Thursday, September 15, 2011

The 15-Minute Rule Revised

As I try to get back the joy of horses, I've been thinking about the best way to do this.  I've always been a person who has to "push through" to get through hard times - if I just wait for inspiration to strike, it never comes - I just need to practice whatever it is, on a regular basis, and let the joy find its way back into the practice.  I don't know if that makes any sense to anyone else, but that's how it works for me.  For me it's a little bit like faith - if I keep practicing my faith, even with doubts and worries and discouragements, the real thing is more likely to show up - if I don't practice, the real thing - faith, or joy of horses - doesn't have the space and time to show up.

So here's what I'm doing right now with the horses.  My shoulder is giving me some trouble - not the area where the collarbone was broken, right at the end above my shoulder blade - it's fully healed (with a large bump) and my range of motion and strength are good.  Where it hurts, after I've been active for a while, although interestingly enough, riding isn't something that bothers it lot - oddly enough walking is the worst thing - it hurts on my back between my shoulder blade and spine - sort of a dull throbbing.  I expect there are ligaments and tendons in there that got rearranged in my accident.

Doing a good ride on one horse is about all I'm up to right now.  I've always had the 15-minute rule, which states that even if you don't feel like working, just do 15 minutes - either you'll get 15 minutes of work, or else you'll feel like going on longer when the 15 minutes have passed.  Sort of a version of putting one foot in front of the other.  Yesterday Pie and I had a 15 minute or so ride that didn't start so well and ended up acceptable by the end.  It was very chilly and very windy and he was frisky and distracted - I got some head shaking and a few protest grunts.  We did some walk and trot work, and it was OK, but nothing to write home about.

Today I went in with a different attitude - I wanted to work with Pie for a more extended time - if you make real progress in 15 minutes that's enough, but just marking time doesn't do it and doesn't help the horse (and me) develop a work ethic or reach a place where the horse and I can feel good about things.  So today, my objective was to work for an extended period - an hour if I could do it - with some specific objectives in the work.  For the other two - Dawn and Drift - my objective was to spend some good time with them - if only a good grooming and/or a hand graze.

Pie and I had a very good work session today, despite the chill and the winds.  We started, after he was saddled and bridled (over his halter and lead) with a 15-minute hand walk on the trail, taking some paths we've not been on recently.  I'm on zero tolerance with him for any nudges, pushes, head butts or forging ahead - he's not to put his head into my space, ever.  He's doing very well with this, and there was little testing behavior.  We walked, we looked, we stopped and stood, we walked some more.  Then I took him to the arena, took his bridle off and tied him - I haven't done this in the arena before.  He fussed and pawed for a bit as I set up poles - there was grass just out of reach - but settled down.

I set the poles in an arrangement where one pole faced east (the center pole), one to the north (to the left), and one to the south (to the right), with gaps in the middle between the ends for walking through.  There were also four cones in a line down the length of the arena off the rail - with young horses I rarely use the rail as it can create the illusion of straightness when the horse is actually crooked.  Pie and I bridled up and I mounted and we worked hard for about another 45 minutes at the walk and trot - circles, straight lines, turns on the haunches, spiral in/out, leg yield and various figures involving the cones and also the poles.  The poles should help strengthen his stifles.  He tends to overbend to the left and not bend well to the right, and also leg yields much better to the right (left bend) than to the left (right bend).  I worked a lot on activating his hind legs - at the walk, cuing in time with the barrel swinging away to cause that hind leg to engage (forwards) or step under (sideways).  He was really doing it, although he did struggle with using his right hind - I think it's his weaker one.

I was really pleased, and was tempted to get Drifter tacked up and ride, but my shoulder was hurting so Drifter and I just groomed and hand grazed.  Dawn and I also had a nice grooming session too.  It was a good day with horses, and I needed that.

21 comments:

  1. Kate, you are so right about the 'work through it.' Actions and behaviors can affect our thoughts and attitudes. My wife's faith was enhanced when, in her words, 'I started acting as if I believed in everything God says and, lo and behold, I started seeing evidence of his work in my life.' I also agree this principle works with our horses. There are many days I don't feel like riding, but after I get on Sugar my attitude changes.

    Keep up the good work.

    Dan

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  2. I'm tired after reading all that you did. Wow. Sounds like it went really well. I'd love to see more photos of you nice horses.

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  3. I like your 15 minute rule - it certainly makes a lot of sense. I've begun saddling both horses, regardless of whether I ride. While I'm on one, the other is standing tied and saddled. Not hard to go from that to a 15 minute ride.

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  4. Sorry about the nagging shoulder, hope that heals up soon. Sounds like a grrreat day with horses!

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  5. Congratulations on a great day with your horses! I've been meaning to comment on the journey you've been going through in the last few weeks (or at least since you've been writing about it). Maybe you're one of the lucky ones who has worked with horses her whole life and never really come across the feelings you've been writing about as of late, but I'm willing to bet more of your readers have gone through the same thing (or similar) than not. Just please take it easy on yourself during this time...don't hold yourself to a certain number of rides a week or even a certain number of minutes. The less pressure you put on yourself while struggling through shame or fear or whatever the better. Just a bit of unsolicited advice:) I know you will be just fine, and you have done such a great job with all of your horses. It's ok to do whatever it is you WANT to do, even if it's no riding, or very little riding. Take care~

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  6. I always notice a major change in the way my horses behave when the weather shifts--particularly when we go from heat to cool weather in a hurry. I see a lot of playing and running that they just don't do when it's hot. Glad to hear you had a good work day today. I always have to remind myself on the days that don't go well that there are plenty that do.

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  7. Glad you had a good day with horses! Sounds like it helped heal some open wounds. Sorry to hear about your shoulder.

    I like the idea of the 15 minute rule on one hand (as in sticking with a task just a little bit), but lately I have been trying to throw out the clock/watch altogether and my rides and runs feel more free for me and my horses. Too much quantitative data for a perfectionist type like me sometimes robs me of the quality.

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  8. I understand completely what you're saying when you mention you have to push through it. You're not the only one. Sometimes I feel the same way. The 15 minute rule is a good one because if it's going bad you can justify ending it and if it's going well you can keep working. I like the premise and pretty much do this too. I always try to end on a good note even if it's a tiny good note at the end of a not so stellar work session.

    Glad you had a good day, take care of that shoulder.

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  9. I believe you're onto something Kate...I agree and have had similar experiences. Sometimes when I least feel like riding, or have the most fear issues to contend with - those are the times when, if I've pushed myself, and rode even though I've not felt like or wanted to; those have been some of my best rides. And, I feel refreshed and empowered for having done so! I only wish I have half of your committment...I'm much more inclined to do less and indulge my emotions. My bad. I really like the relation that you place on riding vs faith...soooo true. Faith is believing in something when all rationality says not to. I'm not giving up my faith, or my riding!! Ride on my friend, ride on!!

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  10. I like the 15 minute rule because if I'm working on something and I get the response I want I can quit then and give my colt a big reward. I tend to go longer when I feel something isn't quite right and I need to work longer until we get it.

    I have a hard time sticking to a plan when I ride, because I tend to ride by feel and not by my brain. It doesn't take long to forget a plan when your horse isn't giving you the response that was in your plan. :)

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  11. I completely understand your 15 minute rule. I think it works in marriages too -- keep doing the loving thing, and the love will show up. But I digress... when I'm not feeling motivated, I get on and try to do something well. Sometimes, it only takes 10 minutes to accomplish but I like finishing with the horse feeling a sense of accomplishment/success. And sometimes, but not always, that success gives me energy and I keep going longer.

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  12. Good for you pushing yourself towards a goal each time, but recognizing when to call it good.

    That lesson is one of the most important I have learned over the past couple years. I tend to always want to push a little further when something is going well, instead of accepting and being fine with the good work we have done so far.
    Things can go south very quickly when you keep forging ahead and pushing yourself and your horse.

    ~Lisa

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  13. I like the idea of the 15 minute rule. It keeps things going, or at least from slipping, and can end in a longer ride. Lately I've been doing short bareback rides, as it's all I seem to manage. It keeps us working together though, and it's good therapy.
    Hope the pain continues to subside.

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  15. That's a good reminder to follow the fifteen minute rule myself. It might get me inspired to do more. Lately, I've been running on empty and wallowing in self pity.

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  16. I live by the 15 min rule! Sometimes it can be the longest 15 minutes and other times, it quickly turns into an hour. It's good to stick with the uneasy to get through on a positive side.
    Hot bath and Epsom salts for your shoulder :)

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  17. That sounds like such a great day, here's to many more of those. Injuries take time... it always seems somewhere other than the area you think will give you problems, but the muscles and ligaments will hopefully heal soon. Pie will have enjoyed as much as you did!

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  18. I'll have to catch up on your blog when my knees aren't having sympathy pains with your shoulder.

    Still, kudos for getting on and pushing yourself. It must have felt very rewarding.

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  19. I like the 15 minute rule; great philosophy. I had to learn the hard way when to say "when", and you were smart to stop and just spend some quality time with Dawn and Drift (hey, it still counts ;o)

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  20. Sometimes it's all about just getting your foot in the stirrup, and committing just 15 minutes makes it seem achievable. Good for you for seeing it through, and then some!

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