Douglass does not say what life was like under Covey before he began beating him. Indeed, he mentions at the beginning of Chapter 10 that Mr. Covey beat him severely one week after he went to live with him:
[Mr Covey] gave me a very severe whipping, cutting my back, causing the blood to run, and raising ridges on my flesh as large as my little finger.
Douglass, as a self-described city boy not used to life on a farm, lost control of an ox cart, and when Covey found out about the accident, he abused the young man severely. This was the beginning of a long series of beatings explicitly intended to "break" Douglass. The beatings continued until the confrontation in the horse stable, when Douglass turned the tables on Covey, fighting him to a standstill, a moment when Douglass, by his own reckoning, became "a man."