In my last column, I explained how I would check out a horse I was going to buy, or evaluate its training. I emphasized “riding a horse on the ground before riding them on their back.”

This down to earth, Jesus Christ style of horsemanship determines how comfortable the horse is partnering with us humans before we can even think about getting on their back.

I have explained in previous columns that a horse’s basic training should have all the maneuverability of a hovercraft. We should be able to have a horse go backward almost as easy as going forward. We should be able to pull with a direct rein to flex a horse’s neck so we can turn them on the front end. We should be able to lay a neck rein across their neck pushing them over as well as back so they can pivot on their hind end (using rhythmic as needed). We should be able to move them sideways both directions. This hovercraft movement can and should be done on the ground before getting in the saddle.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

If I am dealing with a horse that is fresh and/or nervous, I usually will not longe them mindlessly in a circle. I would rather play cutting horse with them. I ask them to go, stop, turn one way, then go, stop, turn the other way, varying where I turn them, and varying the intensity, depending on how much I want to stress them, so they are challenged to think rather than worry.  This constant communication gets them in touch with me and helps unify our dance team of two.

I like saddling time for a new horse to be break time. I like a horse relishing how nice it is to take a break and relax while I’m saddling it. I saddle on the right side because all the cinches are on that side. I can arrange the cinches so I am satisfied to go over to the left side and finish attaching them. I want horses to stand while I am saddling them. If they move, I will direct them back to where they were. If they still want to move, I will take them back out and do some more cutting horse game with them until they are satisfied to stand while I saddle.

The same thing applies to me getting on their backs. We want them to appreciate standing still and consider the act of the rider getting on their backs as break time also. All of these things I do evaluate a horse and establish a relationship between me and the horse at the same time. I want a horse to be comfortable with me, but to respect me at the same time. Before and after getting in the saddle, I will make sure the horse can laterally flex their nose around to its belly (pray with me). This helps me keep control of the horse if it gets riled, and I need to remind it about me again.

I will read how comfortable a horse seems to be at the walk, before I go to a trot, and then to a slow run. I will always be prepared to flex them to slow them if I sense them becoming reactionary. I will test all hovercraft movements in the saddle, just as I did on the ground. I will test whether unresponsiveness is due to lack of training, or just boredom. Of course, the boredom factor is fairly easy to deal with, by becoming black and white with warning signals, as well as provoking more thinking and adding speed to the equation.

If we have been serious about how we go about checking out our horses, we should not have any unpleasant surprises. This all hinges on whether we have decided to live in the world of reality by coming down to where the hoof meets the dirt. This God, down to earth, Jesus Christ, foot-washing stuff holds us accountable to keep us from blaming others after the fact for any unpleasant surprises.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: