“Horses have as much individuality and character as people. ” ~ C.W. Anderson (1891 – 1971)
Type “horse personality” into Google search and you’ll get 24,700,000 results (in 0.30 seconds). There’s Parelli’s ‘Horsenality’ where you define your horse as introverted, extroverted, left brained or right brained. There are websites that have tests you can take to determine your horse’s personality type.
Of course, horses are as individual as we are. Shy, friendly, brave, confident, willing, anxious. All these terms can be used to describe horses and humans. But, while it’s important to understand your horse’s personality, it’s just as important not to put a label on your horse or fit him into a neat little box.
Labels limit our thinking and perception. For example, if you believe your horse won’t do a particular movement or go where you want him to go because he is ‘stubborn’, you won’t look for any other cause for his behaviour. Instead of understanding that maybe he won’t or can’t do what you are asking because there is something getting in the way, you use more force to get your way.
But, what if:
- there’s a physical problem that makes it uncomfortable or painful for your horse to do that movement;
- he won’t go where you want him to go because you are not asking him in appropriate way or you have set inconsistent (or non existent) boundaries;
- he won’t go in that corner of the arena or that part of the trail because there is something he hears or sees that you don’t. Or maybe he feels the tension or hesitation in your body because you’re not 100% comfortable with going there either.
If you put your horse in a personality box, you won’t look for any other explanation for his behaviour beyond “that’s just the way he is”. Just like us, horses can be brave in one situation and fearful in another. That pushy horse may simply be insecure.
Watch horses in a herd and you’ll see how they simply accept each other as they are in the moment. When the overambitious youngster challenges an older horse, it is dealt with in the moment. Once he shows signs of submission, the situation is over. The herd doesn’t label him as a ‘trouble maker’.
As you peel the labels off your horse, do the same for yourself. We carry labels, too. Some placed by others and some we put there ourselves. Labels like ‘not good enough’; ‘victim’; ‘nice’; ‘helper’; ‘clown’; ‘party girl’; ‘over sensitive’; fill n the blank ‘ ‘. If a label is boxing you in, it’s within your power to peel it off.
Today, give yourself and your horse a fresh start. Peel away the labels. Notice in each moment how your horse feels and how you feel. If he is not behaving in the way you would like him to, get curious and ask ‘why’.
Look for another reason other than ‘that’s just the way he is’. Look for another way to ask him. Let your thinking go free – outside of the limitations of labels.
Share your experience with labels (putting them on or taking them off) in the comments below.
Enjoy the journey.My book is now available! “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”. Click here to order.
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You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).
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Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship