Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blog Hop: Couples therapy

I spotted this one and couldn't resist, even if it was from October.

So, how does your current (or past) trainer manage the partnership/relationship between you and your horse(s)?

This is an interesting question for me, since Trainer A knew Theo before she met me.  She'd worked with and occasionally ridden Theo for years before I wandered in the door.  She already had a pre-set notion of him and knew his history.  She knew he was opinionated, held a grudge, and could not be pushed.  If he got angry with his rider, the ride was over for the rider's safety.  Riders that tried to fight with him did not last long.  I, on the other hand, was a mystery.  She got to know me as I got to know Theo. 

Fast forward a year and a half and we have the current situation.  At this point, she knows both of us, I know Theo, and Theo knows me.  I'm a strong personality, Theo's a strong personality, and the combination of the two makes or breaks most of our rides.  We both have tempers that can become violent, though most see us as very laid back.  Managing moods and communication isn't an option, it's a major component.  She'll ask me what is going on with Theo while I'm riding, since I've been actively studying his body language for some time now.  He's bored, he's tired, he's frustrated, he's happy, he's eager, he's plotting my death.  I know how to speak papi and she lets me translate.  Papi also knows how to speak Catie.  He knows when I'm pleased, when I'm amused, and when he's pushing my limits.

Trainer A considers the relationship between me and Theo to be very important and she actively manages it every time she sees us.  She supported my somewhat controversial decision to use food rewards with him while riding because it made him associate his work (and me) with good things.  I couldn't get anywhere with him if he saw me negatively.  She's the one that originally chased me out into solo trail rides, even though Theo hated them, so that we would learn to trust each other.  She encouraged us to build up a relationship that was more than him doing what I told him to do. 

Some rides require more management of our relationship than others, of course.  When doing a position lesson, Theo is good to just march around and daydream about sugar cubes dipped in caramel.  When we're challenging him mentally or physically, we both have to keep a close eye on the barometer.  If I've had a bad day at work, if I'm slamming into a mental wall I can't seem to get through, if Theo has really got my goat, she'll step in the manage the relationship in that direction as well.  She's very aware of how quickly the two of us can escalate. 

I probably wouldn't be as successful with Theo if my trainer wasn't so willing to consider us as a couple and not as two separate entities.  We're not separate entities.  We have a complicated relationship made up of compromise and trust built over many miles.  My relationship with mi papi is more important to me than any score sheet and she enjoys watching us grow as a pair as much as she enjoys seeing us advance in our training.  She's enjoyed watching the two of us take on new challenges together and depend on each other when things get tough.

I consider myself quite lucky to have Trainer A to shepherd us along and intervene when we need some couples therapy.


  1. What a great fit all around. :-) It's all that much more important to have a trainer like that when you have such strong personalities.

  2. I"ve been loving the work you've been doing with Theo and your coach is a definite partner in that.