Horsenality – what is it?

Horsenality is a term coined by the Parelli Team – Pat & Linda Parelli, and basically means the different personalities of horses.

Whilst the traits identified always existed, and the fathers of horsemanship knew them and worked with them, the Parelli marketing department packaged them up, promoted the 4 groupings and really made it easy to understand for the average horse person. Thank you Parelli.

The 4 horse types

It is very beneficial for us to know which horsenality our horses inherently fall into so we know how to treat them in any given situation.

The horsenalities have been neatly broken up into 4 quadrants with various traits allocated to each type as shown in the image below:

Horsenality Quadrants

Your horse may show some traits from each quadrant, either all the time or just sometimes. Often though there will be quite a few more in just one area.

Some horses will be very clearly in one quadrant and very rarely if ever show any of the other traits.

And just to confuse the matter some more some horses are naturally in one quadrant but due to learned behaviour they may appear to fit neatly into a completely different quadrant.

Let me explain a little more.

  • Extroverts: Usually have high energy and need to move their feet, they can appear flighty and nervous
  • Introverts: Don’t move their feet much, they can appear lazy or disinterested
  • Right Brain: Are fearful horses, they are mostly worried about their safety and get tense easily
  • Left Brain: Are dominant horses, they are usually quite confident and can appear pushy

 

Right-Brain Extrovert (RBE)RBE

What can you expect from this type of horse
My Bill is a right brained extrovert.
The Cons: High headed, flighty, prone to shy/spook, more likely to rear, they have difficulty standing still
What to keep in mind with a RBE

Your aim with these horses is to keep them relaxed and you do this with repetitions and breaking things down into simple tasks. By doing this you make him a winner, he doesn’t become confused and therefore afraid and can think through the tasks so that he succeeds.

By keeping things routine you can keep a calm horse that is using the “thinking left side” of his brain and can therefore learn.

If he becomes tense and he will need to move his feet, and that’s OK you need to allow him to do that. If you try to bottle up the energy by holding tight on the reins or trying to keep him still on the ground he will explode.

What you do need is to control that movement so it doesn’t end up in bolting or flight through sheer panic. You do this by breaking the pattern using changes of direction, circles (very small ones if necessary), spiraling in works well, changes of gait usually downwards eg. trot to walk for a few strides, back up to trot and quickly back to walk. You get the idea.

What you don’t want when your RBE starts to get frightened is long straight lines. These just tend to increase the energy and speed and that’s not helpful to anyone.

Thresholds come into play with these horses. You need to work within his threshold initially to reaffirm his confidence, then you can gently push him past that threshold and create a new one.

You need to stay relaxed and calm. These horses are sensitive and will feed off any insecurities you may have. If you can stay even in your emotions you will provide the strong leadership he is looking for.

These horses don’t want to be the leader, they want you to hold their hand and guide them to they can be confident in you and their surroundings.

Right-Brained Introvert (RBI)RBI

What can you expect from this type of horse
The Cons: Unpredictable, tendency to shut down under pressure and then explode, timid, more prone to kick

What to keep in mind with a RBI
These guys can appear quite shy at first and you may wonder if your companion is more turtle than horse as they withdraw into themselves.

The only way to win the trust of these horses and get them to open up to you is to go very slowly, no I mean VERY SLOOOOWLY. You will become the master at waiting if you have one of these guys.

The process is:

  • Ask your horse softly and gently, just because he doesn’t react immediately doesn’t mean he didn’t hear you or understand. You should not escalate up the phases too quickly, if you do this quickly or abruptly your horse may explode, and he will definitely lose confidence in himself and you.He has seen your request but he may not be able to respond immediately if he is fearful or does not trust you yet,
  • Then you must wait. You are waiting for the slightest move in the right direction or for a question from your horse as he seeks further direction or clarification as to what you asked.

You main aim should be to grow this horses confidence, and you can do this by being consistent in what you ask and how you ask it. Remember ask and wait, and when you think you have waited long enough, wait some more.

Simple things done well, with minimal pressure but with lots of repetition and you will have a horse that starts to offer you more, instead of withdrawing into himself.

Left-Brained Extrovert (LBE)LBE

What can you expect from this type of horse

The Cons: Naughty, dominant, tendency to bite or be mouthy, more prone to buck, probably considered the class clown.

What to keep in mind with a LBE

These horses are easily bored and have a tendency to do naughty things if their brains are not fully engaged. They love to learn and you need to provide them with adequate stimulation with lots of variety.

If you are too repetitious with these horses they will walk all over you as they leave you in their dust. Slow and steady will bore these guys to tears.

Likewise while punishment in any form is never acceptable when training horses, if you try it on with these guys they may become aggressive and retaliate. It is not worth starting an argument with a LBE, make your idea seem like his idea he will try even harder for you.

They don’t think they are being naughty, they are just being playful and having fun and you need to be clever enough to direct it appropriately. If you succeed in shutting down these horses they will withdraw into themselves

You need to teach them new things regularly. When you start out with either groundwork or ridden I have followed this process quite successfully with my LBE:

  • Introduce/teach Idea 1 and then practice this each day for three days
  • On the 4th day you introduce/teach Idea 2 and practice both Idea 1 and 2 for 3 days
  • On day 7 you drop out Idea 1 and introduce Idea 3 and practice both Idea 2 and 3 for the next three days
  • And so on as you introduce new tasks, exercise, ideas constantly.

These are smart cookies, and once he has got the basics of an exercise you need to move on before they get bored and mischievous. You can return to the task in small burst again and again to perfect it over time.

Training sessions will need to be playful, interactive and imaginative if you expect to keep your horses attention and enthusiasm. A bored LBE will quickly become dominant and pushy, and speaking from experience they can be quite handful – some people would call it cheeky behaviour, others would call it naughty.

These horses also thrive on being rewarded, they love to show off and receive praise for a job well done. Lots of laughter, rubs and rewards and you will have a horse that falls all over himself to please you.

Left-Brained Introvert (LBI)LBI

What can you expect from this type of horse

The Cons: Argumentative, lazy, stubborn, food motivated, tendency to buck/charge.

What to keep in mind with a LBE

Here’s your chance to practice reverse psychology. You need to give this horse a very good reason to try for you. What’s in it for me is his favourite response and you need to have an answer to his question. Sometimes it will be treats, but not always.

These horses can come across as lazy, but there’s nothing wrong with their minds they just need a reason to get enthusiastic.

There is a big difference between bribery and reward/incentive. Bribery is given before the horse offers you anything and is quite pointless with a LBI. They will take your carrot and then offer you nothing. But a treat give after he has offered even the slightest try to you will prove to him that there is a reason to get motivated.
The other very effective technique with these horses is to ask for less than what he is currently offering. So if he offers a slow trot, bring him back to a walk and then reward him for doing as you asked. You would be amazed at just how much more he starts offering.

If you keep pushing and asking for more and faster just because he offered something then he will think it’s all just too much hard work and resort back to offering nothing at all, or worse still he will object by kicking and tail swishing accompanied by ears laid flat back.

If this happens you will be the one doing all the work and getting exhausted and making your horse very grumpy.

You do need to wait with the LBI as well. It’s not that he doesn’t have a quick mind, he just needs to get past the resistant thoughts which immediately come to his mind before he can consider doing as you asked. If you can get his mind engaged in the task he will move his feet.

A very big no no with these horses is to punish them. They do not take kindly to being pushed around and can very quickly become intimidating with extreme behaviours such as charging and biting.

LBI can often approach with a snarly face and ears back, especially when feed is on offer. One very effective method to combat this behaviour is to send the horse off quickly and early until he asks nicely to come closer and with a change of attitude.

Don’t be fooled into thinking your horse is lazy, these guys are actually quite smart and don’t like to be micro-managed. They will lose motivation very quickly if you are not interesting and fun and if you don’t have an answer to “What’s in it for me?”.

My horse is a ……

It is very beneficial to know a little about each of the 4 types because your horse may display some traits in all 4 quadrants at various times, and you may need to treat him a little differently depending on where he is at in any given moment.

As you can see if you are super energetic and keep changing things around on a Right Brain Extrovert, you will blow his mind. But if you do the same thing with a Left Brain Extrovert he will think you are the most entertaining person he’s ever come across and give you the world.

Don’t fight against your horses natural personality, learn which Horsenality he falls into and work with it. You will get more from your horse, progress much quicker and have a happier horse to boot.

So from the above information can you work out which Horsenality your horse falls into? If you would like to delve into this topic a little more check out the Parelli website.

If you would like to share your companions Horsenality and some traits you see in your horse please comment below, and as always if you have any questions pop them below also, we would love to help you out.

 

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Heidi

Horses are my passion. And while not everything in horses is black and white, and there are many choices you will need to make for your horse, I hope to explain things in a way that helps you make informed decisions, so you can provide the very best life to your horse.

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