"That's fine, but keep moving forward," I told my boy. I think he's been in my care for three weeks tonight. I want him to leave the joust ring behind. I need to separate him from his past so I can see what he brought out of it and what he took in to it. We've been working on the lunge line. Walk, trot, halt. Stay out on the line; don't swoop in toward me, it's okay to just stand out there. Last Thursday night he reared, ears pinned in the resistance of forward. "Uh-huh. Move on," I said. Ears pinned, he obeyed. I watched the stiffness of his top line: his spine rises and straightens. Before long, he bucked. "Yeah, I get it," I said. "Tuh-rot!" And he did. His body language says no, but he obeys. I wondered then whether he was in pain. On Friday morning he colicked, nothing bad, but enough to depress him. I don't know him well enough to connect the events.
Sunday night, we returned to the lunge line. He was better, more relaxed, but I could see in him the question. I don't know yet if this big kid hates to work or learned to hate to work.
Tonight I asked him for a canter. He offered a silly power trot. "CAN-ter," I repeated. Almost, and a miss. Again. "Easy, easy." I brought him down to a steady trot. "CAN-ter!" He leapt into it, and then stayed there, circling out at the end of the line, fast in it until he tuned in to my voice. As soon as he leveled out, I brought him back to a trot. "Good boy. See? You're okay."
He understands praise; I don't know if he believes it, though. But already I get that I have to persuade him, and that's how both of us will accept possibility.