In times past, especially in the classical old west, one prominent tendency in training horses was to “break” the horse so that it can be ridden and work for the cowboy. To “break” the horse was to declare the cowboy the master and the horse the servant and make the animal do something it didn’t want to do. Someone discovered a new, cooperative, relationship-driven method that creates a partnership between horse and rider. I know several who do. Among them, pictured below, are David Davis (Horse Trainer/Minister at Davis Ranch), Melissa Ashcraft (owner, Transitions Equestrian Center), and Kelli Paulson Crist (co-author, Working Equitation Handbook).
They prefer to develop a relationship with the horse based on trust. Remember, the horse considers itself the prey and the horseman a potential predator. Therefore, it is incumbent on the trainer to help the horse realize that he/she is NOT a predator, but one in whom the horse can place its confidence that no harm will come as a fault of or caused by the trainer.
We have a similar paradigm in our relationship with the God of the universe. Although He can command storms, build up and put down kingdoms, and even take a life, His desire is to have a relationship with me whereby I can call Him Abba and mean it, and have confidence in His plan for me. Yes, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:31, KJV).” However, I have nothing to fear when I learn, deep in my heart, that “He is my refuge (Ps 91:2, KJV).” He wants to “[lead] me beside quiet waters (Ps 23: 2, NIV).” Also, He wants me to know Him so well He can “guide me with [His] eye (Ps 32:8, KJV).”
What an example God is to us to whom He has granted dominion over the earth and the animals! When the trainer has endeared the horse to his/her ways and methods, the horse will respond to the slightest prompts—a flex of the knee, a shift in the saddle—even to the winning of a race, hunt or dressage. I think something like this may have been what God meant when He said take dominion. The one who has real dominion is not a tyrant, but a relationship builder with the animal.