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.
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.
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.)