The Dilemma of the Perfect Partner

Spreading manure with my perfect partner

Two horsewomen have recently shared with me a dilemma that I know all too well.  What do we do when our favorite equine partner needs to be retired?  One of the horsewomen, like me, faces retirement due to age.  The other is pondering retirement for the purposes of breeding, something I have also faced.  After two foals, though, I decided I needed my perfect partner more than I needed foals from her.  One of the other horsewomen works cows.  The other shows and rides for pleasure.  It doesn’t matter the use that we put our perfect partner to, though.  It is that our partner is there for us when we go to them.

I am fortunate, and definitely perpetually challenged, that my first pony was a perfect match.  Fortunate because she’s done anything I’ve asked of her, from herding cattle to skidding logs to driving in shows to raising foals.  And she is more calm than I am, so our time together is especially enjoyable for me.  I’m perpetually challenged because I have yet to befriend another equine that is her match.  After I got involved with ponies, I began to see articles about Ponies of a Lifetime.  Somehow my first ever was my pony of a lifetime, and it hasn’t been fair to any other pony that has come into my care since then.

Like the other horsewomen, I know I need to start cultivating my next perfect partner.  But it’s hard when my favorite is still there for me every day.  When we have the depth of relationship with our perfect partner that we do, it’s hard to fathom investing that much time and energy in another relationship.  And how can we be honest in starting this new relationship while still honoring and even coveting the tried-and-true one?  I’ve definitely been given feedback recently by my perfect partner that she prefers me to give attention to her over the other ponies.

I read a few months back that Pat Parelli, the natural horsemanship showman, has a new equine partner, replacing a twenty-year-old.  At first I was envious because I’m sure Parelli has all the help he wants in finding and training a perfect partner.  As I thought about it more, though, I realized that it doesn’t matter who you are; relationships still take time to develop and nurture.  Only time spent on the relationship will turn it into a perfect partnership.  And we all only have twenty four hours each day.

I read today about someone who had suddenly and tragically lost their perfect partner.  I can only imagine how devastating that must be.  Not only have you lost that special someone but you’re also forced to find a replacement.  By comparison, my dilemma about my perfect partner seems trivial since I have the luxury of having the old while cultivating the new.

Several years ago, a trainer suggested that I could improve my relationship with my perfect partner.  His comment struck me as silly; she already could do everything I wanted.  As I rode her today, his comment came to mind when I asked her to do something that I’ve been working on with one of my other ponies, and she wasn’t able to do it as well as the other pony.  Yes, I suppose it’s true that there’s more that the two of us could do together, but for now I’m content to have the relationship that we do, where I can jump on bareback with a halter and leadrope and ride down the road at the end of a long day, just relaxing and enjoying the scenery and not worrying about the dilemma my perfect partner presents.  Like Scarlett O’Hara said in Gone with the Wind, “I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

© Jenifer Morrissey, 2012

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About workponies

Breeder of Fell Ponies, teamster of work ponies, and author of Feather Notes, Fell Pony News, and A Humbling Experience: My First Few Years with Fell Ponies. Distributor of Dynamite Specialty Products for the health of our planet and the beings I share it with.
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