Head tossing, part 2


Other causes of head throwing include using a leverage bit before obtaining a good foundation with a snaffle bit, abusing a neck rein by relying solely on it rather than other communication and by not feeling or sensing feedback from the horse to adjust rider response.

A leverage bit can be quite a bit harsher than a snaffle bit because it adds pressure under the chin as well as on the mouth. This is not a good bit to use if a horse does not already understand to give to pressure in a variety of ways, including lateral and vertical flexion. Many people feel a snaffle bit is defined that way because it has hinge in the middle of the bit, but that is not true. A snaffle bit is defined that way because there are no levers. The rein is attached directly to the ring that the bit is on. This is the most direct, black-and-white way to teach a horse to submit to pressure without undue discomfort. Although this bit is good for teaching, it can still frustrate a horse if it is used in the wrong way.

Orscheln Farm and Home sells snaffle bits for $4 or so, making them reasonably priced for anyone.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Abusing a neck rein is probably one of the most prevalent causes of head throwing. People lay the rein across a horse’s neck to turn it, and if it doesn’t turn right away, they lay it harder, causing the horse’s head to tilt sideways and up in an awkward position. In our mechanized age, we tend to be conditioned that if something is not working, just crank down harder on it. The problem here is when we pull a horse’s head out of position, we make it harder for it to do what we want. In asking a horse to turn, the neck rein should have the least amount of pressure for a few reasons. The first reason is that we want a horse to respond lightly. We have to show it the same lightness we would like it to respond to. The second reason is more pressure pulls a horse’s head out of position. If anything, more pressure needs to be applied to the leading rein, showing the horse the direction of travel. But rhythmic pressure is the main motivator here – this would be a hand, swinging rope, or stick, warning by hitting air before hitting the horse next to the neck rein. To summarize the process, the neck rein is first laid across the neck, then rhythmic pressure, then be ready to correct head position with direct rein pulling the direction we want to go.

To help us feel and sense our horse, we can look at God’s fourth commandment: Observe the Sabbath. Many times, we become robotic about what we do and we do not leave room for the adjustments that come from a mindset of observing, remembering and comparing. The things we need to feel for are energy level, forward or backward movement and whether a horse is paying attention or not. If the energy level is high, we need less rhythmic energy through our stick, or hand otherwise we will create too much energy. If the energy level is low, we probably need more rhythmic motion through our stick, legs or body.

Our voice noises can create more energy also. Usually, seasoned horses need to be reminded this way. This is where spurs can come in handy. Spurs are normally thought of for more forward speed, but they are meant more for lateral motion, such as turns and sideways movement. It is better to use a stick or spurs to motivate a horse to turn rather than laying a neck rein harder on their neck.
If a horse is pushing or charging forward, we need to take a balanced pull on both reins to control forward energy. If a horse is backing up, we need to let off on the reins so it can direct energy into the turn from the backup. A neck rein usually asks for a turn on the haunches so we are trying to balance a back and over movement. These are things we should be aware of as we are asking our horse to respond.

We then are full circle back to getting a horse’s attention so we do not surprise it when we begin communicating to them what we want them to do. All of this leads to a smoother, more beautiful turn in feel as well as looks, just like dance partners.

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

The most incredible thing about the Christian faith, besides coming to the point where we are convinced we need the Savior, is the practical servant heartedness of it.

Many times religion is thought of as regular ritual activity, but Christ threw a wrench in that when he flung aside his robe and started washing feet. This pillar of Christianity (when we are awake) is all about doing more than is required. Since we know we are going to heaven based totally on God’s extraordinary servant heartedness in Jesus Christ, we are free to be true volunteers. Christ was always about healing, helping, and true growth, and this same down to earth scenario transfers to the horse world also.

A good horseman knows how to walk the extra mile, not because he or she fell off, but rather doing more to start with.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

My focus this time will emphasize grooming. Women are usually much better at this than men, but that is really no excuse for mediocrity. No one should pass up an opportunity like this for a horse to appreciate us better. Remember that this is one of the building blocks for self-working horses (natural GPS systems).

This time of year, horses can get cockleburs in their manes and tails, and we might have to take extra effort to get them out. Vegetable oil will make it easier for this “inspiration for velcro” to slide out of their hair. Oil will also help untangle knots and twisted hair.

We should regularly pick out horses’ feet to free any unwanted material that has accumulated that can grow bacteria that can weaken the feet. Any soft, flaky material can be scraped loose. Any parts of the frog that are looking wimpy and folded over can be cut off, because moisture and bacteria can thrive in that environment. The foot gets tougher if it can dry. Direct contact with dry ground will strengthen the frog and sole of their foot.

We can use metal curry combs to free mud, dead hair and other debris from their bodies We then use stiff brushes to clean their hair coats further. Soft brushes and cloths should be used around sensitive areas. After a good workout on the ground or in the saddle, we can take rubber curry combs and massage their muscles. I usually have a grooming instrument in each hand, whether it be two brushes, curry combs, or a brush and a curry comb. I serve the horses I ride in such a way that I use it as a workout for myself as well.

I have emphasized in the past that when we work with a horse on the ground, it’s also a foot washing situation. If we are asking a horse to go through a wide variety of dance moves on the ground, we are in effect a lead dancer moving with our horses as well. There are times when we are trying to groom our horses, and they do not want to stand still. This is an excellent time to do a vigorous mind engaging workout on the ground.

Remember that a good “Simon says” style routine which works the mind and body equally helps horses and humans appreciate the grooming experience that much more, especially if there happens to be a lack of patience present. Mutual respect happens when there is more walk than talk, so we can cut back the scolding and not be afraid to sweat with the horse while we are both engaging our minds at the same time.

Remember, since we get to play the role of God with our horses – imitating how God serves us – we are shaping their world. Let us be such servant leaders to our mounts, that they can indeed say about us “my god is a foot washer.”

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


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:     


Basic economics – 14-year-old, paper route, horse


Thank God I grew up in a situation where I was not taught to borrow at the drop of a hat.

At fourteen years of age, horses became my saving grace. Although I was raising rabbits and chickens in my suburban back yard, I still did not have enough to do to keep me out of trouble. Throwing snowballs at cars in the winter turned to throwing rocks at cars in the summer. I do not know how I distanced myself from the broken windows and trauma my peer group and I caused motorists, but to us it was a game.

I can see how gangs can originate, considering my own experience. My dad died when I was 11 after about a four-year illness resulting from a brain stroke. My mom worked full time and obviously could not keep an eye on her five kids (ages 6-16) well enough to know my extracurricular activities.

We moved to another house when I turned 13, with the five of us helping our mom prepare the house by painting the inside, then renting a U-Haul truck to move everything.

I then asked my mom if I could have a horse. She said sure, earn your own money, find out where you can keep it, buy it and we will see how you do. I got a newspaper route later that year, saved enough to buy a horse in three months, then bought a three-year-old appaloosa gelding. It was a fairly easy-going horse, although he had a little buck in him to start. I found a place about two miles from our house (still in the suburbs) that had a basic pasture, which was supplemented by grass clippings from commercial lawn services in the summer, and hay in the winter. They had a barn in which we kept our saddles, and supplied metal drums where we could keep our grain.

Although I had no saddle to start with, I bought a bridle kit that I put together from Tandy Leather Company.  I can really understand what God is doing when he limits our resources, because it was the best way to motivate me to become responsible and develop skill. My situation helped me to think for myself and become a more skillful rider than usual. I did not buy a saddle until I saved, and then found a good deal on one about four months later. I spent many hours practicing riding bareback, after school and on weekends, in place of the time I spent in front of the television, or lazing around or getting into trouble (I was not motivated enough to do sports consistently). My mom would tell me to quit sleeping my life away, and get outside and do something.

Horseback riding was something I finally began doing consistently (besides chores at home). As I began noticing different types of horse people, there were two obvious situations I observed: People who spent time earning money to buy more things for their horses, and people who actually spent time with their horses.

There was a lady at our barn who boasted of owning nearly every kind of bridle, saddle, blanket, and bell-and-whistle known to horse people. She was also the first one to fall off and get hurt, or make excuses for not practicing with her horses. People did like to gather around and socialize at our barn. We all did have fun talking, and sitting around. But a few of us would put quite a lot more of riding time in. Whenever we went to horse clinics we seemed to get quite a bit more from them because of the time we put in practicing.

Once I finally bought a saddle, I thought “how does anyone even fall off a horse if they have something like this on their back?” I got a little proud of myself until I came across horses a little later on who could buck pretty darn hard.

I admire people in the Bible who had few material sources, but were very resourceful with what little they had. They are great examples of people who knew exactly where all of our resources come from and made great use of what God had available to them. Before God used David to slay Goliath, you know he spent time practicing with a sling when others would have fallen asleep watching sheep or gone to town socializing. Jesus said that there was no greater man than John the Baptist, and here was a man who was the first Baptist preacher (actual first preacher, period) who dressed like Tarzan, and had hair like the Duck Dynasty folks. He could show us all how to be content without all of our adult baby bottles.

Of course, the Creator himself did not consider it important to have many resources at his disposal when he lived the most important life and completed the most important task since creation. When the Bible gives record of Jesus Christ, not only did it have him born in a barn, but also said he was not particularly attractive in any way, shape, or form. Apparently, in order to help us all run faster and jump higher in the most important way, we do not need what we think we do.

Looking back 40 years, when I established a habit of biking or jogging the two miles to where I kept my horse (with my beagle dog in tow), it prepared me for the future. Getting up at 4:30 a.m. every morning delivering newspapers helped me see the best time of day. I owe it to my mom for not babying me, and my God and the first preacher, John the Baptist, for inspiring me to run faster and jump higher in life without borrowing money to do it.

Next time, the “15-year-old bicycling horse trader.”

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


How to be a real workhorse


The obvious obstacles to conquering and enjoying work are lack of knowledge, lack of planning, being intimidated by heat or cold (and brain?) and muscle discomfort.
With regard to lack of knowledge, it is surprising the amount of times we think we know when we really do not know. People might think of shoveling material as a mindless job, but to do it in a way that it will build your body rather than tear it down takes mind engagement. The secret is to think about the different muscle groups we want to work, and position our body in such a way that we can accomplish that task. If we are standing, we can emphasize leg muscles to loosen material, and vary different muscle groups here. In dealing with loose material, we can take our legs out of the picture, and emphasize upper body toning through kneeling, or squatting positions, thinking about arm, back muscles, as well as abdominal muscles. All of this can be done keeping good back position to avoid back problems. If we learn from each other and think intelligently about our work, it is amazing how much more we will get from it, in addition to what we have produced from it.

With horses, it is amazing how many times people think they know how to train, and/or ride horses, when they really do not (let us just say their bag of tricks is much smaller than it could be). I used to have a horse rental business in which I had to look out for “the ones who came from a ranch.” Most ranchers do far more mechanical work than they do horse work today. I have met quite a few farm people who just did not have the skill they thought they had. I had 20 years experience with horses before I came across some of the main knowledge I use now in teaching horses and riders. I was definitely one of those who thought they knew, but really did not. Knowing that there is probably quite a bit more out there that we think we know – but really don’t – should humble us all. Most of the important information is not new, it has been around for the thousands of years of our Earth’s existence (remember, I intelligently reject the millions of years garbage).
Another way we need to engage our brains with regard to work is planning. The Boy Scout motto “be prepared” applies here as well as above. We need to think about the tools we need, how they are organized, steps, timing, breaks in between, and how we can relay each other.

Think of the planning that goes into sports. Everything is laid out and prepared ahead of time to plan for nearly any obstacle to succeed in skill, smoothness, and speed. When we plan work as well as a good coach prepares a team, it comes alive much more and our enjoyment and self esteem cultivates obvious skill and expertise and productivity right before our eyes. When planning, skill, and smoothness are in place, speed excites more energy from us as well as developing efficiency.

Newton’s Law “objects in motion tend to stay in motion” applies here. With horses, speed is a good test of how well we have been preparing them, and shows us what we need to work on more. Tools such as round pens, and long ropes help us immensely. Thinking out the steps so we can arrive at mini goals, helps horses and humans sense accomplishment. They help plan for break times to help us reflect on what just happened so that man and beast practice thinking rather than reacting. Remember, skill, smoothness and speed don’t just “happen” like “evolution.” They are “created” through “mind engagement.” Planning with knowledge and mind engagement can actually drastically reduce the tools and time it takes to train. Evolution takes a long time, whereas God’s way is much quicker. For example, to teach a horse a hind end pivot the quickest way possible, we need to plan and carry out steps like this. Desensitization (lessen false gods), teaching pressure (mom language) and rhythmic pressure (dad language), backward movement, move over movement, then backward and over (cutting horse style). These steps make it easier to “balance and blue print” the skill for the horse-human team.
The purposefulness I get from skill and planning helps me to not think about the heat and cold as much. When we are well prepared we can just say, “bring it on.” It helps to start work real early in the summer to gradually get used to the heat. In the winter, the Jesus Christ down to Earth (ground work) is our saving grace (our muscles heat us up here). I dress more like an Indian in the summer and a cowboy in the winter. I look forward to relaxing in the pool when the sun is at its hottest in the summer, and my midday nap inside in the winter. If I am getting cold in the saddle, I do not mind getting off and running beside my horse (Jesus Christ stuff) to get warmed up again (I multitask staying in shape and staying warm).
Overworked muscles are generally self-inflicted injuries. If we have been creative instead of evolutionary about our work, we will grow ourselves God’s way rather than destroy ourselves Satan’s way. Our muscle and lung discomfort from working out sensibly will be far out weighed by the skill and productivity we observe taking place (not to mention helping us feel and look better).

I should repeat John Wayne’s quote here: “Life is tough, but when you act stupid it is tougher yet.”

Next time: Basic economics = 14-year-old, paper route, horse.

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

Mike Rowe, former host of Discovery Network’s “Dirty Jobs,” would say, “work is not your enemy.”

I believe our enemies are not “thinking” about when to start and stop our work, planning our work, how to work, long term consequences, and how we spend our income from our work. When I emphasize to horse lovers that to truly love your horses you have to work them, I can get the same resistance Mike Rowe would and for the same reasons. The reasons we may not work our horses is because we seem to have trouble finding the work balance theme, we specialize too much, and we burden ourselves with non-essentials, forcing ourselves to spend our money foolishly. This makes it harder for us to “have the time” to partner with the horse in valuable work time.
Whether it be life or horsemanship, balance is the key theme in everything we do. “Aholisms” (addictions to anything other than God) seem to run rampant in our luxury-based society, which is only a repeat of the other luxury societies in the 7,000 years or so of this Earth’s existence (yes, I intelligently reject the so-called millions of years garbage).

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

It bothers me that whether we are talking about the horse world, or what we seem to call church, we emphasize focusing on the “Hollywood aspect” rather than the down to earth real life, hoof meets the dirt substance. We seem to think that worship is just singing, praying, listening to preaching, or reading God’s word. True worship is transferring the information from our ears, eyes, and mouth to our brains, and muscles to produce actual substance. Jesus said we would know each other by our actual fruit we produced.  Evangelism can happen so much easier when people see the “authenticity” proved in our work. Yet we know only God’s work gets us to heaven, but our work helps build our character.
With horses, we tend to spend most of our time either feeding them carrots, or focusing on the three minutes or so we have to impress the horse show judge (or seven seconds to rope a critter out of the chute). To add to this imbalance, we think we need a $50,000 truck to pull a $50,000 trailer down the highway endless miles in order to accomplish our horsemanship goals. No wonder we burn ourselves out in church – oops, I mean Horseville.
Another way we burn out from work is specializing too much. We tend to be just trail riders, barrel racers, jumpers, and ropers among other things. Sometimes we think that we must stick with the same thing until the horse “really knows it.” It is far better to stay with something for just enough time to see it improve some, rather than burn the horse out with it. For example, I can touch on nearly all the hovercraft abilities in a single session (hind end turn, front end turn, backing, sideways, and forward). They do not have to get it perfect, just improve some. If I have a nervous, excitable horse, I will try to bore it with more routine and less variety in the beginning, but will do more as the confidence level grows. The point is that their performance does not have to be perfect, only incrementally better than it was, then we move on to something else. Therefore when we start or stop a particular work element is key.
God’s Seventh Commandment – “no adultery” – is the critical self discipline dimension here, and God’s Third Commandment –  “no false gods” – helps us balance work with play, sleep, food, and relationships.
With regard to planning our work, this is probably the most important part of making it fun. This is where I like to think of it as a basketball, or football coach planning strategies to engage their players in well thought out plays that practice sensitivity to surroundings, teamwork, efficiency, and smoothness. When work is thought of much like a football game or a gymnastic routine, it takes on a whole different flair that sharpens and improves minds and bodies rather than souring, and tearing us down like the usual negative attitude toward work can be. With horses, just as in sports, communication and timing is so critical to well thought out plays. This is why I emphasize increasing our horses’ vocabulary in all the different ways possible, including body language, pressure, rhythmic pressure, and combinations thereof. When we keep a horse thinking and transition them through all of our hover craft movements, varying speed, intensity, order, and combinations thereof, we provoke more interesting abundance to their life. Instead of wearing out one part of their body prematurely through boring repetitiveness, we shore up their whole mind and body through relaying different muscles and bones into play. This is the secret to making work fun again.

Be creative and focus on the creator of everything: God. Remember the familiar quote: “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

Next I will expand on this and go into how to work in more detail.

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

The most important obedience factor for a 1,000-pound horse is that they be very aware of their human leader and respond to their body language without delay.

The next most important part of a horse’s obedience is the development of responsibility, and consistency. The third part is to not be intimidated, distracted, or impressed by things that keep them from listening to the human.

The worst real life fear we can have of a horse is when they choose to ignore us, or become distracted by a “false god.” The next worse thing is to have them move us rather than us move them. Basically, this can be summarized as a half-ton or more of attitude on four legs that does not have respect for our frail human bodies. Just as a horse learns not to lean on an electric fence, sharp nail, or run into a fan, they must be very aware of where and what the human body is up to.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Unless a human enjoys letting a horse use them as a mat to walk on, they must simulate the sharp nail or fan when a horse does not respect our space. A horse must learn to mirror our body language and move away when we push, or come when we pull, through suggestive body language. This is why horsemanship should be compared to dancing. This is exactly what this mutually respectful picture will look like, and it is a very realistic goal, as a horse tunes into their master. I always like to point out that one of the major differences between good and evil is that good communicates and warns, whereas evil does not. This is why the mercy of soft communication is such an important precursor to the discomfort of judgment, yet if this judgment of discomfort is not timed right, communication will not be clear to the horse. To compare this with God dealing with us, it seems that he is slow to pronounce judgment on us, especially when we are not interested in him. I think it is because we have more capacity to reflect, and when one day God plays back the DVDs of our life to us, we will recognize how stupid and selfish we really were (for a long time) when we thought we had it all together. It will also show how patient God was until he intervened. It seems like he intervenes quicker to those who love him, and want him to correct them. This is why we must correct our horses in a timely fashion to prove we truly care for them.

Sometimes we think we are obedient when we obey sometimes, but not all the time. This is in a way worse, because it shows we cannot be trusted. My horse Buddy tends to be more consistent and responsible than my other horse Holly, so I can allow more liberty with him. I can treat him more like a partner, and know that when I give him liberty he will not ignore, or be slow to respond to me. I can keep his attention most times on me, even when he is hungry, bothered, or bored. I hardly ever use a halter to catch him anymore. He trots beside me to the saddle shed. I put his equipment on so I can make use of the saddle horn to move mineral, water tubs, or poly lines for the cows. In situations that he is used to, he will guide with body language alone (this comes in real handy putting out poly lines). Since he is a high-energy horse, I have my bridle on him to check him down if I need to when he is fresh. I think this dimension of obedience is so valuable that it far outweighs actual skill. I can see why Jesus is quoted in the Bible as saying, “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” People who are consistent and trustworthy, and know how to keep promises and be responsible will far outshine actual talent, and skill when they meet God one day. I can see God taking talent from those who squandered it, or abused it and giving it to those who used it selflessly (see the parables of the “talents” in the gospels). I should remind readers at this point the fundamentals of liberty work with their horse. I will do a column exclusively devoted to liberty in the future. Basically it entails starting out acting like we do not have equipment when we really do. We give them a chance to work with body language and we are ready to correct with our equipment when they do not respond. The round pen, 12-to-14 foot lead ropes, and a four-foot stick and six-foot string are great tools here.

Next time I will cover the third part of obedience in horses dealing with distractions.

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

Sometimes we feel that freedom is more important than obedience as though we can separate the two. But in fact, true obedience enables freedom to thrive. In wild horse herds, stallions learn to obey their elders throughout the social order long before they become leaders on their own. It provides a consistent structure that allows teamwork to happen.

I feel that in this time we live in, obedience is looked down on like it is a weak-willed, weak-minded thing. This attitude seems to prevail in the horse world as well as society in general. But if we look at it intelligently, obedience shows true strength, sacrifice, teamwork, and thoughtfulness more than anything else.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

The heart of the 10 Commandments (observe Sabbath, obey parents, no murder, no adultery) asks us to let God help us be true living sacrifices. Sacrifices that give us the strength for self-control, ability to listen to experience, turn the other cheek, and beat back temptations that wreak havoc on relationships. I am convinced that just as a person can read, know, and memorize the entire Bible from cover to cover, this alone does not mean they will obey God and each other. I see the same thing with horses, in that we can take in all kinds of information through books, DVDs, speakers, and clinics, and learn to talk horse talk real well. But if in the trenches, the blood, sweat, and tears Jesus Christ stuff is not there, then we are substituting fluff for stuff. True obedience is the sacrifice that ultimately helps us help everyone who respects the Creator. It helps us become doers rather than talkers, and exemplifies the show-me slogan that Missouri claims as its own. I think all of us are becoming less and less impressed by words and long for more shoulder rubbing, teamwork that indeed is the product of obedience. When I talk or debate with someone, and we are already talking longer than we should, I think why not enter the real show me world now so we can truly show each other what we really know and get some mutual sharpening done?

I feel we can substitute what we could be doing – obedience – for soap operas, conspiracy theories, and paralysis of analysis. In other words, a lot of hot air, and not much umph. Like an old mentor Jimmy Allen once said “we can get to be an alligator mouth with a humming bird tail.” Obedience helps us conquer the worst substance abuse, which is the lack of substance.

Obedience in horsemanship creates extremely valuable horses and riders. It also cuts accidents dramatically. This frees the human horse dance team to soar, appreciating and gaining trust from each other the more they make the harder choices together. We normally think of the obedience of horse to rider, which indeed is very important, and I will go into those details in the next column. I will also explain in more detail the obedience factors that the rider must adhere to also to make it easier for the horse to respond in like fashion. Anyone who knows the Bible can tell that this has Jesus Christ written all over it. The hallmark of the Christian faith is the example of God’s obedience to his promise to us by suffering and dying on a cross. There is no other record of such an act of caring, selflessness, or foretelling of anywhere. Any other faith emphasizes obedience from the bottom up, not top down. They also base their salvation on what they do, whereas Christianity bases salvation only on what Christ did. If we are atheistic or agnostic in nature, then we might have an obligation to obey ourselves, because we are in a sense our own god. But it takes quite a bit more backbone to obey a promise to others that costs in blood, sweat and tears.

The foretelling part makes it the opposite of an accident. True obedience shows we actually care about the dance team (horse or human) and just like God showed us through Jesus Christ, it truly happens from the top down.

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

Many times we think horses would be content in a nice dry stall in a barn. But in reality, most of the time they do better outside.

I was at a Ray Hunt clinic in Montana, and during our lunch break he was talking about how the wild horse herds had a higher live foal birth rate than their fancy cousins in Kentucky. Cameras monitoring these elite pregnant mares in stalls did not close the health gap between the two vastly different arrangements.

My own experience keeping dairy cows outside in Minnesota confirmed to me the more sterile environment outside. Before I kept dairy cows outside myself, I visited others who were doing it. They talked about how Minnesota has five months of free concrete (frozen ground), and if you bed the cows down on top of that, you do not end up with the mucky mess as in a barn. They emphasized windbreak protection, but only let them in barns during blizzard conditions (some winters that is 20 percent of the time).

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Winter can be the most sterile time of the year, because organisms and parasites that can cause problems either die off on the ground or in frozen manure. Barns can keep this from happening as well as put a damper on the toughening process that helps the individual develop resistance to health problems. Even humans do not get sick from being outside as much as being inside with many other humans (and germs). Cold wind and freezing rains are the most stressful for animals, so natural windbreak protection such as trees and hilly land are God’s way of protecting animals outside. We can provide protection with fences, big trailers or hay bales. I used a 24-foot enclosed stock trailer to put two newborn calves in during a freezing rain. I carried the calves in one at a time with each momma following me in, and I shut them in for the day. In Minnesota, I made windbreaks out of round bales stacked first one on end with top one on rounded side (I used electric poly lines to keep cows from eating them). When the straw pack behind the windbreak would get mushy in warmer weather, I would bed the dairy cows down on the north side of the bales where the ground was still frozen.  I did have an emergency sheltered area I could bring the cows to when we had blizzards, but I did not need it very often. A person can be creative and still reasonably efficient protecting against bitter weather. The Bible cautions us all about being slave to the lender, so let’s use our brain to keep us from having our hat in our hand in front of the banker as less often as possible.

Another problem with keeping animals inside is the boredom factor. Horses especially bore easy, and can develop habits such as cribbing (sucking air, and chewing on wood) or weaving back and forth with their body. They can get pretty depressed or irritated by not having the stimulus of the outdoors.

Stalls in barns suffice when animals are worked hard first with lots of stimulus. Otherwise the best use of a barn is to help preserve hay and have an emergency place to shelter weak animals.

It is funny how we can sometimes measure success by all the things we are dependent on. It makes sense that true success is measured by our dependence on the creator God. The God I am referring to is the one John the Baptist pointed to. Why am I impressed with this God? Because he is a God of action, a can-do God. He can stretch us and enable us to do impossible things. But we won’t do them hiding inside somewhere. My hat’s off to two of the best “get outside” (think outside the barn), pro-life personalities we have record of: John the Baptist, and George Washington. Most importantly, they took great pride in pointing us to the living, and active, down to earth God – Jesus Christ.

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

Last time, I wrote about four basic ways of keeping our horse’s attention, so we might have lighter, smoother communication. I talked about two polite, positive ways that complemented two tougher negative ways. I commented how we observed in real life that we begin to appreciate the polite communication more after comparing the discomfort of the negative communication.

The two polite ways of communication are the ones that we envision as being the normal ways of asking a horse to do certain things. They are body language and voice cues. Body language is the best way, unless a horse cannot feel or see us. Voice is the most polite when body language cannot be used, such as when our body is busy doing other things.

I have equated body language in the past with God in the flesh, Jesus Christ. To explain it in Missouri terms, “the show me way.” I explain to riders that the reason we bounce on a horse’s back is that we are not quite moving the way the horse is moving. When we become a horse so to speak, then we know how to move like a horse, and can therefore show a horse how to move. When we want a horse to run, we begin to run with our seat, waist and back on the horse’s back so that they can follow suit. The more the horse respects our asking, the more subtle we can be. We ask a horse to walk, trot, or stop through our seat also. When we are close to a horse while we are on the ground, or on his back, we can equate it with dancing. This is because horse and human are basically doing the same thing. When we are further away, we might resemble a traffic cop if we have the horse circling us. We can all imagine a traffic cop telling us to go, stop, or turn, and this is not much different to our body language on the ground.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

If we are moving sideways on the ground, we can look like a band director. This is because we are trying to conduct both ends of the horse in motion at the same time, just as a conductor seeks to synchronize his band. I like using the image of a waiter at a restaurant as they show us the way to our table also. These are all examples of body language we can all relate to.

Voice cues are the next polite way to ask a horse to respond. Most of the time we envision someone calling a horse to them or communicating to them from a distance. We are familiar with gee and haw for right and left, as well as many other words we can teach them. I like to think of voice cues as simple as possible, basically using sharp, staccato noises to get horses’ energy up, and soft easy noises for bringing their energy down. Usually people do the opposite. They will use soft, lullaby noises to ask a horse for more energy. For example “come on,”  or “let’s go.” They will use hard loud noises to ask a horse to stop, such as yelling out “whoa.” To bring a horse’s energy up, I use four basic sharp noises: a kissing sound that I call a bird sound, a clucking sound that resembles a squirrel, a hissing sound like a snake, or a spitting sound like a cat. These are all sharp, staccato noises that naturally get an animal’s attention. I will vary the noises and intensities so that they do not sound redundant, and turn into tick-tock clocks or sprinkler systems that become lullaby noises that put us all asleep instead. Even emergency vehicles have different noises that they use when they come to intersections so they can catch anybody napping. For bringing a horse’s energy down, use easy noises such as breathing out, breathing in, or sighing. All these voice sounds work in any language, and become clear heads-up cues for communication.

After we have given clear body language, and/or voice cues, we need to be prepared to back up our soft signals with some harder signals. This communication is delivered through our hands and feet. I have previously discussed what I call the “daddy language,” and explain it as hitting air before hitting horse. We move our hands and/or extension (like a stick) rhythmically toward the part of the horse we want to move. It warns that if a horse stays there to make contact, then it will run into something telling him he should have moved when he saw it coming. The warning time is important because it helps sensitize the horse to what happens before what else could happen happens. If we do not hit air first, we can actually begin to desensitize the horse. They can learn to toughen up and begin to ignore the signal in defense of the discomfort. It’s kind of like the suspense before what happens in a scary movie. The suspense actually makes more of an impact than what actually happens.

The most common way people are used to asking a horse to move is by kicking them with their feet. I have explained two polite ways before this, and also one clear warning method through our hands. The most polite way to use our feet is to start by applying pressure with our calves, then our heels, then go to rhythmic motion through our feet. We start our rhythmic motion slowly, and then build up speed and intensity until we get a response. I do not use spurs on horses in their first 30 hours of training, but can introduce them after the horse has gotten the basic idea of what is required of them. Rhythmic leg motion, followed up by spurs can take over the warnings and follow through of hands and stick through time.

As I stated in my prior column, the warnings and follow-through are the most important part of a good communication system with horses. It provides black and white, crystal clear consistency, and emulates God’s way of communicating to us through the Bible.

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