Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Straight: How to use it and not abuse it by Zeliha A. Thomas, Horse Trainer, Reiki - Master

"Mac" Always be straight with your horse...
How to use it and not abuse it
by Zeliha A. Thomas, Horse Trainer, Reiki - Master

There is a lot to do about the word straight related to horses.  I want to get into the differences and their meaning, and misconduct among a lot of people and especially the ones who have to do with horses.  The word straight has a lot of different meanings.  Most people who have had lessons with a trainer have heard at least once that they had to straighten their horse, which has to do with how a horse body is positioned, and is straight in his body, both sides of its body equally developed.  That is a meaning of straightness that is well known in the horse industry.  And every well-educated trainer will tell his pupil that as soon as they have learned to sit independently on a horse.  Of course, it is very important to be able to straighten your horse for multiple reasons.
But that is not the kind of straight I mean.  Then we have the straightening out.  What as much means that the horse needs to know its place, and that it is taught by the rider the hard way. Sometimes it is necessary to straighten a horse out, as you would do with children, that have crossed the line of the acceptable behavior because if you don’t you are definitely in trouble as your authority is questioned constantly afterwards.  And horse people know that these situations can occur at a certain stage when you have been around enough horses, there will come that one, that will challenge you and question your authority.  Apparently, it is my burden to come across the difficult ones in my life, and I was known to get on any horse no matter what, in my younger years.  What most of the people forgot, is that I mostly found out after I had ridden the horse, that it was a troublemaker, and that it had been naughty with other riders.  Which was maybe better because if I had known it upfront I probably would never got on them to begin with.
Lately there is a lot to do on the internet about training methods  and that is okay, because there are still people that try to train a horse by “kicking it in to them” and that is of course not the way to train a horse.  So in that way it is okay that people are very sensitive and alert on abusive behavior of people and in particular against horses.  But what I want to explain is the meaning of straight as in being honest.  A horse has the same values of honesty as a human. And although they cannot argue about things they will not forget or forgive a dishonest human, and they will get back to you.  I will give you an example.  A horse that I bought was a nearly 3yr old mare that was trained to be able to do all the reining maneuvers in a short while and not taken in review if that was not too much for her. At that time I was not aware of that.  So because I was not very experienced at that time in the sport of reining I started riding her in the beginning under the guidance of the person that had been training her.  She was an alpha mare, sensitive and fast. But also highly temperamental.  Not the typically beginners horse, or bomb proof.   But surely her boundaries were not respected, I discovered very soon.  One morning he walked in her stable, and the way he did that was with no respect for her personal space, as a stable is for a horse, but just barging in.  That was the limit for her, and the moment that he came to her side, she banged him against the wall of the stable.  That was the first time I realized that horses can have “human sense” as I call it.  This is the opposite of humans with horse sense.  She was very sensitive for the way you approached her, especially in the small area that was hers.  She always acted a bit sour as you approached her stable, very defensive.  But if you took the time to start talking to her the moment you approached her, she started to pay attention, and became very gentle.  A horse with an attitude for sure.  She knew exactly who she came after, it was the ones that did not respect her personal space, or her boundaries, the ones that weren’t straight with her.  But this same horse could cuddle a dog or a small child with such a softness and care that was incredible.
I know that there are probably to a lot of traditional trainers I sound like a softy and a “horse chick” but do not make that mistake, because although I am highly sensitive and an empath as a Reiki-master and able to communicate on a different level with animals and humans, that does not mean that I am weak. Does that mean that you are never able to correct horse behavior more firm than only with voice commands? I don’t think so. Because like humans, horses too can have an attitude.
But how can we correct behavior then without hurting the horse’s feelings?  By being straight as in honest. For example,  Gambler was a young stallion with all that young guys tend to do.  He was just being a brat.  Sweet and naughty at the same time.  Trying to see how far he could take me before I was really stepping up against him.  I always had a simple rule, for humans and also for horses.  As long as you do not have enough money earned to replace something you are certainly not allowed to destroy it.  So I taught my youngsters not to chew on their blankets, reins etc.  Gamble was the one that was testing me to the limit. So one day he was chewing his reins again, and I warned him.  He was walking behind me and I turned around and told him off and pulled the rein out of his mouth.  We continued our path to the stables and he was doing it again, so I repeated the same thing. I told him off again and pulled the rein out of his mouth.  A little while later he started again, and I turned around.  I started to shorten my reins so he was in reach of my hand.  I made a fist of my hand and with the flat side of my fist I bumped his nose.  Not like I would hit someone with all my power behind it, but controlled and just hard enough to impress him, so he knew that I was serious.  Several people watch me while I did that, and I could see their horror and disbelief on their faces about what I had done. 
But then when Gambler had stepped back and the reins were stretched to the max, I asked him to give me a kiss and not to do that anymore.  Gambler whose trust was never broken by me, and who knew that I had been straight to him, lowered his head and stepped towards me and softly pushed his nose against my cheek, making up for his bad behavior. I caressed him and we continued our path and he was so good after that, leaving the people who watched this speechless.
That is what I mean by being straight.  He knew, he had been bad, and that he had it coming, but he also knew that I was not dishonest with him, and straight afterwards we “kissed and made up”.  I instantly restored our relationship as companions.  Because although he was a horse and I was human, we had a companionship where we had to be able to count on one another and to trust each other.  Him being a horse made that no different.  So in my opinion it is all about using your power and not abusing it.

Zeliha A. Thomas
Reiki – Master

 Read Zeliha’s Riding & Writing Interview here!

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