Horses and Heroines

What I’m reading: The Girl in The Box by Janet Miller – Futuristic tale about true love – what else?

In my last blog three weeks ago I talked about different horse personalities, particularly the Extrovert Thinker as typified by my horse Star and how this type relates to Alpha Heroes. Today, I’d like to discuss the Extrovert Reactor and the smart-ass, quirky heroine.

First, a quick note. These personality types are on a continuum, of course. Some are more extroverted than others, some are less reactive. Some can change—become less introverted or more of a thinker. But their basic type remains and influences their actions.

Portia at 29

My mare Portia, a grey Anglo-Arab (half Thoroughbred and half Arabian), is a typical Extrovert Reactor. She’s very sensitive to stimuli and hyper-aware of her environment. Even at age twenty-nine and retired, she can be challenging and needs an experienced handler. Not that she’d ever deliberately hurt someone, she just tends to react first and think later.

She’s also a horse that really enjoys life. She loves to play and will try her best to please. She’s the one who yells a greeting when she sees me and comes running up to the gate eager for a treat or an outing. In the show ring or a parade, when she “turned on” all eyes were on her. She also used to fly down a new trail with her incredible walk, eager to see what was around the next corner. Even though she can be a pain in the butt, her exuberance is a lot of fun.

When I first got her as a seven year-old, she was ready to spin and bolt at the slightest provocation—a rock that looked funny, a horse scratching it’s ear with a hind leg, a COW on the trail! She soon learned bolting wasn’t acceptable behavior so she tried others. Like teleporting half way across the arena or jittering in place or jumping straight up. I eventually discovered that part of the reason for her reactivity was because she was in pain. She needed chiropractic care (just starting with horses at that time and not widely accepted) and a correctly fitted saddle (which proved to be almost impossible to find). Once those problems were solved, she settled down a lot.

But she still retained her quirky personality. One time we hung a bright pink piñata in a tree near the pasture and she and my daughter’s horse decided that it was a decidedly SCARY thing. They came up close to the fence, took a look, then snorted and high-tailed it back to the barn. Duchess stayed there, but Portia couldn’t resist. She’d dance back up to the fence and watch big-eyed as one of kids swung at the colorful unicorn. Then she’d take off for the other end. A few minutes later, she was back, waiting to be “scared” again. I swear she was disappointed when the thing finally broke and everyone went away.

Her playfulness and sensitivity made her a delight to train. She was eager to learn new things and would try her hardest to do what I asked. Of course, this meant I had to be quite careful  with my corrections so I wouldn’t discourage her. In general, she’s always required a very light hand. As a result, I got a horse responsive to the slightest cue and that just about read my mind.

Riding her was never dull. As I mentioned, she is a sweet love and would never deliberately hurt anyone. But she could be a handful. She saved my bacon a few times—even if she caused the problem in the first place.

One time we were exploring in the mountains and I twisted around in the saddle to get a map out of the saddlebag behind me. Just then a pair of fawns exploded across the trail, directly in front of us. Portia spun aside–out from under me because of the way I was turned. I ended up hanging off her, one hand somehow on her bridle, one hand on the breast collar, one foot still in a stirrup under her belly and the other still in the stirrup on top of her back. Because of how far down I was and the fact the saddle was slipping, I couldn’t get back up. Another horse might have freaked and tried to get rid of me, but Portia stood perfectly still and waited for me to work myself loose of the stirrups and drop to the ground. I really couldn’t blame her for dodging  the fawns and I certainly appreciated her being sensible.

She reminds me of the funny, smart-aleck heroines who react without thinking things through. They may get into trouble for their impulsiveness, but they care about people and manage to come out okay. I can think of several. How about you?

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6 thoughts on “Horses and Heroines

  1. What a fun analogy between your horses and your characters. I loved the story about your horse dodging the deer then standing still so you could get back in the saddle. You have a lovely way of telling a story.
    Patti

  2. Glad you enjoyed it Patti. I’ve had a lot of fun with my girls.
    Good luck with your blog tour.

  3. Julie Robinson

    Your examples showing character in horses is a delightful comparison and makes for some great stories. I’ve subscribed to your blog so as not to miss out and will have to go back and read your others. I’m also going to have to share your link with one of my dearest friends, who loves all things horses.

  4. Thanks so much. Glad you enjoyed my stories. Please do share my link.

  5. Loved your example. We had a half-Arab (actually he was 7/8, but you know how they’re registered), who lived to 36 and was a delight to own. About the only gait he had that was a pleasure to ride was the extended trot. Getting him to walk, especially when we first left the barn was impossible. He was so eager to be out, he simply couldn’t resist a bounce to his gait. Forget the head down slow trot. He wanted to see where he was going, who was watching him. He was just plain fun to be around.

  6. Sounds familiar and fun. Portia has never “heard” of a jog trot, but with her long TB legs and loose Arab stride she didn’t need one. When she was in exploring mode, she had a 6 mph walk. And believe me that can get tiring after a few hours. In a group she was always in the lead because of her stride. Most horses had to jog to keep up with her “stroll.”

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