I realized something recently. It was something I already knew, but recent events made it SO much more obvious. Here’s the scenario:
The weather is much colder, and Frankie is clipped. I worry about him getting cold while grooming, so I try to work around a cooler and move as quickly as possible so I can hop on and get his muscles warmed up. After riding, I brush him and get him snugged back in his blankets as quickly as possible.
Frankie becomes less affectionate and snuggly. He doesn’t do anything bad, but he isn’t his usual sweet self on the crossties and ignores me when I go into his stall.
So after a few days of this I pop a second cooler on, switch on the heat lamps, and groom him for a much longer time. After riding, I put his blankets back on but then take the time to brush his mane and tail, rub his ears, and polish his hooves.
Frankie tries to get in my pockets and has his ears up watching me the whole time. The next day I walk into his stall and he leaves his hay to come say hello and get scratches.
I hear you loud and clear, Francis. Message received. More quality grooming time moved up the priority ladder to “Crucial.” I’ve always known that Frankie loves himself some lovin’, but this really drove the point home that his mood and attitude towards work is SO so so tied to that time together.
I’ve made an effort to spend more time on the ground with Frankie over the past couple of weeks and it’s been noticeable how much happier he is to see me. Which totally makes my heart so happy! Even without giving him any treats, he mooches on me for scratches and ear rubs. He even returns the favor for me sometimes by using his nose to “groom” my shoulder or hip.
So this is my reminder to myself: no matter how caught up in training and competing I get, I need to make Frankie’s comfort and happiness a priority by making sure we spend plenty of time bonding together. Even when it’s cold out and all I want to do is go to my heated car. Frankie is worth braving the weather.
How do you build in bonding time when the temperature gets low?