Horse Sense logo 2



The Biblical verse Hebrews 10:24 says, “let us consider how we might spur one another toward love and good works.”

I feel this is the main driver of church, hand in hand with helping each other learn God’s word better. Much like motivating each other to expand our boundaries in the midst of our naturally narrow inner circles, motivating a horse can be a challenge also. Horses can cling to each other and their home areas, afraid of change and begin to drag their feet like us.
We know that ultimately this is a big thing to pray and ask God to help us with. We live in an information age that has more knowledge available to us than at any other time in recorded history. But our problems are more related to doing rather than knowing what to do. Many times we know the right thing to do, but we just do not feel like doing it. Part of it relates to getting soured from under or overdoing what we do. We can debate whether honey or vinegar motivates more, but we should realize we need both. I will bring forth the importance of variety on the honey side, and the importance of polite warnings amplified up as needed on the vinegar side.

Variety helps us physically as well as mentally. Physically it helps us relay different muscle groups and joints so we do not over or under do. When I shovel, I treat it like weight lifting in that I relay all the different muscle groups so that I will strengthen my back rather than break it down. Mentally it helps put us back into thinking mode from robot mode. People ask me how long I can teach a horse without giving it a break. I tell them it depends on how often I change subjects. In school, kids can study for around six hours because they change subjects five times a day with a lunch break in between. This is an important basic in motivating a horse as well as developing a safe relationship with them.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Many people tell me that they just want to trail ride, barrel race, or whatever. But it helps horses think rather than react when we can change things up and provoke their brain with variety. Some people work harder on their vacation than they do at work. It’s all a matter of changing things up a bit. It’s physically more efficient to not change work or tools to a point, but then it becomes mentally more efficient to change up to keep us sharp. This is especially true in dealing with slow going horses. To provoke their minds to get more energy, we have to change what we are doing, or transition our speed as we do. This will carry us much further physically and mentally then physically spurring, or hitting them to go all the time.

We need to be creative in what we do like any game we play. We can do 360 spins on the trail, flying change of leads when possible, weave in and out of trees, see how slow we can go without stopping, or see how fast we can go for a bit. Practice stretching exercises on a horse’s back or hit a wasp’s nest with a stick and see if y’all can out run the wasps (you might not need any spurs on this one).

The point is, much of our problem comes from lack of stimulation. Of course, if a person or horse is out of shape we have to monitor whether we are over doing it in that regard also. Bring a science teacher along on a trail ride so they can stop everyone to talk about the different trees, rocks and creatures that are encountered for purposeful breaks in between moving together.
Purpose is another great motivator. If horses cannot see a reason to get from point A to point B, they will not be motivated. If horses find that rest or food will be provided up ahead they will have more reason to go there with more pizazz. Back when horses were used for work and transportation, they had more natural food and rest spots. They rested when they arrived at town, or they rested when they were fed out in the field midday, or at the end of the field before they turned the other direction again. If a horse is rested or fed only at the barn or horse trailer, we might be de-motivating or training it backward. If we are sensitive to this issue, we can actually help horses become more self-working and volunteer more on their own.

Wow, talk about getting religion – here we go! We know we practice Heaven on earth by trying to self motivate our horses as well as us, but we also know that in this fallen world we live in it is not quite that simple.

Next time I will cover the “vinegar” side or the more negative end of motivation that none of us like or want. But we realize it helps us all not take for granted the more positive motivators mentioned above.

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