Whether we equestrians want to admit it or not the horse world can be a little… “clique-ey”. We tend to group ourselves by our style and discipline of riding, or what breed we’re partial to, or what training methods we use, and can become a little judgey of those not in our groups.
One area that tends to draw a line is natural horsemanship and those into it or not into it. I’ll confess there was a time when I used to give it a bit of an eye roll and would scoff completely at Parelli Natural Horsemanship. I looked at what little I saw of Parelli’s program and thought: “I’m not really interested in learning equine circus tricks I’d like to learn real riding thanks.”
But one day later in my life after my equestrian snobbery phase was over I caught some of a Parelli show on RFDTV where Linda Parelli did a demonstration of their horsenality concepts. My mind was blown and I was so fascinated by the concept’s easy categorizing of a horse’s personality, and how much you could predict their behavior based off it. Further, how much once you became familiar with each horsenalities traits how much you could influence any horse’s behavior based solely on the characteristics and needs of their horsenality.
I watched her on the show have 4 horses (all different horsenalities) turned loose into an indoor coliseum style arena. And then based on the behaviors observed of those horses in about 5 minutes, identified and explained how each revealed a different horsenality. What was amazing to me was how much knowing that horsenality revealed about what they respond to, what they dislike, what they might excel at more naturally, and how to approach training issues with them.
Here’s a horsenality profile example:
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So on this profile chart you’d determine whether introvert or extrovert, and then right brain or left brain tendency by checking off the corresponding boxes of your horse’s behavior on the chart. Then by looking at where the most check marks lie you can assign them a “horsenality” type.
You can see here below how then you can begin to use that horsenality to determine what your horse may need from you in your relationship.
So for example, my horse Apache is a left brained introvert. He’s sensitive and spooky, tends to get tense and can’t be rushed. When jumping or schooling cross country back in my pony club days he’d be doing great and you’d push him juust a bit and he’d totally shut down. He’d go from jumping everything in the ring to not being able to force him within 6 feet of a pole on the ground..literally, in the same lesson. Knowing his horsenality I could have immediately recognized that he’d been pushed over a threshold and needed a complete relief of pressure along with slow gentle communication when he was ready in order to regain trust, don’t even waste your time with any other approach. Trust me they didn’t work.
The left brain introvert is also often the type of horse that people say something like “I don’t know what happened he was fine and then suddenly exploded out of nowhere” if you knew your horse tends to be a left brain introvert you could be aware and looking for the subtle signs that he’s really not ok but becoming more and more stressed and fearful.
I can’t find the video I mentioned , it was awhile ago, but here’s one of Linda talking about horsenality.
I don’t use the Parelli system 100%, from what I have used of it I think it’s a great program. As horsemen I think our responsibility is to evaluate everything from the perspective of the horse. And from the horse we could all learn not to be so judgmental of our differences and to learn from each other more instead, no matter our style of riding.