The modern trend of spending money that we do not have distracts us from truly considering the difference between what we think we want versus what we really need.
The first horsemanship clinics I attended might have clouded this vision for me, but the next horseman I learned from helped clear the air. This individual also helped me tie horsemanship to God in a very natural way. Since then most successful horse clinicians have been emphasizing equipment to help them make money. But just like the basic gospel of Jesus Christ, we have to keep our eyes on what is truly important to stay focused on genuine horsemanship.
We all should listen to experts, yet it can be frustrating trying to separate out what we truly need from what it is these experts “need” to sell. After leaving my first horse clinic, I just had to go out and buy that special bit that the expert had designed. At least I thought I did.
I believe that even a teenager that has a peer pressure burden, can be convinced that actual skill is what we should be focusing on, and that actually impresses us all much more than a fashionable piece of equipment. Famous horseman Ray Hunt brought this out better than anyone else I’ve seen and emphasized the hand behind the equipment rather than the actual equipment. He said “if all I had was baling twine, but used it in the right way, I might be far ahead of someone else who had the ‘right bridle’ but was not skilled in the use of it.”
Hunt impressed upon me the importance of when to put pressure on, and when to take it off. When I began focusing on the timing and intensity of pressure I applied to the horse, I realized the true secret to communication. It actually helped me rely less on equipment. But most of all it helped me relate it more to the things of God. From the Bible’s record of David and Goliath, we know God worked through David, but we also know that David had become very skillful with a simple poor mans sling. This just happened to get the job done ahead of a whole army of men who had the “right equipment.”
The fact that most people on earth are poor can be fuel for the atheists who feel there is no God. But I feel it is this situation that forces us to be more resourceful with what we have. I can understand why God designed things this way, because this provides more potential for genuine growth.
There is a popular headgear that many people are putting on their horses today. It seems to be a fine bridle for guiding a horse. The problem is that the bit alone costs well over $100. I am still recommending to most people to buy a simple snaffle bit for $3 to $4. The definition of a snaffle bridle means no levers. The reins connect directly to a ring on the bit itself. Levers are meant for more vertical flexion in advanced work. I might recommend levers for kids for more control, but otherwise the basic snaffle is hard to beat to develop better basics.
Even with the hinge in the middle it is not a snaffle bit if it has any levers or shanks at all. Shanks do help if a horse does not want to stop, but the main point to make is that horses can be desensitized to pressure. That is why I always stress the fact that a horse stops because we release pressure, not because we apply it.
A rider who learns the skill of slow to apply pressure and quick to release it is far more valuable than the rider who depends on equipment. The way I look at it, the less I have to put on my horse when I use them for chores, then the more they get used. Technically I could ride either of my horses with no equipment when I am letting cows into a pasture with previously unrolled hay. But I will usually ride with at least a halter and lead rope for back up. When I saddle, I have a quick cinch mechanism that is very simple and cheap to install.
It is funny how some people like to brag how much they paid for something. My wife April and I are the opposite. We like the cowboy quote “money is like manure, it don’t stink as bad when it’s spread out a bit more.”
Jesus shows us that practical religion is the same as practical horsemanship. Proverbs 22:7 says “…borrower is slave to the lender.”
The only one I want to be a slave to is my creator God. He has a great way of giving true freedom to those who love him, in contrast to those who think they are free without him.
Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.