In my last column, I spotlighted Psalm 51:17, which has the “broken spirit, contrite heart” passage.
I pointed out that a broken spirit was not meant to create mindless robots, but instead set horses and humans up to be in a better position to listen, and become more sensitive to true “Providence,” pointing us toward true growth. I focused on self-control, equating it with God’s Seventh Commandment, “no adultery.”
With horses (we humans should also take note), the lazier ones need to be conditioned toward more sensitivity, and liveliness. Yet the livelier ones need to be convinced to ration their energy. Here are some more details on high-energy horses.
Our goal is to have a spirited horse moving with a rider on a loose rein. Sometimes this seems impossible, especially if we are not concentrating on the realm of self-control and responsibility. Many riders will hold the reins tight on these horses, babysitting their mouths so the horse never learns to control its speed on its own. It reminds me of classroom situations where teachers spend more time trying to keep kids under control rather than actually teaching them.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

When we become irritated with these horses, we are inclined to jerk on the reins and yell at them. We are right in that we need to make the wrong thing uncomfortable, but we are wrong when we jerk and yell, because this will excite them more. We need to do what I call a reverse jerk. We do this by increasing pressure steadily when they lean on the bit, then release our reins quickly when we feel them back off. We usually have to do this repeatedly for a while, because they will initially think they should go faster when we give them a loose rein. This pull and release, timed closely with their take and give is the basis for improvement. It also helps to show them a slower body movement with our own bodies.
To give us a break from our constant pull and release, and help convince a horse that a loose rein is better, we can ask them to travel sideways when they surge into the bit. Of course, it needs to know sideways movement first. When we are moving sideways, we are shortening one rein, pulling its nose the opposite direction we are traveling. It is easier on us to have one rein tight while the other rein is loose.  When the horse backs off of the pressure, we let it travel straighter, otherwise we keep that one rein cranked around forcing it to work harder in a sideways position. We need to always communicate that a loose rein does not mean more speed.
To simulate with horses how God works with us, we can give a horse a loose rein in a round corral, or in a wide open space and not pull on it until its lungs start convincing it that it might be more comfortable taking it easy for a spell. Pat Parelli (a famous horse clinician) talked about a guy who was training a team of six horses to pull a stagecoach. He said the team tried to run off with him, so he just let them go for it. He just guided the reins enough to let them run a big sweeping circle out in the desert until they were out of breath, then he asked them to move some more. They learned to listen to the driver and respect his wishes after that episode.
To go along with a loose rein, we must also teach horses not to try to outrun our seat and leg pressure. I will do what I call the stick exercise, applying pressure to their side with my seat and leg, holding a stick on the same side asking them to move over with the reins loose. When they try to speed up, I will use rhythmic pressure with the stick to crank them down into a tighter circle until they slow or stop, then I take the stick pressure away (some times it takes awhile). There are many other exercises we can do in an arena or open area to get a horse thinking about turning, stopping, backing, or sideways rather than the one track mind of go, go, go. Usually these dance lessons will rest horses in the centers or corners of these areas, getting horses to value “whoa” as much as “go.”
It is a great feeling to ride horses with high energy that have the self control to not need to have a rider pulling on their mouths most of the time. They are so responsive and sensitive to our signals, yet are very responsible to think on their own, maneuvering through, over and around obstacles. This allows us to throw the reins loose so we can concentrate on other things while we are doing ranch work or any thing else that requires us to have our hands free while the horse shows responsibility on their own. This is a great picture of a valuable horse that truly shows power under control.
Mother Theresa used to say, “when we make a difference in this world, we are a pencil in God’s hand.” She knew that and did not mind giving God the credit every time. When we humans model this horse as we show the humility of a broken spirit and contrite heart, we are ready for God to pioneer through us the true edge of life. We have in a sense, laid aside the blunt child-like plastic swords of wine, women and song, and have picked up the razor sharp sword of God’s word and put it to use. We are then ready to fight the true fight that makes a difference for eternity.
Ephesians 6:10 says, “finally be strong in the Lord and his mighty power.” Verses 12-17 say, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood…and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.”
Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville.  Email: rlhorse58@yahoo.com.     

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