Scholastic Canada: Heartland

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Heartland #7: Out of the Darkness

Amy headed to her bedroom to change. As she pulled on her jeans, Lou knocked on the door.

"Amy?" she asked. "Can I come in?"

"Sure," Amy said.

Lou stood in the doorway, a worried expression on her face. "Has Grandpa said anything to you about Gallant Prince?" she asked.

"No. Why would he?" Amy said, feeling a sudden rush of concern.

Lou sighed. "Well, he came in this afternoon complaining that he'd never seen such a barnful of jittery horses."

Amy took a deep breath and nodded, thinking of her conversation with Ty. She knew Grandpa was right.

"I just thought I'd let you know," said Lou. "I think he's getting worried, Amy. It's not like Grandpa to make comments like that."

Amy nodded. It was true - Grandpa usually didn't interfere in their work with the horses. He trusted Amy totally. If he was saying things like that to Lou, he must be worried. But they had to keep on going, for the time being.

"Thanks for telling me Lou," said Amy. "But we're just getting started. Maybe things will improve after we try joining up."

On the way down to the main training ring, Prince fought constantly, pulling backward and tossing his head as Ty gripped the reins tightly under his chin. Ty's face was grim, and Amy could read his thoughts - he didn't think this was a good idea. But they made it, and Amy opened the gate.

"We'll need to knot the reins so he doesn't trip," said Amy. "I'll do that if you can just hold on to him for a minute longer."

Quickly, Amy fixed the reins so they rested safely halfway up the stallion's neck. Then Ty let Prince go and walked back to the fence while Amy took her position in the middle of the ring. She unfurled the longline in her hand and flicked it gently in Prince's direction.

Prince started violently and reared before heading to the outside of the ring. There he stopped, staring at Amy, his nostrils flaring. She moved toward him and flicked the line again. Prince set off around the outside of the ring. It was the first time that Amy and Ty had seen Prince moving freely in the open since his arrival. At a trot, the stiffness in his right foreleg was easier to see. His head nodded and his right shoulder dropped slightly with each step - the limp that he would never entirely lose.

Amy squared her shoulders to the stallion's and kept driving him on. By doing this, she was showing him that he would have to keep working until he chose to trust her. He circled the ring countless times before starting to tire. But although Prince was clearly reluctant to keep moving, the subtle signals that indicated the start of a join up weren't happening either. He wasn't flicking his inside ear toward her or beginning to relax. He wasn't saying he wanted to stop and be with her. In fact, he still shied away every time she flicked the longline in his direction, and he rolled his eyes ominously. He seemed determined to stay as far from her as possible, and Amy noticed that his limp was becoming more pronounced the long she kept him trotting around.

"Ty, I'm going to have to stop," she called, letting her shoulders sag. She looked the stallion in the eye and he snorted, clearly exhausted but defiant. "We're just not getting anywhere."

Ty jumped down from the fence where he'd been sitting to watch and approached Prince cautiously. Amy helped him corner the stallion and grab the reins. She shook her head. "It's as if he just won't respond. It's not that he can't - it's more like he won't. I just can't reach him."

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