How to be a real workhorse


The obvious obstacles to conquering and enjoying work are lack of knowledge, lack of planning, being intimidated by heat or cold (and brain?) and muscle discomfort.
With regard to lack of knowledge, it is surprising the amount of times we think we know when we really do not know. People might think of shoveling material as a mindless job, but to do it in a way that it will build your body rather than tear it down takes mind engagement. The secret is to think about the different muscle groups we want to work, and position our body in such a way that we can accomplish that task. If we are standing, we can emphasize leg muscles to loosen material, and vary different muscle groups here. In dealing with loose material, we can take our legs out of the picture, and emphasize upper body toning through kneeling, or squatting positions, thinking about arm, back muscles, as well as abdominal muscles. All of this can be done keeping good back position to avoid back problems. If we learn from each other and think intelligently about our work, it is amazing how much more we will get from it, in addition to what we have produced from it.

With horses, it is amazing how many times people think they know how to train, and/or ride horses, when they really do not (let us just say their bag of tricks is much smaller than it could be). I used to have a horse rental business in which I had to look out for “the ones who came from a ranch.” Most ranchers do far more mechanical work than they do horse work today. I have met quite a few farm people who just did not have the skill they thought they had. I had 20 years experience with horses before I came across some of the main knowledge I use now in teaching horses and riders. I was definitely one of those who thought they knew, but really did not. Knowing that there is probably quite a bit more out there that we think we know – but really don’t – should humble us all. Most of the important information is not new, it has been around for the thousands of years of our Earth’s existence (remember, I intelligently reject the millions of years garbage).
Another way we need to engage our brains with regard to work is planning. The Boy Scout motto “be prepared” applies here as well as above. We need to think about the tools we need, how they are organized, steps, timing, breaks in between, and how we can relay each other.

Think of the planning that goes into sports. Everything is laid out and prepared ahead of time to plan for nearly any obstacle to succeed in skill, smoothness, and speed. When we plan work as well as a good coach prepares a team, it comes alive much more and our enjoyment and self esteem cultivates obvious skill and expertise and productivity right before our eyes. When planning, skill, and smoothness are in place, speed excites more energy from us as well as developing efficiency.

Newton’s Law “objects in motion tend to stay in motion” applies here. With horses, speed is a good test of how well we have been preparing them, and shows us what we need to work on more. Tools such as round pens, and long ropes help us immensely. Thinking out the steps so we can arrive at mini goals, helps horses and humans sense accomplishment. They help plan for break times to help us reflect on what just happened so that man and beast practice thinking rather than reacting. Remember, skill, smoothness and speed don’t just “happen” like “evolution.” They are “created” through “mind engagement.” Planning with knowledge and mind engagement can actually drastically reduce the tools and time it takes to train. Evolution takes a long time, whereas God’s way is much quicker. For example, to teach a horse a hind end pivot the quickest way possible, we need to plan and carry out steps like this. Desensitization (lessen false gods), teaching pressure (mom language) and rhythmic pressure (dad language), backward movement, move over movement, then backward and over (cutting horse style). These steps make it easier to “balance and blue print” the skill for the horse-human team.
The purposefulness I get from skill and planning helps me to not think about the heat and cold as much. When we are well prepared we can just say, “bring it on.” It helps to start work real early in the summer to gradually get used to the heat. In the winter, the Jesus Christ down to Earth (ground work) is our saving grace (our muscles heat us up here). I dress more like an Indian in the summer and a cowboy in the winter. I look forward to relaxing in the pool when the sun is at its hottest in the summer, and my midday nap inside in the winter. If I am getting cold in the saddle, I do not mind getting off and running beside my horse (Jesus Christ stuff) to get warmed up again (I multitask staying in shape and staying warm).
Overworked muscles are generally self-inflicted injuries. If we have been creative instead of evolutionary about our work, we will grow ourselves God’s way rather than destroy ourselves Satan’s way. Our muscle and lung discomfort from working out sensibly will be far out weighed by the skill and productivity we observe taking place (not to mention helping us feel and look better).

I should repeat John Wayne’s quote here: “Life is tough, but when you act stupid it is tougher yet.”

Next time: Basic economics = 14-year-old, paper route, horse.

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