God’s Ninth Commandment is do not lie, and the comparison to horsemanship is “timing.”

The opposite of lying is crystal clear communication, and the more perfect our timing is the clearer we communicate.

In my previous column, I explained that good horsemanship is good seat and good hands. Good hands is the ability to communicate clearly. Many people blame the headgear on a horse for poor communication when it is usually the “hands.” It is basically when to ask for a try and when to reward a try. It is when to be soft and when to be tough, and how much time to allow before increasing or decreasing intensity of the above. Timing involves everything we have done so far in the previous eight Commandments.

The first time I received the clearest message about good hands was from Ray Hunt. Hunt emphasized that it is not what you have in a horse’s mouth or on his head that is nearly as important as the “hands” behind the headgear. I thought that was an incredible statement since I had been hearing people making excuses for years about their horse’s bridle. People seemed to be constantly changing them, unaware that they themselves were the sinners not the headgear.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

That is why I find the gospel of Jesus Christ so practical for everyday use as we see the correlation in other areas of life. We seem to naturally worry about everything else but our own sins. I think it is exciting that my own hands are more important than the bit. The most valuable thing I need, God provided to me at birth: my hands.

I admire John the Baptist. I can see him talking to poor people like this: “So you can’t afford a certain gadget – what are you worried about? You have two hands! Get out and learn how to be more skillful with them!”

I can see him talking to rich people like this; “You have so much stuff, it is actually making you its prisoner. Didn’t it ever occur to you that all you need is your hands and a rusty $3 snaffle bit?” (horses like the taste of rust).

Pat Parelli once said, “I see what normal people do, and do the opposite and get far better results.”

Actually, Jesus said that first in the gospels when he talked about walking the extra mile and washing feet (how about modern day picking up trash?). We naturally think we turn and stop a horse when we pull on the bit, but it is actually when we release the pressure that motivates them to respond. Discomfort motivates a horse or a person to change what they are doing. Comfort tells them they did the right thing. Timing of the release of pressure is extremely critical in getting maneuverability from a horse. When horses or people find comfort in the midst of discomfort, their confidence or self esteem is built up. Think of the joy of seeing the result of sweating through a project that was “completed.” Another example would be staying warm on a cold day because our efforts give us a furnace that has us shedding clothes when others are putting more on.

Our timing can never be real good until we can read and feel a horse’s thoughts and intentions. The Eighth Commandment has us become a horse, emphasizing sharing mutual time and effort together (this does not mean just going down a trail sightseeing together). This Jesus Christ (God down to earth) example of respect helps our sensitivity so we will be much better with our timing. We have to know when the horse is trying and when they are not. We need to sense laziness versus tiredness, or boredom and sourness. We also need to read fear or disrespect or a combination of both.

The first three Commandments give us tools to comfort when they are doing the right thing, warn, then increase discomfort as they are doing the wrong thing. I explain three ways to ask for a response, and three ways to relax into a holding pattern. The Fourth Commandment is the thinking commandment. We keep the observe/remember/compare process in motion in order to be as objective as possible. We tend to either become pacifists, or insensitive dictators, and we need to sense which way we are drifting. Many times we do not understand that tiredness or laziness is not the issue; it is boredom, and therefore the mind must be stimulated with a change of some sort.

We can see an example of this as we drive a car down a straight stretch of road for a while. As for fear and disrespect, our response and timing may not be right. We naturally stop from our fear of the horse when we should keep going. Fear needs much repetition to in a sense bore the horse on purpose. Disrespect needs the rhythmic language in the Third Commandment.

Just as the third commandment recognizes us thumbing our nose at God, we deal with a horse thumbing his nose at us. It can be subtle, such as ignoring us in not stopping or going when we stop or go, or leaning against our pressure signals. This subtle disrespect can be dealt with by giving warning time before coming in contact with our rhythmic object. But if it is a dangerous act of disrespect such as kicking, striking, or biting, then I follow famous horse trainer John Lyons’ example. He explains it this way: “I choose to let them know they almost died for that act.” Here is another case where the timing must be good. I can not do much with my fiberglass stick and string (it is kind of like a bee stinging a bear), but the message becomes clear to a horse that their lethal weapons are off limits to my fragile body. I then stroke them gently so we can both recover from the near tragedy! If a horse is lashing out in pure fear, I will hold the stick in range, communicating to them I will not take it away until they stop attacking it and begin to calm.

We live in a time when “positive only reinforcement” seems to be the fashion of the day. If someone can show me the true logic in this, I will try to listen as objectively as possible. That way I will be exercising the Fifth Commandment by listening to feedback from others. I feel I would not be communicated to clearly if only positive stimulus was given. Whereas if I am given both positive and negative consequences, it would be more black and white, and I would learn at least twice as fast.

God designed the wild horse herd with older mares leading up front providing draw (positive cue), and the stallion driving from the rear (negative cue). When we move cattle, we have the chuck wagon up front (positive cue), and drovers behind (negative cue). We use draw to ask (positive) and drive to follow through (negative).

Remember, if we are not striving for crystal clear communication, we are in effect doing the opposite (lying) by default. I have never had a horse hold sternness (negative) against me if we end calm and soft (positive) for the day.

The no lie/timing commandment can be summarized in Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (there is a time for every purpose…), also Revelation 21 and 22 (describing Heaven). So much of what we do not like on earth can be described as hazy, cloudy, muddy, murky, or confusing, or deceitful. The terminology describing heaven repeatedly refers to “crystal clear.” From this we can get a glimpse of the beauty that will be available in heaven to those who love, serve and depend on our Creator. But one thing for sure is there will be “crystal clear communication,” and by then it will be completely positive!

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