I train my horse using a mix of traditional and Parelli Natural Horsemanship techniques. The psychology behind PNH cannot be disproved. I personally think it is fantastic and has revolutionised the way I think about not just my horses but all horses. It has helped me enormously in my approach to each of my own horses and how to train them in ways that are suitable for each of them and don’t put any of them under difficult pressures which are different for each of them. I really feel it works.
I do not believe talking to your horses does anything. I think they understand voice tone but not actual words. An awful lot of people tell their horses off by shouting and using verbal commands. We are human, of course it is in our nature to behave that way. Do you ever see top riders in any discipline or any top PNH trainers talk/shout/be vocal to their horses? Of course not. Horses simply do not understand. Body language is the key.
Here are my 3 boys main horsenality charts:
DICE – Left-Brain Extrovert/Left-Brain Introvert
Primarily a LBE, Dice likes to be the boss. He is exuberant and bouncy and playful. He is smart and way too clever. His ‘dot’ falls on the cusp of LBI, so he has tendencies to lean towards some introvert behaviours. Things like being food focused and apparent laziness are classic of him. So as he is on the cusp, he mostly stays in LBE land and can throw some ‘naughty’ behaviours when he is feeling super fresh and excitable, a typical one is leaping up in the air, not even nessacerily rearing, just leaping off all 4 feet. However, if he is schooled too much which he hates and gets so bored, he goes very lazy and switches off – becoming dull and disinterested. This is really the only time I can think where he really dives down into LBI land. Maybe in a past life he has been drilled to much in the arena for flatwork. He has never thrown any LBE antics in the arena, even when he loves jumping and gets giddy. I was prepared for Dice as my pony before him was highly extroverted in both left and right quadrants. I really like this type of horsenality as he is so enthusiastic about thing he enjoys and is super playful and happy to see me! He gets bored really easily so I try to mix up what I do with him a lot. Hard to start with as he was so over the top extreme LBE, he is much more settled now and its just so much fun.
JAZZ – Right-Brain Introvert
Jazzy, squarely in the middle of the RBI quadrant. So in theory he is more straightforward than the other two as he will not switch his general patterns of behaviour. He is a new type of horse to me but it is brilliant for me to learn these things and already he has taught me how he likes to be dealt with. Softly, gently, patiently. He is almost the opposite of Dice, so the things I do with Dice, fast playtime, lots of fast work in the arena. Chopping and changing and getting him really thinking.. would terrify poor Jazzy. Jazz likes consistency. He lacks confidence and therefore when he is more knowing of what is going to happen by the laws of predictably he is more comfortable. I have to prove myself to him as a leader. He does not yet believe I will make good choices for the pair of us and keep him from being ‘eaten’, so he is distracted a lot of the time on the lookout for potential crocodiles hiding in the bushes but I put that down to age also. However, training wise, he is fairly easy as by repeating similar things over and over he picks it up quickly and is braver when the next new thing is asked. Little tiny steps at a time. I can already feel an improvement with him and I do genuinely feel calm and confident with him which hopefully makes him feel more secure. He is certainly introverted as he has a strong tendency to slow down naturally without asking. I feel on a large horse I prefer that. He is so gentle. Once his confidence increases, his education will improve and I think he will become a fantastic and willing horse.
Storm – Right-Brain Extrovert/Introvert
The very opposite to Dice. Storm is all right brain. He is fantastic and he is incredible and I think RB horses get a bit of a bad rap because they are less thinking more instinctive/reactive, they can come across a bit wild sometimes. However, Storm is the dream for me. He does everything I have asked him safely and with reasonable talent. I think is because he totally trusts me as his leader. Right Brain horses want and need a leader. Left Brain horses want to be the leader… until they aren’t. Then they are much more settled and less dominant. Anyway, Storm is quite a nervous pony, particularly to handle on the ground. He needs careful handling and he gets frightened easily by loud, unexpected noises around the yard. It has taken me a good year for me to gain his trust and now I think he looks out for me and when I come on the yard to his stable he always turns to see me with a happy face. Compared to Jazz you can tell he is more extroverted. He moves his feet much quicker, he tends to move full stop much more. He likes to be on the go and LOVES his cross country. He is exceptionally brave to ride and over fences. I think this is because his joy at moving quickly and being allowed to run overrides his nervous brain. He is extremely sensitive and offends very easily. If left out of control and discipline or with novice and nervous riders, these RBE horses tend to get dangerous because of their overriding instinct to run away. All horses can drift into the negatives of their quadrants with humans who can’t or won’t adapt to their needs or ‘humanize’ them by thinking, for example, they are stupid for spooking at plastic bag etc. But these types in particular can go wrong really quickly. Again, it is good timing – rewarding relaxation and the good behaviours and lots of patience. Luckily I feel I can do this with my little unicorn pony. One in a million.
Fun little pictures of what your aiming for,
Blue = RBI (Jazz) from unconfident, shy horse -> to confident, energetic and engaged horse
Red = RBE (St0rm) from crazy, out of control, panicked horse -> calm, willing horse.
Green = LBE (Dice) from naughty, bossy, resistant horse -> to receptive, responsive horse.
A little note on the fourth horsenality, Left -Brain Introvert. Most suitable for novice or nervous riders as they are slow, steady, usually non-spooky unconcerned horses. They can be sweet and calm horses who just want an easy, slow life. However, careful, these horses are often very dominant but not like a extrovert who may chase, kick, move quickly. They are dominant because they make the human work harder than they do. They often drag on a lead rope or pull to grass because a human (typically) shouting, flapping and smacking does not bother them, (try kneeing them in the chest or spanking their quarters instead 😉 that’ll surprise them). They often get one up on the human through this way. Invading space and demanding treats/food. Often we ‘humanise’ them and think it is ‘cute’ so encourage the behaviour but it is actually proving to the horse that they are number one.
All horses can show bad behaviours and good behaviours regardless of what quadrant they are in. The further out from the middle of the chart they are, the more extreme the behaviour. The goal is to get as balanced a horse as possible, so more in the centre of the chart. A more experienced rider would be ok with horses on the outer edges of the chart, a more novice rider would be better off with horses close to the middle.
As a general rule I would say that introverts are more suited to novices than extroverts but of course there are many exceptions to that. You’ve just got to pick your most suitable horse based on what you want to do competitively (or not!). How much time and effort you are willing to put in and what behaviours you feel you can cope with and what behaviours you can’t cope with.
Extroverts by nature will enjoy a more competitive faster pace of life and may not be suited to happy, safe hacking. Again, not a hard and fast rule but in general. Introverts tend to be much safer as they often stop when spooked, if they spook much at all – or run a short distance. They are more suited to a steadier pace of life, again, in general. There are always exceptions to the rule and a very experienced rider can bring out the competitive drive in introverts if they find what they enjoy which will be something that is different and exciting to them for LBI and perceived as safe to an RBI. Also they may settle extroverts right down so they are suitable as happy hackers without needing to trot everywhere.
Vert interesting and I could go on and on about it all day long. It is one of my favourite topics to discuss and I make it my business to know as much about this horsenality and equine psychology as possible. Then of course, apply it.