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The ‘goody two shoes’ 10 commandments

The 10 commandments of God are indeed an extremely deep, rich well from which to drink.
Truly valuing them will help us roll up our sleeves and voluntarily work eagerly to get more dependent on God and each other, rather than sit back and pat ourselves on the back for how great we think we are doing compared to others.

It is tragic how quickly we can gloss over these 10 commandments and check them off like the rich young ruler in scripture, thinking how good we are at obeying them. We might say:
I – Yeah, I believe in one god (the one I made up in my mind).
II – Haven’t bowed to any graven images today (too much effort, I just look).
III – Haven’t cussed God much (but if I can’t blame others, he’ll do in a pinch).
IV – Sure, I believe in taking a long break on Sunday, just like I do everyday.
V – I mailed a card to mother last month.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

VI – Haven’t murdered anyone (but I might have de-friended a busload of chumps).
VII – Haven’t sowed any wild oats lately (but my memory is short).
VIII – Haven’t stolen anything for a few days (enough hotel towels for now).
IX – Don’t lie much (unless I have to  to get what I want).
X – Surely I don’t covet like Bo Diddly down the road does.
So let us just put a halo over our head and break our arm patting ourselves on the back, right?

If there is any remote chance that we profess to be Godly people, we need to be far harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. One thing that should wake us up about these commandments is that we really enjoy seeing these words of life trampled on big time. We love seeing people kill, cheat on, steal from, lie to and covet each others’ things nearly every time we turn on our “graven image,” whether it be a computer screen, or a “couch potato box.”

How would we get entertainment if there were no more murders in the world? Gee, I don’t know if’n I want to go to heaven if it is going to be that boring. I mean, isn’t the most exciting part of life consist of watching others run faster and jump higher while they are poking each other full of holes with guns and knives? Of course the next best thing is sitting around watching others run faster and jump higher in their numbered underwear (ya’ know, fancy pants) while they are young so they can aspire to get paid beaucoup bucks for it as a career, then fall off the band wagon when they get old (age 29) and wish they were young again. Yeah, but us Bible-thumpers think a good song or sermon is the answer. If we can spout off scripture forward, backward and upside down, then surely we are the bee’s knees.
Meanwhile in a land far, far away, down in a coal mine there is a horseman (well grounded) sweating with a pickaxe in his hand:
I – “Focusing intently” on the job at hand well aware that The Creator God is at his side helping him grow in every good way.
II – After work he rides horses, climbs trees, plays ball or creatively designs something with his wife and kids to achieve more “balance” in life.
III – “He points to God with the work of his hands in deed and words.”
IV – He takes a break, scratches his head and asks God whether he needs to bear down, back off or change what he is doing regularly, based on a set apart day to “reflect and sharpen.”
V – In honoring his parents, he is very attentive about listening to, and seeking out “advice” from all, and tries not to get defensive (welcoming truth).
VI – With an unselfish “attitude,” he tries to organize and plan with others in mind so it will be easier to succeed and harder to fail in working with “others” (opposite of murder).
VII –  He knows we all have trouble with self control and responsibility (adultery realm), so he asks God to help him build in “checks and balances” in his life. He asks for help in this area from friends, neighbors and family members as well.
VIII – He knows that the best way to please God and care about others is to spend time with them in the mud, blood, sweat and tears of life, and that the best answer to prayer is the one that includes him but points to “Jesus Christ” as the source of all he can do (opposite of stealing).
IX – He knows that time is a gift from God and not to be wasted, and since he senses he does not always “communicate clearly,” he strives continually to shed more light, open more doors and be more transparent so deception can flee like the cockroach that it is (the opposite of lying).
X – He recognizes why God limits his resources. It grows his character, and helps him run faster and jump higher in the things that count without poking holes in others (disclaimer for surgeons).
Therefore he “makes do,” and uses God’s free truths to develop skill  rather than covet. This horseman is the true “James Bond” by a long shot!  Proverbs 22:29, “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand before kings.”

Dear Lord, help me to gag and throw up at the normal way I look at the 10 commandments. Help us all be that coal miner (horseman) who searches the 10 commandments realistically so we can run faster and jump higher in real life in the things that matter. Help us recognize “you” by the evidence we see more than the words we hear. Father (designer), Jesus (builder), Holy Spirit (janitor).

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

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Just train my horse

Sometimes I receive horses to train that owners expect me to get ready for a beginning rider (them).

I try to communicate to horse owners that the disposition of a particular horse determines far more than the training. I communicated in prior columns that horse training involves finding problems and then solving them. A beginner’s horse is one that has very few problems to start with. It has a disposition such that it doesn’t get bothered with much at all. It might not have enough energy to be a very athletic horse, but sometimes it does. Horse breeders have been selecting for disposition for quite a while now, so there are a good number of horses that are fairly gentle to start with.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Certain horses can gentle over time, but most horses are not logging many hours in today’s world , so that is generally not a modern option. If a person has a horse with a challenging disposition, I tell them that the training needs to go into them more than the horse. This is a good reason for the owner to rise to the occasion and become a better horse person. When horses are more sensitive to situations and have a tendency to overreact, then it’s important to train the riders much more than the horses.

This is a great comparison to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of us would much rather have the other guy change rather than us, but the most workable situation is for us to change and get better instead. The first point of the gospel brings this out when it demands that we admit that we are the sinner. We can no longer blame everything on mom, the U.S.A., the teacher, the dog or even our horse. When we admit we are the sinner, we can climb out of our hammock and get to work. We can actually get busy and do something constructive about it. This is why I can get so excited about true religion. It puts us into the driver’s seat to be ready to learn and get better on a down-to-earth basis, while at the same time we are absolutely convinced that we will be in paradise with the down to earth God in flesh “Jesus Christ” when we die. True religion has always risen to the occasion when others were too lazy, scared, mad, sad or whatever.

Famous horseman, Pat Parelli, would say, “People want me to train their horses to put up with their inadequacies. Frankly, I will not even try to do it anymore!”

My worst situation like this involved a very overweight woman who wanted me to train a horse for her. It was not a very gentle horse to start with, and the owner could barely lift her leg a foot off the ground, let alone over a horse’s back. I should have told her from the very beginning that it would be an impossible situation unless she did some serious “biggest loser workouts.” I never had any serious issues with the horse while I put 30 hours of training on him. But the horse did not do well with anyone related to the owner. The owner herself physically could not even get on the horse, even with a stepping stool (probably a good thing). The biggest problem was that they could not be convinced that they needed any training (no sinners here!). The horse and I were the “heathens” and they could do no wrong.

My best situation involved a group of college kids from Campus Crusade for Christ. Their attitude was very open-minded and humble. They were all ears for listening to me about how to communicate with horses, and rolled up their sleeves and got to work as well. They are the ones that got me going back to church. They impressed me deeply about what true religion was all about. They were definitely not too heavenly minded and nor earthly good. They had a good picture of the mud, blood, sweat and tears that exemplifies Jesus Christ.  I’d like to thank Jon (a recent student with a horse), who rolled up his sleeves also.

The greatest thing about heaven, will be the humility present in the people who are finally ready to let God work on them. That is besides the horses and beautiful country.

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

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Horse whispering, part 2

Last time, I proposed that genuine horse whispering consisted of testing for problems, understanding the problems, then solving them. Many horses might not be bothered with a rider on their back from the very beginning, yet others will be. This is true with nearly everything we introduce to a horse. Some will accept things that others will not, and vice versa.

I usually start by testing how and where horses accept human touch. I will then move on to testing how well they give to pressure and even rhythmic pressure, before testing how well they accept me and my equipment in motion around them.

With human touch, the easiest and safest thing to touch on horses is their shoulder. If they are fine with that, then we can graduate up to their head and then down to their feet, then back to their tail. If they have a problem with a certain area, then I will stroke the area they are most comfortable with, with more the strokes gradually into uncertain areas. It is good to stroke quickly into these areas, then moving out quickly, gradually leaving our hand there longer and longer. If a horse will not let us touch it, and especially if it turns its rear toward us, I will pet it with about a four-foot stick. When it accepts that, then I will start tapping it with the stick to encourage it to show me its shoulder (in a small area such as a stall), then I will pet with the stick when it responds correctly.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

We might have to “touch” its two-foot space, before its one-foot space, before its three-inch space, before an actual touch. An actual touch should be soft and quick, backing off then trying again. These are the kind of steps that can help solve the problem fairly quickly. All of this is under the “observe, remember and compare” attitude of God’s fourth commandment. We have to feel out the situation, trying not to be robotic, but rather sensitive to adjust to fit what is happening.

When we test horses’ ability to give to pressure, we are determining how much control we will have if they panic and try to leave, or ignore our requests to stop or change direction. If we have a problem there, then we need to use near perfect timing with our pressure, and release to have the crystal clear communication of God’s ninth commandment. Sometimes horses will panic when they first feel pressure, so we should use a longer lead rope and a small pen to help them. The longer lead rope allows them more of a buffer, and the small pen helps to turn them. But the timing of when we apply pressure and how much is important for the horse to think and not panic.

When we have established that we have a reasonable amount of give to pressure for control, then we can start introducing movement by us, and then our equipment. We should test jumping, swinging and all kinds of movement that might bother a horse. We need to be sensitive to their concerns. If they are bothered about a lead rope landing on their back, a saddle would be worse yet. Before I attempt a saddle, I will get them fairly comfortable with a lead rope, a blanket, a stick with a bag or string. Many times I will get on a horse bareback before I saddle to determine whether they have a problem with me on their back first. If there is a problem, I can get off much quicker than being in a saddle, then try again. I might have to give them a ground workout before I try again so I can establish being on their back as a resting time for both of us.

I also want to know if horses have a problem with me moving close beside them, because when I am riding I am close but just higher. Before I get on, I will get them used to me bouncing beside them as though I am jumping on, then on one of those bounces, I can weight their back for a little bit. When they accept my weight draped over their back I will get on.

Usually the main reason a horse will buck is the feeling of the cinch tight at their girth when we saddle. They will not usually react until they start in motion. Some horses won’t be bothered until they walk, trot, or run, and some will not be bothered at all. These are some specifics concerning testing a horse, and how we can break it into smaller steps to overcome problems we find.

“Horse whispering” is horse training that gets results quickly because we are sensitive to a horses real concerns. Our attitude, distractions, among many other things may affect our success here. But the key is to “focus” so we better know the steps we need to provide to the horse to help us both succeed.

The most realistic thing we can do is ask God to show us the things we may not be seeing in true humility.

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

I have seen horse whispering demonstrations where I do not know if there was truly a change in the horse or not. Many exhibitors feel that if they show that they can get on a horse’s back within an hour or so, they take credit for having gentled the horse. The fact is that a person can get on most unbroken horses nowadays without the horse bucking them off (in the short run, at least).

Horse whispering essentially shows good teaching. It clearly shows that a problem situation with a horse has been corrected in a reasonably short time. Just like true religion, there are no hidden secrets or agenda, only truth and light.

The record of Alexander the Great is a good example here. His famous horse, Bucephalus, was considered crazy and unmanageable by his father and the other men in the military. The 14-year-old Alexander asked if he could try the horse, and he succeeded where the others failed. When asked why he was able to succeed, he explained that he noticed that the horse was afraid of the men’s shadows. So when he started working with the horse he faced him toward the sun, step-by-step getting him more used to his shadow. This was not something that was hidden from others, but rather easily observable to anyone who was truly searching.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Most problems with horses today stem from people who have measured their success by whether a horse would let them on its back or not. For one thing, there is such a wide range of “horsenalities,” and many of them may or may not let us on their back in the beginning. But the most important considerations to measure are:

  1. How comfortable is the horse standing, or moving beside a human on the ground?
  2. How bothered is the horse while introducing different objects and movements on the ground?
  3. How well does the horse give to pressure, as well as rhythmic pressure?

These are the things that will help determine how safe a horse will be while we are on its back, and how reliable it will be in a partnership. If we test a horse in a certain area and it accepts it fairly well, then we acknowledge that it was not a problem. But if we find a problem, then it is up to us as a trainer to break it down into smaller chunks, so the horse can successfully overcome it. The speed with which we solve the problem is dependent on how many steps we can introduce, and also the patience to give a horse time to think. We will speed things up at times to purposely test emotions so we can find any potential problems here also.

In a comparison to faith, many times people complain about religion because they feel that the wool has been pulled over our eyes and we have been conned much like the scam artists that steal people’s life savings. If we observe peoples lives and see that there has indeed been a good change, then clearly something real and not phony has happened. The thing that impresses me the most about Jesus Christ’s gospel is that there is nothing hidden for us to find out later (in a more uppity stage). The Apostle Paul constantly reminds us in his epistles that there is no “secret” information to be revealed at a later date by a more “enlightened” person. The testing of the Bible through people’s lives over thousands of years have proved this to be true to people who have truly objectively researched the evidence.

Horse training like the gospel is in the testing business. We are constantly testing our horse in order to shed truth and light on them, just as we should never assume anything is true in any other part of life either. The test of time has proved the gospel solid, but we all can be tested to show where we need to improve, and this is the most important thing we can do for our horse also. There is nothing “magical” or “ elitist” here. In fact when we start thinking that way, we will probably skip something obvious with our nose in the air.  The sensitivity of striving to leave no rock unturned with the intent of shedding truth and light on our attitudes, as well as our horses’ attitudes is a narrow road that we can easily miss through our natural tendency to take for granted the things that are right in front of our very eyes. True horse whispering is not magical, but like the gospel, it is the humility of recognizing that we might not see the obvious right away, so as in Alexander’s case, it took a 14-year-old boy to point it out to the “elite” others.  But the most important point to make is that there should indeed be an observable change in a horse.

Of course, ultimately the same should be true for us as well.

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

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Reward and punishment


In my last column I touched on how easy it is for people to misread a horse’s thoughts. In their anxiousness they think a horse senses their fear, or worry that they may make a horse mad, and they try to appease them with treats. I brought forth the fact that horses simply do not think that way. They are very logical. Rewards need to be based more on making the right thing easy and the wrong thing difficult.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Not only do many horse people reward their horses poorly, they punish unclearly also. I have witnessed countless examples of horse owners who punish their horses by tying them up for a long time or withholding grain from them if they are “bad.” They do not seem to realize that a horse will not correlate this with being punished. Teaching a horse to tie does teach patience, but it is totally unrelated to working with humans. The only possible similarity would be learning to give to pressure. It is better for a horse to learn to give to pressure from a movable post (a human), before a solid post, because a human can be more forgiving and can get a horse used to pressure more slowly than an all or nothing post. The biggest reason this common punishment scenario is mediocre at best is because a horse lives in the moment for the most part. We must time rewards or comfort and punishment or discomfort with the exact time their response occurred. I like using God’s 9th commandment – “do not lie” – to point to “timing.” Crystal clear communication is the exact opposite of lying, and the best way to communicate clearly to a horse is to get our “timing” as perfect as possible.

We might say that living in the moment is a weakness for horses, but it is also for us humans. If we always live in the moment, we would not be good at saving, or planning for the future, or any other kind of delayed gratification. It would also make it harder for us contemplate eternal life with the author of life, Jesus Christ.

If a horse’s weakness is the fact that it lives for the most part in the moment, then its strength would be its perceptiveness. A horse is very perceptive to everything we do. This is why the true religion of truth and light prevails with horses. They can tell when we are being sneaky, so we must do everything in an upright clear way, such as we should do life in general!

Many people mistakenly choose to grain their horses based on whether they are “ bad” or not. As a rule of thumb we should use grain or treats to motivate horses to come to us, or let them eat grain as we are getting them ready to ride. I like to have range cubes in my pocket from time to time as I put the halter on, so horses do not favor a bucket and run from the halter. This is how to reward in the moment. We bring cattle in with treats also, and whether it be cattle or horses, the important thing is to let them savor their food before we work them.

These animals that live in the moment will not associate being caught with being worked if enough time passes after we grain them. We really do not want to emphasize treats after we work animals, because in a sense we would be rewarding them for us leaving them. If we stick around to curry and brush them, then they can associate eating treats with us there. Currying and brushing is probably even better than grain. I think it is a good way to emulate God in the flesh Jesus Christ demonstrating true leadership. It was a shock for the world for Jesus to demonstrate servant heartedness as real leadership. But it was the recipe for our country becoming the most productive nation ever. Horses ultimately appreciate our servant heartedness through brushing and even better yet learning to move like them to partner with them better.
Punishment should be more related to making the wrong thing difficult at the time it is happening. If a horse does not want to be caught in a small pen, we will work it until it faces us. If it is evading us in a big area, we will not give it rest until it goes into the pen. We can do this from another horse’s back (or an ATV). The rule of thumb is to work horses where they are trying to escape in attitude or proximity. On the other end, rest a horse more where we want it to be in the same way. We get to play God by shaping horses’ world view. This helps us appreciate our creator God more as we begin to understand more how a horse truly thinks.

Mike Daniels is a horsemanship trainer and barefoot trimming specialist from Raymondville. His columns are posted online on the blog page at (which is accessible by mousing over “news”). Email:


The stick and string


I have said before that I feel the most important of God ‘s commandments is the third one. The opposite of misusing God ‘s name is giving God the credit for good and us taking blame for the bad. Along this same theme of giving credit where credit is due, we need to acknowledge where we get all the tools and techniques we use to help us all grow more.

I originally learned about the stick and string through Pat Parelli’s horsemanship program, yet many other famous horse people use it, too, such as Dennis Reiss and Clint Anderson. Besides ultimately giving credit to God I would point to the native American Indians as earlier bearers of this tool. The Indian had a bow for hunting which doubled as a training tool for their horses. An archer keeps their bow unstrung when not in use, therefore at that point it is a stick and a string.
With the three basic ways we all guide our horses: Pressure, rhythmic pressure, and combos thereof, the stick and string represent rhythmic pressure. The string at the end of the stick gives us more reach on the ground, but the stick itself is more useful on the horses back. Ultimately when we want the horse to listen to light pressure, rhythmic pressure helps direct the horse to that goal. The alternative to the stick is spurs, but I feel the stick can give more warning time, and is less likely to cause a horse to buck. To free up both hands when responsive maneuvers are required, ultimately we should graduate to spurs for a back up. But the stick is a great way to prepare a horse for this later on.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Earlier, when I mentioned giving God the credit for the good and us taking blame for the bad, misuse of the stick would be a good reason to blame ourselves. The three basic ways we would misuse it would be:

  1. Not warning the horse with rhythmic motion before making contact (hitting air before hitting horse).
  2. Not being consistent with the warnings while providing the easier pressure signals through reins, seat and legs first.
  3. 3. Not being sensitive as to how hard or how soft we need to be at the right time.
    Usually a stick is thought of as a tool to motivate a horse to move faster. But realistically it is a great tool to help a horse turn, stop, and move sideways also. Ultimately it is a great tool to help teach a horse to guide with no equipment except our body language. The native American Indians were masters at guiding their horses with no equipment, and their unstrung bow was just the tool they needed to teach their horses. Horses are very receptive to pressure if they are sensitized to it and we’re consistent about how we apply it. To keep it simple-smart, we need to think of putting pressure on the horse much the same as pushing a box across a table. Pressure in front moves it back, and pressure to the side moves it sideways. After pressure is applied by our own seat and legs (for example, left seat bone and leg), then the stick is used rhythmically on the same side to let a horse know they need to listen to the body language or the stick will make contact. We let the horse see the stick moving toward the part of the body we want a horse to move away from.

Sensitive horses do not need the stick to contact them much. Duller horses may need more contact with the stick to get the message. The rider must use feedback from the horse to determine whether to bear down or lighten up. A horse may ignore light contact, or get defensive with too much contact.

A common problem is for a horse to try to outrun the stick when they see it coming. I solve this problem by causing them to turn a small circle moving away from the rhythmic stick and set it up and wait for them to spiral on down to a stop. Then I turn the rhythmic stick into a petting stick to reward the stop. This teaches them to move over and even stop rather than try to escape.

Once a horse tunes into listening to our seat and legs, it is a beautiful feeling to drop the reins and cue a horse through body language alone.

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





Equipment should be thought of as a teaching tool, a stepping-stone to no equipment, or a back up to dependency on us.

Just as our dependency on God will free us from our not-so good-dependencies (I call them adult baby bottles), we need to have a goal of getting our horses more dependent on us rather than our tools and equipment. Equipment can either be a hindrance to growth for humans and horses or it can help accelerate their growth, depending on whether it is used as a hammock to lay in or a safety net to fall back on.
I started out with horses as a 14-year-old boy with only enough money saved from a paper route for a horse and a bridle. I rode bareback for about two months before I found a good deal on a saddle while saving for it at the same time. My lack of a saddle actually fast-forwarded me to a better seat on a horse earlier. It helped that I had an easy-going horse to start with also. Every horse person should spend some time riding bareback so that they will develop a better seat on a horse’s back.
Your bare essentials for equipment would be a good teaching halter and lead rope, and then a snaffle bridle with one rein to snap on both sides of the bit. I like a hand tied rope halter made out of ¼-inch thick rope so that it will make a horse more uncomfortable to lean on it. The lead rope should be about 12 feet long so it is versatile enough to do a ground work out, tie up or ride mecate style. The best rope to use is yacht braid rope (the type used on sailboats) that is ½-inch thick. Through time this rope can swell to 5/8 to 3/4 inches thick. The bridle can be a split ear type, but the snaffle bit should have a chinstrap to keep the bit from being pulled through the horse’s mouth. I like using one rein rather than split reins so I can drop the rein without it falling on the ground and practice guiding the horse with my seat and legs.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Saddles need to fit the horse as well as be comfortable to the rider. Western saddles are made to fit narrow, medium, or wide backed horses. The type of withers the horse has plays a big role in the type of saddle that is needed. High, narrow withers take a saddle with a narrow fork on the front of the saddle. Horses with low withers take a wider gullet on the front with a less steep angle. It is good to try a prospective saddle on a horse’s back without a blanket to see how well it fits. The bars of the saddle (underneath) should fit nicely on their back. The horse’s withers should not touch the bottom of the saddle fork. There should be no less than 3/4 inch or so buffer before they touch. If there is no buffer, a bad sore could develop on top of the withers. If there is too much distance here, the saddle will probably try to roll too much, and it will be hard to keep it on the horses back. A really over weight horse kind of has that problem anyway. From the riders’ standpoint, saddles have different seat sizes. Seats sized 15 to 16 inches are pretty common, yet they go smaller and bigger. It is better to have a saddle too big rather than too small if we get a less than perfect fit.

A round corral is about the best piece of equipment we can have to help wean us from being so dependent on equipment. This practice dance stage should be about 60 feet in diameter. This size is small enough to keep the horse from moving too fast while practicing, yet big enough for a horse to run comfortably also.

The simplest piece of equipment we can have to help a horse tune into body language for signals is a 3/8 in thick stick. I prefer fiberglass at 30- 48 inches long. I will go into more detail on use of this equipment next time.

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


What about head tossing?


When a horse throws its head while a rider is on its back, that tells us something is wrong.

Head throwing communicates surprise and discomfort, but it can also be a sign of a rebellious attitude. In communicating to our horses, we do not want to be surprising them. We usually surprise them by not having clear body language or voice, and by not giving them enough time to respond before we crank down on them.

Before we pull to stop or turn, or kick to go, we need to be giving horses easier warning signals prior to the more uncomfortable versions, like pulling on their mouths with the bit. This is one of the most important distinctions between experienced horse people and novices. Our easier signals are body language and voice noises. Horses are very perceptive and can pick up consistent body language that is performed before pulling on the reins, kicking with feet, or tapping with hands or stick (although I would rather tap with a stick to substitute pulling harder on the reins). Usually people do not get results here, because they do not have well-defined body language for asking a horse to move faster or slower, turn left or right, or do something else. On the other hand, a rider might not be giving the right discomfort at the right time, making it hard for the horse to do the wrong thing and therefore easier to do the right thing.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

When we first teach horses to respond to our body language, we must exaggerate it so it is more obvious. If we want a horse to give us energy, we must show it. If we want a horse to relax or slow we must show that. I call this “Jesus Christ stuff,” because we are not telling the horse as much as we are showing them. When I critique a human I am training on this, I usually tell them that they are asking a horse to do something that they are not doing. A person must realize also that a big part of the reason they may not show energy to a horse is that they are not confident themselves. In this case, they must try to at least act confident and practice exuberance, so they may take it on for real in time.

Their horse needs it real or not, and in time it will be real! On the other hand, we need to practice calm low energy in order to bring a horse’s energy down to slow them. This might be hard when we are nervous or scared, but again we can practice it so it eventually will be real as we gain confidence. Voice should be exaggerated as well as body language – sharp high-energy noises for go and lazy low energy noises for slow.

After our body language and voice clearly matches our intent, then we need to be aware of our timing. Most people do not give horses enough time between their soft signals and their enforcement of them. It is a thinking process for both humans and horses and it must be thought of that way. This helps us process what happens when and how to better receive it as well as apply our response to it.
Discomfort causes a horse to throw its head as well as surprise and timing. The best way to deal with this is to make sure we add discomfort slowly and take it away quickly when the animal responds. The most important thing here is to communicate to the horse that the answer is down. To make this real clear to the horse, I do what I call the head down exercise. We can back up to a fence so we make it clear to the horse that we are not asking them to back when we are doing this. We then slowly apply pressure to the bit through the reins. The horse will try to move its head in different positions in order to get away from pressure. The split second the head makes even the slightest move downward, we release quickly. This exercise will help the human communicate to a horse that it gets relief when the head goes down, not up. We then begin to practice this as we put a horse in motion. If we are truly religious (consistent) about this, the horse will stop throwing its head up.

Head throwing can also be attributed to rebelliousness. A horse finds out that it can play yo-yo with our hands so it then takes the bit and pulls the reins through our hands. This is where we need to develop “hands of steel” to not let them do this. An old saying that refers to a good horse person’s hands is “hands of steel in velvet gloves.” This is where we need to be as hard as steel in one way, and soft as a baby kitten in another. This helps us reward a horse for good head position as well as discourage them from head throwing.

We show a horse this through example, setting it up to find it, rather than forcing it as we follow the example of God himself in Jesus Christ.

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

I have heard it said many times that there can be more variation within breeds of horses than between them.

I would say that that’s especially true with mustang horses. I have come across very gentle mustangs, as well as very paranoid, defensive ones. They can have a wide range of body types as well.

The first mustang I encountered was very defensive. It knew how to use its teeth, strike with its front feet and kick with his hind feet. He would have defended himself real well in the wild, but was not a very trustworthy horse for riding. I did get him broke to ride, and he was okay for experienced riders, but not beginners. There was a time he sent a six-year-old kid rolling across the barnyard when the boy got too close to his hind legs. The horse was a beautiful black color, but kind of scrawny with a big head, and big feet as a two-year-old.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

The owner brought him back to me as a five-year-old to tune him up after not being ridden for a year or two. He had grown into his head and feet, and was quite a good looking horse with his body more in balance with his extremities. But he was still pretty unpredictable. I was asking him to back up at one point and he came up in the air and struck at me with his front feet. I was backing up when I saw it coming, but he still caught the brim of my hat and ripped the front of it off. Since his owner did not ride him very much, I suggested he sell him to someone that would spend more time with him.

The next mustang I encountered was almost exactly the opposite in disposition. It was a gray mare that was very easy going. The worst thing about her was that if she didn’t want to do something, she would just stop and lie down. I had to gradually get her used to the work ethic so she was not overwhelmed with doing too much too soon. She ended up being a good family horse. It’s a whole lot safer having a horse whose only real fault is that it takes a good rider in order to get good effort from it.
About 10 years ago, a guy approached me about training three mustangs for him. I was able to train two of them. I told him to sell the other to a bucking stock contractor, because she enjoyed bucking more than anything else. She was real strange in that I had hard time to get her to look at me. Curiosity is what we use to learn in the most natural way. But she was not in the least bit curious about us humans. She was the closest thing to an atheist horse I have ever encountered. I consider atheistic thinking closed-minded, and that is exactly what she was. But a good bucking horse is worth quite a lot in the right place so she might have found her niche.

The other mustangs turned out all right, but one of them had what I call a human transfer problem. She was used to me, but if anybody else got on, she jumped out from underneath them. She did not really buck, but just jumped to the side fast enough to unseat a rider. The owner tried to get on her, and fell off and fractured some ribs. I decided to use her as an excuse to get to know other trainers in the area, because I knew she would have to learn to accept different riders. I took her to visit two trainers, and two trainers came to visit me at my place. One trainer did not get her used to him on a step-by-step basis, and he got unseated, but the other three trainers did not skip steps and they did all right.

I put a few more weeks on her, and she finally accepted her owner after introducing her to more humans and a little more time. The trainers who helped me get this horse comfortable with more humans were Bill McCloy, Mike Cooper, and an Amish trainer named Rubin. The last mustang bucked me off once, but never tried it again. Most horses are that way. It takes a lot of effort to buck, so if you get right back on, most of them cry uncle (except the real broncs, like the first mustang). This mustang did jump over a barbed wire fence when I got off, because she was freaking out over two Great Pyrenees dogs that were rushing at her from across the road. I had been in a habit of using those dogs to test my horses in training through the years. They were a great test until they got older and slower and finally moved away.
Back to the story. The mare was not hard to catch, but I had a hard time finding out how to get her out of the pasture because most of the gates were locked. I ride most all the time with a 12-foot lead rope tucked in my belt attached to a hand tied halter with no metal hardware. This helps me keep the horse with me if I get off or get bucked off.
My experience with mustangs showed me just how diverse their personalities (or rather, “horsenalities”) are as well as how they are built. Usually most of them have pretty good feet, otherwise they would not survive in the wild.

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


We know that consistency is probably the most important quality a horse or horse person can attain.

The race in the tortoise and the hare story pits the slow steadiness of the turtle against the nimble, flashiness of the rabbit. It concludes with the tortoise as the winner, communicating the much more valuable nature of consistency over the “wow factor.” Other words for it would be responsibility, dependability, work ethic, trust, loyalty and self-control. I put it under the “no adultery” commandment in the Bible, because it is all about hanging in there and persevering, even at times when we don’t feel like it.

If we knew nothing else about horses but had the desire for tenacity and perseverance, we would have 99-percent of what we needed. The 1-percent of technique doesn’t do much good if we do not have the staying power. Consistency is probably the most important thing for a new rider to get confidence in themselves and the horse. It’s the integrity of a good foundation.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Different personalities of horses and people take different strategies to get the responsibility of consistency. A slow, easily bored individual is going to take a different approach than one with a nervous, fast, easily excitable personality. An easy-going individual can get soured easily on consistency, so we cannot expect them to do something for very long before changing to a different subject or challenge.  A nervous, excitable person will take the opposite approach. They need to be almost bored on purpose in order to achieve a balance.

I don’t expect lazier horses to circle consistently in the round pen at first. I will first ask them to trot consistently for about four circles before asking them to stop. One circle at a run might be all I require of them in the beginning. I will require them to work with energy until I ask them to slow or stop, but I make sure I don’t ask them for too much repetition in the beginning. I will then change to something else, like de-sensitivity or maneuverability. We can gradually get them to circle more to develop the consistency of a circus horse through time as their mind and muscles can handle it.

I don’t let lazy horses walk too slowly on the trail. I would rather let them do a lazy jog rather than a lazy walk. But sometimes we can provoke their mind a bit by seeing how slow they can walk without stopping (this can be a real challenge). Whether it be circling or going straight down the trail, I make it uncomfortable for them to not be consistent in the fairly short time I ask them to do it in the beginning. I gradually ask them for more and more repetition through time, with the spice of variety of tasks in between to keep them from being soured. Ways I cause them to be uncomfortable when they are not upholding a responsibility include bouncing in the saddle on purpose and checking on the reins (quick jerks).

Nervous, excitable horses need much repetition to calm them and get them consistent. We need to be calm and relaxed ourselves when working with them, and our goal is to have them calm and relaxed before we quit. If they are not calm and relaxed when we are done working with them, they will not get better. This might mean simplifying our requests and giving them more time to respond. Sometimes they can seem to circle forever without calming down. We need calm, thinking consistency. In order to get them thinking more, I might cut them off and cause them to stop, turn and go back and forth in front of me like a cutting horse for awhile. When they begin to start waiting for my requests, then I will give them rest in between that and circling them. The many repetitions along with engaging their brain to make them think will eventually calm them, and will develop the consistency we want.

With calm lazy horses we need to interject variety to keep from souring them. With nervous horses we interject only enough variety to keep them thinking, otherwise we must bore them on purpose with repetition.
Our goal with nervous, or calm horses is to help them learn to pace themselves so they – as well as us – can be in it for the long haul. Especially if we ourselves are looking forward to eternity with the Jesus Christ, creator of all things good.

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