Merlin doesn't want to go up the steepest part of the dirt road and I know him, and me, well enough to handle his fit. He stops and turns around to trot home and I tsk tsk and smile. In a split second I loosen my right rein, pull in my left gently and spin him in three circles until he stops on his own. I turn him uphill and offer my heal and loosen the reins. He doesn't budge, just turns back around to go to the farm. I spin him again and this time loosen the reins when we're facing uphill and kick the same moment. I use the over/under rope on his horn after he bawks again. It has a piece of rawhide on the end and its a light flick back to his rump and he canters up the steep dirt slope. He has learned, finally, I am more stubborn than he is.
We burst out of the forested road to a bald of grass open and flecked with does. Merlin doesn't care about the deer, he canters past them. Up and up the mountain until we can spin around and take in the last of the green around us. I can see Cambridge, the mountains, Vermont. I try to remember the girl in the dressage show in May, so scared in a small arena. So intimidated by fear. I sat tall in the stock saddle, wind in my hair, my straw hat tight on my head and neck-reined Merlin up the trail. We have come so far in a single endless summer. I no longer fear this horse. We have become a team.
Fall is coming.
Crows are flying.
Black horses are running uphill.
Things are healing.