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[RC] cougars - Dawn Simas

Great advice so far.  :)
Jody, your description is accurate, I think you are correct that it was a mountain lion.  There's only one account of a rider on horseback being attacked in recorded history (in the Pacific Northwest where they are on an island that has the densest couger population in America), so you are 1000's times more likely to be struck by lightning.  HOWEVER, I say be prepared and never say never:  I always carry bear pepper spray (for shooting at a distance if needed and also for the leering human baddies) and a non-folding sheathed knife to fight if actually jumped.  Best to carry these on your belt if you are separated from your horse. 
If a cat is going to actually attack, you will not see it coming.  They are ambush hunters, and unless cornered (very unwise, always be sure that cat has somewhere to leave to), it will only jump at you if you're not looking at it and you are within striking range (about 45 feet max), so the knife is to fight for your life when it is on you.  Better to have than to wish I had it...  Cougar attacks are survived all the time by fighting back. 
Sidenote:  Authorities keep saying that cougars are extinct in the Eastern US.  But I get these calls a lot, they are still there or have multiplied from freed pets or something.  Even though people may tell her that there are no cats in the Appalachians, I believe there are pockets that exist there.  You can google the Eastern Cougar and find info on it.  Here's a story:
And here's an organization, although I don't endorse them, I just found them by google: