billyandhorsenalityjust what exactly IS horsenality?  some think it’s an excuse to not teach their horse different things.  some use horsenality as an excuse for their horse’s behavior. a quick overview is:

  • Left Brain Extrovert= dominant, pushy, tolerant, unconcerned, confident and curious.  this kind of horse likes to put EVERYTHING in his mouth.  he likes to move, has higher energy, more “go”, is quick and has a tendency to run, but for joy and not in fear.
  • Right Brain Extrovert= fearful/nervous, defensive, reactive, emotional, unconfident and spooky.  he will also have high energy, more “go”, be quick and have a tendency to run, but it will be more of a fear based, “get me out of here!”  kind of running.
  • Left Brain Introvert= dominant, pushy, tolerant, unconcerned, confident and curious.  this horse is a thinker.  he is always thinking and his brain is very quick.  but his feet are slow.  he will have lower energy, more “whoa”, and a tendency to stop.  he will use his “sticky” feet against you and LOVES to watch you work harder than he is.  this is the horse that when teaching the circling game, the human is running around in the circle while the horse merely walks slowly.
  • Right Brain Introvert= fearful/nervous, defensive, reactive, emotional, unconfident and spooky.  this horse often fools people into thinking he has accepted a situation only to “suddenly” blow and blow up violently.  one must NEVER push him.  in the picture above you can see how unconfident billy is when he is feeling RBI.  if i were to push him to move when he looks like this he would blow and try to escape.  if i simply wait for him to blow out, lick and chew, lower his head (or raise it depending on what position his head was in when he went introverted) shake his body, blink and move his ears, then he is ready to move on.  he will have lower energy, more “whoa”, and a tendency to stop.

horsenality was originally set up as a way for us to get a more in depth understanding of our horse.  it was never intended as an excuse for anything.  nor was it set up so that you can neatly put your horse in a box and keep them there.  of course one should never put a horse (or a human) in a box.  it’s unfair and will only cause distress for both you and your horse.

i made the above collage to show how one horse can show EVERY SINGLE HORSENALITY.  sometimes all in one session.  billy can bounce around so quickly, i’m often left behind holding the rope.  when that happens it’s important to STOP.  breathe.  think.  let your horse think and breathe and have a quiet moment as well.

they way i use horsenality is as a puzzle solver.  as i’m playing i watch billy for different reactions.   i pay attention to his body language, his ears, his breathing, how high is he holding his head.  all these things tell me what he is thinking and/or feeling about what we are doing.  if i know what to do when he is feeling more LBE (left brain extrovert) then i know that he needs me to be very playful!  run!  jump!  touch things!  move quickly from one thing to the next to keep his attention and focus on what we are doing.  on the flip side if i see that he is feeling LBI (left brain introvert) then i know that i need to motivate him.  show him what is in this for him.  usually that means slowing down the session and adding cookies, or maybe some hand grazing.  sometimes this means some nice long grooming, lots of scratching and many breaks.  if i try to push billy when he is LBI then i get the ugly face shown above… sometimes he will show me that face when HE thinks he has earned a cookie, but i do not think he has earned one.  he was showing me the ugly face above because he was trying to force me into giving him a cookie.

of course he didn’t get one until he looked like this:

then we mostly phased cookies out because he was too busy thinking about cookies and not about the session.  so now he gets a good, long scratch when he does something really super awesome.

the ultimate goal is to have our horse be in the center of the horsenality chart.  we are aiming for a well-rounded horse, who can calmly think things through and look to us as the leader when things get dicey.

will this always happen once you have proven to your horse that you are a good leader?  no.  a horse is a horse.  so sometimes he will think it’s time to take things into his own hands.

don’t let people tell you that if your horse loves and trusts you then it will ALWAYS be fine in every situation, as long as you are there.  sometimes that won’t be the case.  if that happens don’t take it personally.  just reach back into your quiver and pull out a couple of arrows to help you and your horse regain the rapport that you had before.  being a good leader for our horse is something that we have to prove every day, sometimes multiple times in a session.  that is the nature of the horse.

if you understand horsenality then when you are in a situation where your horse is acting differently than he does at home, you can take a quick breath and check him over.  which horsenality is he right now?  what does he need from you so he can balance and center himself?  how can you support him in this moment?  it’s your job as a leader to assist him in being the best he can be.  horsenality is there to help with that.

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