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:

The fifth commandment – “Honor thy Father and Mother” – directs horsemen to listen to and obey “experience.”

It is the only commandment with as promise of longer life. A 1,000-pound horse might convince us to heed this more than, say, a seven-pound Chihuahua. Experience that can help us keep the right side up includes the history of those who have gone before, our elders and other clear-thinking people. Our humility and motivation helps us tap into these sources. Then, hopefully, we listen to our own experiences as well.

If we valued experience from a scientific standpoint, we might ask, “why should we reinvent the wheel?” From a historic viewpoint, the Bible helps us learn from thousands of years of human experience. God whispers to us and sometimes shouts to us here. It is the most abundant, reliable, reputable, long-standing record we have.

Since we are conditioned to think new is better (which may have something to do with cell phones, and computers becoming outdated at the blink of an eye), we might have trouble learning from history. Evolutionary thought can tip us toward a “holier than thou” mindset because it has our ancestors dragging clubs and grunting, rather than reasoning intelligently.

Mike Daniels

Mike Daniels

Some people might think that the way many of us train horses now is new, but it is in fact thousands of years old. A couple of my mother’s favorite quotes were George Santayana’s “he who does not know history is doomed to repeat it,” and John Donne’s “no man is an island.”

I have never seen anyone who became top notch with horses who learned on their own. My own experience proved to me that I always learned faster riding on the experience of others. It may be obvious we can learn from our elders (what to do, as well as what not to do), but do we recognize the fact that we can learn from anyone?

We can observe in life that no one has the exact same experience or abilities. I believe that God has built blind spots into each of us, some of which can be found by growing closer to God through the Bible and prayer.

But I believe that God reserves some blind spots for us that can only be found by people we rub shoulders with, in order to help us exercise humility!  Not only does humility get us to heaven (the most humble stance before God is 100-percent Christ and nothing me), it also puts us on an even keel with everyone else (Ephesians 2: 8-9). The real test of godliness is whether we will listen to suggestions from clear-thinking people around us. It is tragic when we choose to be stupid, deciding not to hold back our natural pride and defensive nature and therefore cloud our minds (especially if we know Christ).

The first horse clinic I attended with Monte Foreman in 1975 instilled in me the importance of learning from others. I noticed people who were obeying the voice of experience and practicing diligently. I observed others who I found were regular attendees, but seemed to be there mostly for social reasons. I saw that pride and laziness together landed a rider in a mud puddle (God had reprimanded her, but was merciful with a soft landing).

Our natural tendency to be lazy points us to the importance of motivation. Much of the time, education is touted as a cure-all, but motivation proves to be the more important factor. Our take-for-granted complacency can cause us to sleep through others’ experience that is meant to fast-forward our experience. We horse people can make excuses like everyone else, but the question is whether we will put forth the effort to develop our experience from others.

That dirty word “obedience,” that we seem to think is going to make us a prisoner, actually does the opposite. If you think about it, it helps us develop skill and self-control better than anything else.

With regard to our own experience, do we learn? I had a neighbor in Minnesota who just bought a cute little paint filly. He was parading it up and down the gravel road kissing, and hugging it.

A couple of weeks later I asked him how the filly was doing. He said, “one day I hugged her like usual, and scooted a pail of grain under her nose, and she turned around and kicked me.” He then reasoned that innocent little darling surely didn’t mean it, so the next day he did the same thing, and she turned around and kicked him again. We know that one definition of insanity is to keep making the same mistake and expect different results (I call it the casino mentality).  But we have also heard, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.”

To summarize, the honor father and mother commandment flip-flops society’s emphasis on new and young and takes its hat off to “obeying experience instead.” It’s the closest thing we know to a fountain of youth this side of heaven!

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