Thanks for all the constructive comments. It reinforced the positive for me and I appreciate it.
After processing it all further, I guess I should be satisfied the original owner told me what she knew. I have struggled with whether it's good or not for me to put his past to words but I guess it doesn't really matter all that much at this point. Y'all know now there's a skeleton in his closet anyway, if I tell, maybe to some of you it won't even sound all that unusual.
In the beginning, Joey was one of the stars of her young sale prospects. He broke well to saddle, was very calm, kind and willing. All the things she presented him as on his page, he was.
Then he was sold, and she got good money for him. I don't know how long after that it happened but apparently he bolted or spooked badly and ran off with his new owner, causing her injury. New owner's trainer tried working with the horse and he did it to her, going through a fence and sending her to the hospital. Joey was returned to the original owner and traded in for a different horse but the damage was done. It was also revealed he was returned with a sore back, like extremely sensitive over the lumbar vertebrae. (I've never noticed any extreme reactiveness or pain in his back.) My first thought was my God, what did they do to him?
The owner tried to salvage her investment by having her trainer work with him and he went along okay for awhile and then did it again to her trainer. I don't think her trainer was hurt but the horse was deemed unfit for riding by the original owner. She also said he failed a vetting after he was returned and she pointed out the lump on his fetlock that I noticed in my own studying of his legs. (I had that fetlock x-rayed in my vetting of Joey and my vet said it was a "callous" on the bone, that he was not sensitive in that area and it would not affect him as a pleasure horse. He also passed the ridden flexion test in my vet exam, too.) He was supposedly sold from there as a pasture pet only. In all, she must have lost a lot of money with him and wasn't about to put any more into him with a damaged history. Obviously, he no longer fit her profile of the quiet, safe horses she sells.
And surprise, I call out of the blue maybe 2 years after horse is gone and tell her I have this horse and have been riding and working with him for a year and he's wonderful and the nicest horse ever and I just wanted her to know such a nice horse is safe with me. I guess she was caught off guard, too. She seemed surprised to hear the horse went on to a different dealer (who I bought him from).
She warned me he'd do it again. Out of the blue, with no warning. I said well, it's been a year and I've never had anything like that happen under saddle. She said well, she had him in her rotation for a year before he was sold and he never did anything like it and then it happened. She told me at the very least, never to allow anyone else to ride him. As I think on it now, it bothers me that she kept blaming the horse.
I know Joey is a sensitive horse. He is calm and by all appearances bombproof but will not tolerate heavy handling. He has so much "try" and will go along with almost every task I've asked of him. He's never refused any jump I've put in front of him. But I've moved slowly, I wanted to "take as long as it takes" for us to become partners.
One thing I noticed almost immediately after starting with him, he's very wary of crops and whips and you have to be very savvy in your use of these tools. I carried one in the beginning because he's so lethargic and was surprised how as soon as he saw it in my hand, he became worried and had trouble focusing. I noted that - especially since Monty also had a very big fear of whips and crops. But my experience with Monty taught me how to be very subtle with that tool and I have to say, Joey has become much better about me using it.
Hmm, Monty also was started in Virginia and fox hunted early in his career. Same fear. Just sayin'.
I had one instance in a lesson where my trainer told me to ask for a lead change after a small jump as we cantered to the corner. I just tickled Joey with a dressage whip behind my outside leg to emphasize my "ask" and he zoomed off into a gallop from fear of that little touch. But I simply circled him, told him a gentle "whoa" and he stopped immediately. Then we settled him and joked about how the poor thing is scared of the whip and we will definitely not be using that method to ask him for a long time.
After I described his past to my trainer, he said well, maybe that explains a little more why he's so scared of the whip. Maybe it had some part in his bad experience.
Now that I know what breeds go into Joey's genetics, obviously he's presenting more Thoroughbred than most of her crosses and though he looks drafty, there's a very sensitive, emotional horse in there. Maybe the problem was, he was sold and handled as a bombproof draft cross but needed to be ridden a little more as if he is a Thoroughbred. Which is exactly how I've been handling him. Because that's how I had to ride Monty, too.
One more thing, when I had his teeth floated this past fall, the vet said the poor horses' teeth looked as if they'd never been taken care of. He had hooks and a few ulcers in his cheeks from the condition of his teeth. If that is true, we have all heard stories of horses reacting badly in the bridle due to pain in their teeth.
Anyway, I could speculate and ramble on but I think it's all said. We move forward. We build on all the many good things so far in our partnership and we progress.