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After taking three quick steps, Trace slowed again, almost to a stop. Then I felt something hit my leg. I turned around and was almost face to face with the kid behind me, whose horse's head was pressed against Trace's haunch. "What was that?" I asked him. He shrugged and said he hadn't seen anything.

A few minutes later, I leaned forward in the saddle, pressed my hand against Trace's neck, and whispered in his ear, "All right, you, let's get moving now . This is ridiculous." I bounced my heel against the horse, experimenting with different areas -- further forward, further back, right in the middle. Then it happened again, only this time I saw it: Trace's tail flew up and slapped me on the thigh as though he were trying to shoo me off like an insect . I swung around in the saddle. "Did you see it that time? Did this horse just hit me with his tail?" The kid was giggling, nodding. Yeah, he'd seen it.

We finally arrived at the clearing where I was relieved to find a few trees offering shade. The rigid saddle had left my butt sore, forcing me to waddle to the breakfast table. After a plate of eggs and sausage links and a cup of syrupy coffee, it was time to go. I looked at the woman, now sitting on a cushion in the cabana-like comfort of her canvas-covered wagon. And then I looked at Trace. With a sigh, I walked toward the horse, where Alberto was waiting for me, his hand outstretched.

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