Last week I posted about how sex or gender influences how horses interact with the world and you, as a rider or trainer. But that isn’t the only thing you need to be aware when handling these wonderful animals. Just like people, horses have very different and distinctive personalities. Some of these are easy to live with and others are quite challenging.
(I still haven’t quite caught up from being gone most of last month, so I am again reusing parts of an early post which ties in with last week’s.)
My first instructor in this area was my horse, Star, who I’ve talked about before. I became pretty successful in teaching her to do a lot of different things. Then her second son, Junior, came along and I discovered I needed a different set of tools to work with him. And this has been true with each horse I’ve dealt with.
You can classify horses as having four basic personalities. They can be Extroverts or Introverts. They also can be Thinkers or Reactors (emotional). This means you can have an extroverted-thinker, an extroverted-reactor, an introverted-thinker and an introverted-reactor. Then you add their gender and their experience into the equation and you have a complicated being that requires some thought to train effectively. Each personality type has its pluses and minuses and is good for different things and different riders.
Star was an extroverted-thinker. She was friendly, self-confident, rarely afraid of anything and willing to try whatever I asked her. She was also strong-willed and could be difficult. Horses are prey animals and, as such, are basically “scaredy cats.” In the wild they stay alive by being hyper-aware of their environment and ready to run on an instant. Domestication hasn’t done away with that basic instinct. A horse whose emotions dominate sees threats everywhere and can react without thinking. My Portia was a prime example. When I first got her, she would whirl and try to bolt at the slightest provocation. Typical extroverted-reactor.
Star, on the other hand, rarely reacted to anything. Her version of a spook was to stop, study the offending object for a minute and then go up and sniff it. She had grown up along a railroad track and had experienced earth moving equipment moving around her space, so she learned early that loud noises and big things weren’t usually dangerous. Given her basic self-confidence, she extended this attitude to the rest of her world. You could surprise her, of course. She wasn’t bothered by the fire engine racing down the street, but nearly jumped onto our neighbor’s porch when it suddenly blasted its siren right alongside her. Scared the dickens out of me too!
Because of her personality, Star was easy to teach, once we started communicating properly. She enjoyed learning, experiencing new things and exploring new trails. Portia liked to learn too but got upset easily, which shut down her brain. On the other hand, Glory, an introverted-reactor, is harder to teach because she’s afraid to try new things. And my husband’s horse, Koko, an introverted- thinker, could be down right stubborn about trying anything new. So I have had to adjust my methods for each personality.
Being aware of these personalities also helps you when you pick out a horse to own or work with. Some people do better with one type, and others do better with a quite different one. Since I’m more of an introverted-thinker, dealing with a horse of the same style would drive me bonkers in the long run. We’d probably both fall asleep. I do much better with the reactors who need to be calmed down. This wouldn’t be true of someone who had an emotional nature. They would be better at energizing a thinker.
What personality type are you? What types do you like best?
.photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/pictureclara/4888162686/”>Clara S.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a> photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/abejorro34/4125411682/”>abejorro34</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a>