By far the most common comment I get when I’m trying to inspire others to improve their horsemanship is, “I just want to ride, that’s all.”

In other words, “I really don’t care to know more, or get much better.”

The reasons I would give for us to become better would start with safety. Better horsemanship also gives us the ability to do more, therefore having more opportunity for fun. This goal gives us a reason and a channel to become more fit, which helps us in the rest of life. The foremost reason to improve our horsemanship is to put us into position to be able to help the people around us better.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

With regard to safety, we always need to think in terms of preparing for battle. We can understand our normal human nature, and find ourselves doing only what feels good and base our process on that, rather than envisioning it as an end goal.

When calvary men prepared for battle, they had to try to practice to be ready for anything. Realistically, we cannot envision every single thing that might happen, so while we are practicing we had better be relying on a genuine plea to God to fill in the details (remember our first president’s example).

Horse owners who do not think this way are realistically accidents waiting to happen. We can easily be lulled into complacency, thinking of just sightseeing along the trail. This is really unfair to the horse and the people around us, because this form of gambling sets us up to blame anyone or anything but ourselves when something does happen.

We need to seriously ask our Creator in true prayer to show us where we are part of the problem so we can then do something about it. The fallen world we live in should keep us thinking about a reality check as much as possible. We might only want to go slow, but our horse or others around it might spook into a run. Therefore we need to be confident in riding a horse while running. Any horse has the capability of kicking up its heels when it feels good. A person who has been practicing at the trot or run is more able to ride this out, whereas some riders will hit the ground when it happens. Any horse can make sudden turns, or jump to the side quickly from being startled or being threatened by another horse. If we purposely practice turns, slow then fast, also practicing sideways movement, we should not be fazed by these natural occurrences.

Adults can get boring, and forget what it was like to be a kid. Remember the Peter Pan story?  Peter didn’t want to grow up because he saw how dull adults can become. It seems that God has designed our bodies to last longer when they are stretched a little. I f we use a building block approach by remembering the eagerness of youth and apply the wisdom of age, we have a good chance of avoiding the pitfalls of both. If nothing else, we can use faith to look ahead to the satisfaction of being able to do more with our horse when we determine to improve our skills and abilities.

The commandment we can acknowledge here would be the no adultery rule. True responsibility and self-control puts us into position to help horses and people around us rather than create victims or be victims ourselves. I would propose that the adultery commandment is the one we all struggle with the most in the luxury-oriented society we live in today. This commandment is all about delayed gratification. This involves doing what we would rather not do, and not doing what we want to do, because we have faith that there will be a better result ahead if we do (some of these rewards are reserved for heaven). When we normally think of adultery, we think of the misuse of sex. But think of all the other indulgences we can misuse, like eating, sleeping, working, playing and talking, to name just a few.

I would offer that one of the strongest motivations to avoid overindulging is the servant heart. The servant heart that Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) pioneered, and maintains today through those who truly love and trust him.

Think also of what genuine love is. False love is interested in only what we gain out of an arrangement. True love is focused on what is best for “others” around us.

With horses we don’t show love by feeding them carrots (bribing them). We show love by not learning to bounce on their back, and having a goal of signaling them by not pulling on their mouth all the time. We show love by helping them become more maneuverable, and getting their bodies and ours into shape.

The biggest problem I have with most horse and dog clinicians is how they equate love with giving animals treats or petting them. I feel this definition of love is kind of wimpy. True love is “everything” I do to help grow the lives around me. In fact, is it not the things I would rather not do, like pick up trash, mow the lawn, and do the dishes? God sent his people into captivity because they forgot how to do these things in a teamwork type of way. We all hate recycling, or reconciling. We would rather just discard, and find something or someone new we can make old instead.

God uses true love to grow us because in our selfishness we may not want to learn a certain skill or improve. True love motivates us to learn that skill so we can help our kids, relatives, or friends around us.

Last year, I started conducting “horsemanship cowboy church gatherings,” and I noticed that we humans specialize too much. We tend to either just ride in the arena, or just ride on the trail. I decided to plan get-togethers that should simulate real life. We first gather to help each other with horsemanship (I implore us all to get better so as to put ourselves in position to help each other better). We then eat, hopefully getting to know each other better. We then go trail riding, trying to keep the servant-hearted attitude we have fostered earlier.

I hate to see trail rides where everyone gets all strung out like it’s everyone for themselves. Instead, faster riders practice circling back to keep track of others, whereas slower riders learn to keep up a good pace and vary their speed from time to time. Anybody can move a horse faster in a straight line, but it takes more skill to vary direction and speed.

Using the 10 commandments, and real life roles such as mom, dad, kid and God (as ways of communicating), we do what we can to balance servant-heartedness (work), learning, fun, food and relaxation. Remember, the best reason to improve our skills is for the benefit of those we might help, not just ourselves. Besides acknowledging the God who gives us our every breath, and saves us into eternity, is that not true church?

Feel free to call me at 417-457-1015 or email me for more information about our monthly gatherings.

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

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