One thing from my dressage lesson that really stuck with me (beyond how to get my tail out from between my legs), was my trainer stating that it was likely going to be a year before I felt a real partnership with Smitty.
It’s 2 months in, and though I’m getting to know him a lot better, I’d have a hard time describing him as a partner. Right now, much of our relationship seems to be focused on what happens on the ground, more so than in the saddle. Our communication feels like it’s constantly “please stand still,” or “give me your hoof” and more often than not, “don’t eat that,” followed by, “no, seriously don’t effing eat that!” (especially when it comes to my PS of Sweden reins!) Rather than partner, I feel like my role is teacher and often disciplinarian, and he is the unruly pupil with ADD.
In between admonishments I’m trying to remember to praise any and all good behavior. So when he does stand, he gets a pat and a verbal congratulations for not being a prat. When I don’t have to grab something from his gob he gets told he’s a good boy. Right now, because of the latter issue, treats are basically a no-go unless it’s to help me mount up. (More on that later)
Our time in the saddle is getting better, in that transitions are coming easier, he’s coming on to the bit more consistently, and we survived our first jumping lesson together. All accomplishments that I’m proud of, to be sure.
Is it the groundwork and our relationship out of the tack why I don’t feel the partnership yet? Not to say that I don’t like Smitty, I do, he cracks me up and I think he’s got all the tools to help me accomplish my goals and more. And I think we’ll get there. It’s all about the journey for now, moving towards that partnership one little step at a time.
What is it about your horse that makes him feel like a partner? Was there a transitional moment that made you feel like a team? What is your greatest accomplishment together? If a partnership didn’t develop, what made you realize this?