The Relationship Phases of New Horse Ownership

With horses, just like humans, it seems the first year of a relationship is critical to determining whether it will endure in the long term.

You go through this exciting honeymoon phase and often, discovering quirks and idiosyncrasies is charming and helps to create a sense of connection. Maybe it’s playing with the crossties (which I’m a sucker for), or finding out that your new pony just loves his ears to be rubbed. It’s all sweet, and endearing, and you just can’t help but get googly eyes when you set eyes on them. For Smitty and I, the highlight of our honeymoon period was our cross country school, in which I basically decided he was the best baby, ever.


And then you hit that phase where you know each other a little better, and have a tiny foundation on which you can build trust and start to grow. Sometimes this is an extension of the initial honeymoon phase, and all continues to be bright and beautiful as you take on new challenges and add shared accomplishments to your relationship history. Or maybe this is where you start to test each other’s boundaries, introducing your first fight into the mix. For us, this was the show in October. Success in so many ways, and yet, a few moments where the rose colored glasses became just a tish foggy.


Shortly after that, I sent him off the bootcamp, which in hindsight I wish I hadn’t done because I believe it lead, in part, to his unhappy stomach shortly thereafter. Here we enter another phase in our relationship, which is the general ups and downs of trying to figure out each other’s limits, make progress, and see if we will be a team in the long run.

Ulcers. UGH.

Ulcers. UGH.

I’ve always heard it takes a full year to really form a partnership with a new horse, and is history is any indication, I believe that’s true. Smitty and I are next yet halfway to that marker yet, and we have so much to work through if we are going to be a permanent fixture. Yet I think in a lot of ways that just how horse, and human, relationships are. It’s a non-linear progression towards a forever shifting end goal.


9 thoughts on “The Relationship Phases of New Horse Ownership

  1. I agree with the one year thing. I felt comfortable on Paige within a shorter amount of time but after a year she was “my horse.” I think it varies with greenies somewhat though because there is so much more learning going on on their end.

  2. That last gif is awesome. But yes, this is super true. For the lucky few, everything clicks and feels pretty perfect, but for most everyone else there are definitely some ups and downs and some true “getting to know you” moments that form the real relationship. At Smitty’s age, it seems like he’s probably starting to settle into who he’ll really be as a grown up too, and that’s exciting!

  3. I definitely relate to this things. There are parts of my new horse that really make him feel like MINE (tho a large part of that is simply my 12yo inner child who finally has a pony), and there are other parts where I can barely even fathom what the future might look like. It’s definitely a process!!

  4. I think it takes a long time to truly know a horse. Miles is only my second, and I think sometimes the owner’s experience level can make things take longer. I’ve had Miles for more than 3 years now, and I feel fairly confident that NOW I’ve got him figured out. Although, that usually means a big lesson is coming sooooo maybe I shouldn’t say that, haha

  5. Just found your blog! I love this post. I think the one year thing is pretty accurate. It’s taken me 4 years to really get to know my boy really, really well. I feel like at this point I can predict his next movements and read his mind pretty well. Although I will say, I recently brought in a colt and it’s been a month. The connection we’ve formed happened really quickly, it’s like we just burst through all of the phases quicker than planned lol.

  6. We’re definitely still in the honeymoon phase. I’m hoping it lasts longer than the 3-4 months that it did with Ryon (that’s when he started getting a ‘tude) 🙂

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