God’s 10th Commandment is do not covet and the counterpart in horsemanship is “flexibility.”

Flexibility is the ability to do more with less, developing more skill, and therefore providing more freedom in many ways. Its accomplishment does not depend so much on “things”; is a very practical way to empower because it is not so dependent on things or circumstances. It also provides a wider range of motion so that we can obtain the same results with different tools, or different results with the same tools. In my last column, I emphasized that the skill of good hands put less emphasis on the tools, and shed more light on how the tools were used.  This do-not-covet commandment especially hits home here. In the second commandment, I mentioned “adult baby bottles” communicating a dependence on false gods, rather than on our true creator God. These addictions are all things we think we need, and dependence on them can keep us from focusing on God and the skills intended for us for true satisfaction.

An atheist may base much of their logic denying God from the fact that most people on earth are poor. But when we look at the past, history shows us that the times when a people are provided with abundance of resources, usually incredible waste follows. In modern times, trash increases from discarded gadgets and processed foods, laziness abounds, and more is never enough. In fact, we are deceived into thinking we are poor from our own misuse of resources. I took an economics class once in college that had a text called “Economics, the Science of Common Sense.” If you think about it, when our happiness is based on bubble gum, pop, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, media, or any other pacifiers we can buy or watch, we are in a way climbing back into the baby crib. We are in effect building inflexibility into our lives, and substituting phony stimulants for the real thing. When we sweat for our resources, we “might” have a motivation to use them more wisely, but when we spend other peoples’ money (our parents’ or friends’ gifts, resources, government programs) we tend to take it for granted, depend on it and forget other peoples’ sweat and sacrifices. On top of that we are poised to start crying when the milk flow is shut off. A talk show host once said, “our gifts and programs are not meant to be hammocks to lay in, but rather safety nets to help boost us back on to the flying trapeze of life” (a perfect example of how believers in Jesus should treat his gift). I watched a preacher once with no arms and legs who was working full time, and I thought if anyone should lie in a hammock it would be him. But he realized he was happier being productive (Ecclesiastes 2:24 – “enjoy the work of his labor”).

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

So how does this relate to horses? Think of all the things we think we need and depend on for horsemanship. I always like to say that the art of horsemanship gets rid of equipment, and develops a hovercraft. It comes right back to the original Garden of Eden where there was a naked person on a naked horse, and they could dance together and make moves that would make our heads spin. Our equipment is not meant to make us so dependent, but instead be thought of as training wheels, or a safety net. English riders would sometimes laugh at western riders who held onto the saddle horn that was meant for ranch work, not a substitute for a poor seat. Stirrups are a perfect example of a modern luxury. In the time of Alexander the Great, they were not used. Think of the excellent seat we develop by practicing bareback. When we put the saddle and stirrups back on we almost wonder how we could ever come off unless the horse really makes a drastic move, or falls. I encourage everyone to set up a round pen (you can make an electric one for less than $100) to practice your dance in an area that encourages smoothness and flow. Your best defense against hitting the ground is improving your seat.

Through all 10 Commandments, I have been communicating that our seat and legs should become the major signals for maneuvering our horses. Therefore the headgear becomes more of a backup rather than the usual babysitter. It also helps us signal our horses more softly, therefore becoming more humane. If we are satisfied with our seat, it’s probably because we don’t mind hitting the ground. If we are satisfied with our hands, it’s probably because we like pulling on our horse’s mouth. We should never be satisfied, yet don’t commit murder over it (Sixth Commandment), Watch for the extremes of negligence, or hastiness and take it a step at a time using your brain (Fourth Commandment – observe the Sabbath). Remember, fear and boredom should not coexist. If we are not confident about our seat, fear should motivate us to practice, practice, practice (on an easy-going horse to start). Also, we get hurt easier when we are not in shape, so let’s trick ourselves into exercising more. We need to be creative about finding ways to get our naturally lazy bodies limbered up more.

In the First Commandment, we taught our horses to “pray” – that is to laterally flex. By the Ninth and 10th Commandments, we are practicing our vertical flexion. Vertical flexion gives a horse’s neck the look the stallion gives when he is courting mares. Not only is it beautiful, it’s practical. It strings a horse like a bow and makes them more of an athlete. This process gives more range in the different gaits (gears). They can canter in place, or do an extended trot with many combinations thereof. When a horse has been allowed the freedom of learning to communicate with seat and legs, then when we vertically flex, they can be ready to give us so much more. Vertical flexion gives a horse a pretty good workout so this is something we have to gradually build. In other human pursuits such as dancing, and the martial arts flexibility is needed to give a wider range of movement and freedom. Another area of flexibility is speed. We need to be able to imitate a variable speed drill by going from very slow to very fast with all speeds in between. To complete our hovercraft, we get our horses to move sideways with relative ease. All these things help us to adjust to fit the situation and become more flexible.

I believe God has a good reason for limiting our resources. I believe he shows he cares enough to motivate us to be flexible. The opposite of being dependent on someone or something except God (or coveting even more) is the skill of flexibility. This skill is one way of separating the men from the boys, as well as cutting back our adult baby bottles.

Since Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) is the only one who has followed the 10 Commandments perfectly, and believers rely on this as well as his sacrifice as their only entrance fee for heaven, what is our role? I believe the 10th Commandment is the culmination of all the other commandments, showing the down-to-earth practicality of focusing on God, and becoming heavenly minded.

This flexibility to deal with life makes us more earthly good to the people around us than we would have thought possible!

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot hoof-trimming specialist from Raymondville.  Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.