I used to have a horse rental business in which I would give all the customers a five-minute spiel on practicing control of their horse.

The biggest part of the time could be summarized by telling the riders how to keep their horse’s attention. I would tell them to be aware of four different ways of motivating their horses to move. Two of the ways would be the more polite ways to start with belonging to the softer asking realm. The next two ways are more in the tougher, enforcement realm. Nearly always, people would have trouble with the enforcement part of it. They would think that the horse would get mad at them, but I always explained to them that they did not think that way. I told them that a horse is not as concerned about whether they knew that the customer was afraid of them, but rather whether the rider was willing to do anything about the horse’s inattention. The enforcement motivators involve more use of our feet and hands, whereas the polite attention getters involve voice noises and body language. All of us always like to hear about softer methods of communication, and would like to believe this is all we need. I believe that it will be that way in heaven, but for now on this temporary planet Earth, I see the need for the harder consequences to complement the soft warnings.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

I know there are continual debates about this. The liberal side of things tends to believe humans and animals will naturally respond to positive only soft communication, believing that evil comes from the outside and not from within. The conservative side of things, which I believe is more realistic, is convinced that some of  the worst evil present comes from within. We can define this evil as basic selfishness. We tend to gravitate toward immediate gratification of our senses thereby desensitizing ourselves to others needs, and therefore ultimately our own true needs as well. We can easily take things for granted, and get to where it takes more to stimulate us than before. It slowly tips us closer to death than life although we might think we are living more, because we are indulging more.

The Bible is a great history book in that it shows over and over again the tendencies for us humans to get caught up in this “groundhog day” wagon rut. I see God shaking us up and getting our attention with extremes in weather, health issues, finances, and conflict, among other things. It has a way of motivating us to depend on God and each other, rather than going our own way. We can easily see how these same things sharpen, and grow character in a horse herd also. I have expressed before in this column that I feel we can understand God better when we see that he lets us play his role as we interact with horses. We simulate the role of the prophets in the Bible, warning people of upcoming consequences when we put forth soft, polite signals. We show the horses that these soft signals do indeed need to be respected when we consistently follow with tougher consequences. We can define Godliness as being 100-percent dependent on God. This Godliness helps us listen to his soft signals so that we can be a little tough on ourselves so that God does not have to be a lot tough with us.

This is exactly what we have achieved with a horse when a horse begins responding to our soft signals. The horse chooses to listen to us rather than ignore us, go the other way, eat a little more grass, or continue to socialize with the other horses. The horse has learned that it is better to listen to the master and delay gratification of other desires until the right moments in time.

The biggest difference between consequences horses receive from us versus consequences we receive from God is the time factor. We may not receive our consequences from God until way after we were warned. We know that God exercises quite a bit of patience with us. Since most animals live in the moment, their consequences must be pretty close to the actual soft signal, or they will not tie the two together.

Horses are smart when it comes to sensing things in the moment, but not so smart with associating rewards or discomfort with actions when too much time has elapsed. This is why when we allow some time to pass between catching a horse and riding, they will not associate being worked with being caught (I like to grain horses I am training as I am saddling them rather than just after I ride them). Although they are good at remembering, they are not as good at reflecting or analyzing as we are.  So we can see that there are times that we need very little time to pass, and in other situations where more time should pass. Generally, when a horse has developed a good work ethic, we can saddle up and go right away since they are no longer afraid of work. Hopefully we have helped this also by how we have made work interesting and enjoyable as well as how we have planned our rest times.

Next time I will explain in more detail ways we warn a horse and keep their attention.

Remember that a major difference between good and evil is whether we care enough to warn before we follow through.  A close second difference is whether we can or will indeed keep our promises and follow through.

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