Glue? I agree it's relationship, it's listening to the horse, it's being better at the overall communication - which must be allowed to flow in both directions. That to me is the 'glue'.
Exercises strung together may not necessarily make a lovely dance. What makes the dance is the flow of communication in both directions. Dance with my dressage partner (whom I lost this past summer, unfortunately) was always one of flow, flow within movement, flow between movements, flow of thoughts, flow of feels,flow of knowing and understanding where we were and how we were (moving). That's when the exercises became a dance. So, for me the 'glue' is the communication, which IS the relationship.
I am a student of FT (Friendship Training), though have yet to complete the course for various reasons, most recent is the loss of my wonderful mare. But I plan to continue on with my next horse. FT is structured and yet not structured, because it's customized to each person and horse. There are various set exercises to be accomplished but those aren't the focus, they are just a means to establishing the trust that is built. And that comes from the communications, the exercises themselves don't have anything to do with building trust, it's the communication that takes place during them that does it. The number one difference that FT has over any other I have run across is the "bridge" and how it is used. Number two is allowing the horse to truly have a say in everything. This is so different from any other approach that I have seen or experienced and the two make a huge difference to the horse. People think I am nuts, and they would be correct in that assumption, because I allow my horse to say "nope, not today" and I honor it. Yup, go to load up, horse says "hmmm nah, I don't think so" and I put the horse away in the pasture and go about other business that day. Horse doesn't want a bridle on? Fine, no bridle, if she also says, no saddle, fine no saddle, but then I may ask if she even wants to go for a ride, her answer may still be yes, just let's go bareback please. True she may say no to that as well, and then it's ok with me. I have never forced one of my horses to do anything they haven't wanted to do since I began my FT journey. BUT I can also say that they happily do most anything I ask, it's been only a few times they have said, "no" and meant not at all, yet always had a good reason to say that no.
Every ride with my mare, I would ask her if she wanted to come and do some work, every time! I would ask if she wanted to help teach a student, I would ask if she wanted to work on this or that, etc. It was always an ask, and always waiting for her reply, and if on that rare occasion her reply was 'no' then that was ok, she never had to do anything she did not want to do. Most people feel that if you allow a horse to "get away with" things like this that you will never have an obedient horse. Well frankly that's just fine with me!! I don't want an obedient horse, I want a WILLING PARTNER. I have yet to find any horse unwilling, if we just simply ask them they will most often give what is asked without fuss. I can see where some of my ranch friends would believe that the horse is a necessity and they cannot have a say in not wanting to load up and go to work! Yet I'll bet most of their horses would load up because they like the work, they want to go to work (most of the time). Our problem as humans is that we have been taught we must be the boss, we must force the animal to obey and so we don't simply ask, we force. Some horses don't like that approach very well. My TB gelding for one, you take your life in hand if you attempt to force him to do something he doesn't choose to do.
My horses are always extremely well mannered and they will 'obey' anyone that asks them to do anything. They are standing in your way? "please move over" and out of the way they move. People that first meet them are pleasantly surprised by how lovely mannered they are, with everyone and anyone doesn't have to just be me. And yes in a large part FT has given us that too.
FT has taught me a better way of just being with a horse, any horse, and it makes a huge difference. yes I am a communicator, but that doesn't give me dominion over any other being. I may just be a bit more sensitive to what my animals are trying to say is all because I can 'hear them'. FT has taught me to throw out agenda, let go of my ideas and needs, let go of control, listen and allow while having expectations and intentions still. Just as classical dressage has also taught me to let go of control, to listen and allow whatever the horse gives. Very similar in approach actually on may levels the two. FT gives the horse a voice, and my horses absolutely appreciate it. All horses appreciate it.
Has your horse kissed YOU today?