I heard a Christian missionary once say “I do what no one else wants to do” (that is also a practical way to get an economy going).

As I have stated before, servant-heartedness is the aspect of Christianity that impresses me most. While it seems to be natural to sit there and yak about who is right and who is wrong, true religion just plain flat out gets things done. It is also in the truth and light business. It wants accountability more than privacy because it yearns for true growth. We are entering accountability territory when we are open to take time for and do the things we do not want to do, as well as the things we want to do.
Usually we want to pet and give a horse treats, or we may want to just get on and ride. We usually do not like to pick out feet, work up a sweat on the ground, and massage a horse after everything else. This situation can cause horses to disrespect us just as humans disrespect each other for taking bribes and choosing to talk more than “walk.” Since Christianity flip flops the other religions that humans like to invent, and starts at the bottom where we would rather start at the top, let us focus on feet.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

When I have a horse that does not pick up its feet well, I will work on it from two different dimensions. The “don’t skip steps,” no murder realm, and the “shape their world,” no covet realm. In previous columns, when I related horsemanship to God’s 10 Commandments, I associated murder with negligence or hasty emotions, with either one leading to the other.

In other words, it is the lousy teacher situation. Here are some healthy steps to help keep normal creatures from breaking the Sixth Commandment. Pet the lower leg before asking a horse to pick up a foot.  Do not ask them to pick up the foot until they are reasonably calm and relaxed. If they will not let me pet the foot by moving away, I will move to a point up the leg where they will let me pet, and then I will gradually work down. Pet easy places a lot, then sneak a quick pet downward before they can react, and then move up again. Gradually they will let us work further down the leg.

If they show signs of kicking, I will use a rope or a stick as an extension of my hand. They need to find out that kicking does not work because I will persist by touching them with the object until they ignore it. After they let me pet with the stick and then the hand, I will softly ask them to unweight their foot by starting to squeeze the tendon above the fetlock, or twisting the chestnut above the knee. If they are pushing into me, I will teach them to move away first with pressure and/or rhythmic pressure. I will reward their effort to unweight their foot by either petting their lower leg, or by backing away for a bit. Once I have the foot in the air, I will pet their leg with my arm or hand, and gradually ask them to hold their foot in the air longer.

In between working on this realm, I will work on God’s “no covet” commandment. If a horse would rather move than stand still while I am doing the above, then I will give it a good mind-engaging workout. Horses need to learn to covet standing still when we are working with feet. If a horse is slow or tough about picking up feet, then I will make it uncomfortable for them to ignore my requests. If more pressure on their tendons or chestnuts is ignored, then I will take a hoof pick and apply pressure with the point to their lower leg. I can also take an object and tap their lower leg to apply discomfort.

It is very important to immediately stop the discomfort when we feel them unweight their foot. Be ready to begin again if they change their mind. I stroke the leg with my arm or hand when it is in the air to complete my crystal clear communication. I want to clearly reward as a contrast to any negatives so they will learn faster.

Asking a horse for its feet should not be a wrestling contest. It should look and feel graceful and easy. It should look like both horse and human are good at doing “what no one else wants to do.”

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

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