All right,” said Mrs Brown, already out of breath. “I think we can walk again now! That’s enough rising trot for one day.”

They took the long path today, the one that led down through the olive grove to a little orchard filled with pomegranate trees. Mrs Brown was talking on and on about pomegranates and ingredients for Spanish recipes and how Roberto had taught her to make a salad that required some strange and exotic Spanish oil that she would never be able to buy at home in Chevalier Point, and Issie suddenly noticed
how much her mum’s face lit up as she spoke about Spain and Roberto.

Ever since the dance Issie had been wondering whether Stella was right about her mum and Roberto.

Issie had to admit that when Stella first made the suggestion, she was horrified. For nearly seven years it had just been the two of them – Issie and her mum – and she liked their life in Chevalier Point. She didn’t want anything to change. But as she listened to her mum gaily discussing paella and fiestas, Issie felt selfish. Her mum deserved to be happy too.

“Mum?” Issie said. “I want to tell you something.”

“What is it, sweetie?” Mrs Brown smiled at her.

“It’s about you and Roberto,” Issie said. “I just want to say that I’m…I’m really happy for you. I mean that you’re in love and all that…”

“Oh, Issie…” Mrs Brown began, but Issie interrupted her.

“No, let me finish, Mum. You’ve always looked after me and done so much for me and I know how hard you’ve worked so that I could have everything I wanted. And I’m almost sixteen, so I’m grown-up now. It’s time that you started thinking about yourself. So if it really
makes you happy being here in Spain with Roberto, then I’m OK with that…”

“Now, wait a minute,” Mrs Brown said gently. “Listen, Issie…”

But Issie wouldn’t be stopped. She took a deep breath. “Just tell me the truth, Mum. Are you going to marry Roberto? Are we moving to Spain?”

BOOK: Angel and the Flying Stallions
10.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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