Thursday, February 25, 2016

Putting on the Polish

As Courage and I start finding our stride together, I keep having these odd moments of like "aawwww he's so cute and I loff him" and then I just want to send cute pictures of him to everyone I know (like, more than I do usually) and gush about him. That's new for me with him.

Courage is a hard horse to love and I'm a person who doesn't connect easily. I suspect y'all can kind of tell--I keep posting things about how we're building a relationship, but then we never seem quite "there", in that smitten, forsaking-all-others type of way. And I get that not everyone has to have that connection with every horse, but I really, really miss it.

To me, a relationship with a horse needs two things: adventures and down time. Last year, we kick-started adventure time with horse shows and satin and fun pony weekends. We never really addressed the quiet down time part though. Every day was focused on achieving specific goals in the saddle, which was fine. It just meant that I spent my time DOING WORK with him and none at all appreciating who he is.

I love grooming. I always have. It's a time and a place for me to connect with my horse and really learn to appreciate them inside and out. It's a way of staying on top of bumps and bruises and really being in touch with my horse on an intimate day-by-day basis.

Courage has actually gotten a lot more amenable to grooming than he ever was before; he used to just stand in the cross ties and alternately lift his hind legs and threaten if anyone BREATHED on him. Now while he'll still kick you into next week if you dare to use anything so barbaric as (gasp) a RUBBER CURRY, he's sort of okay if I whisk off the dust briefly with his special soft brush. He has great nutrition and great coat genetics, so it works for us.

He doesn't like it. I'm a busy working ammy. We're chasing bigger goals together. Grooming is something we've been skimping on the whole time Courage and I have been together.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was selling both of us a little short. Courage doesn't hate grooming--he's just very sensitive. He objects to odd things, sure, but he's not unwilling to be touched anymore, the way he was when he first came home. I've carried over my reaction to his prejudices even when the prejudices are mostly gone.
racehorse Courage
But now, I need to do better. We're working our way through the skulduggery that is the foundations of dressage and that shit is HARD and pretty much EVERYONE on the ENTIRE PLANET is better at it than we are. That's sad and depressing and makes me seriously question why I'm even trying, especially when I know that my sensitive, complicated horse sometimes usually pretty much always  makes things harder than they need to be.

I keep reminding myself that it's about my journey with this horse, and that I do like him, and since dressage will always be a fickle mistress and we might never be good at it, we need to find other ways to connect and enjoy each other until such a day as we (maybe) suck (somewhat) less.
so. hard.
And that's where grooming comes in. Quiet time spent together. Curving muscles and soft brown eyes, velvety noses and long, thick tails. We find the time to spend together so I can appreciate the horse he is, with all his sensitivities and quirks and oddness. His deep-seated hatred of jelly scrubbers doesn't mean he can't have nice things. It just means I need to personalize what I use with him.

I finally got around to ordering some highly recommended extra-soft brushes. I reorganized my grooming kit and took out all the things I know Courage hates. I'm creating a real grooming routine for us. It's slow and methodical. I listen for what Courage likes and pay attention to what makes him uncomfortable. I think I've even finally found a place for that goofy sheepskin mitt Cuna won at a show years ago--a certain bay princess thinks it's the perfect finishing piece.

There's no question in my mind anymore that Courage is my horse and he's staying with me. It's time to invest in the quieter side of our relationship.

(Besides, he needs to be super shiny for when I take dorky pictures of him to send to all my friends.)

16 comments:

  1. I think having down time with your horse is just as important as what you do under saddle in "work mode". You can really get to know a horse's personality and their likes/dislikes (which you already have), and it's a great way to understand where they're coming from when you're trying something new.

    Since it's been pretty cold here and we don't have access to an indoor, I've really enjoyed the days where I go to the barn strictly to spend time with Roger to groom him and just hang out. Slowing down and really enjoying the grooming process can only benefit your relationship :)

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  2. What a touchy feeling way to justify spending money, I approve! Also there are an untold number of people and horses worse at dressage than you and Courage, don't act like you guys were the worst pair at shows this summer...oh wait weren't there some solid scores and blue and red ribbons? And isn't he even more awesome now??? Yeah, you got this.

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  3. I love grooming too. Thankfully so do my lazy horses! But, I do have one full boarder who seems very similar to Courage in that he's extra sensitive to harder "feels." I discovered that he gets especially sensitive when he's had ulcer flare ups! Almost like everything hurts! Then I'll treat him, and he gets better. But it sounds like Courage is in great health. So maybe he's just quirky;)

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  4. I can totally relate to having a horse who doesn't want to be loved on. My girl is fine with the brushes themselves but has no patience for standing for extended grooming sessions. Keep us posted with how Courage adapts to the new routine!

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  5. All the (really really soft) brushes!

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  6. Any reason to buy good brushes is a good one in my book ;)

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  7. finding a way to making grooming a positive and enjoyable experience for me and my mare is tricky too... she def doesn't really love it (whereas i *do*). i agree with you, tho, it's worth taking the time to find some middle ground.

    also, fwiw, my mare also objects to jelly scrubbers but is totally 100% fine with hard plastic curries. go figure.

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    1. HE IS SAME. No jelly scrubber, no curry mit, definitely nothing stiffer, but that stupid 97 cent hard plastic curry from the 70s? It's fine.

      I cannot explain. Maybe the soft rubber pulls his hair or something?

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  8. They are magic brushes in more ways than one! Quit making me want them.

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  9. Quiet time can be just as rewarding as hitting training hard. So glad you and Courage are really connecting :)

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  10. Race horse courage in a fancy schmancy bridle is pretty stinkin' cute.
    I totally get the "forgetting to have down time" thing. I get really focused on goals, and sometimes I forget that I need to also make time to go for trail rides and bareback rides, and enjoy building a relationship.

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  11. Back when I rode regularly on the days when I was dealing with PMS and terrible cramps, or the mare was, we'd skip under saddle and just groom. Maybe a light no equipment (other than halter and line) lunge. Or practice halter/showmanship (something neither of us showed in at that point). Just slow, easy on the ground stuff.

    Or since it was a breeding/boarding farm with many horses that were there on retirement just spend an afternoon grooming all the ponies. Those were the best days.

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  12. Good attitude! Sometimes I get so hurried and Georgie is SO dirty that grooming becomes a chore. Hoping to bathe her this weekend so we can have a clean slate and I can enjoy it again...

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  13. I LOVE this. I'm in a very similar place with Katai. I love her but don't always make the time to be with her outside of goal oriented riding. I need to do something similar and come up with a routine that I stick to rather than rushing through it. Very inspiring, thank you :)

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  14. Ugh yet another thing you and Amanda make me want...some one has changed his mind about what brushes he likes. To be honest he really only likes the sparkly one Amanda gave us.

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