Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Allison Price
Is it possible to decode the personality of your horse and discover his unique traits? Linda Parelli, educator and clinician.
People are unique. Are horses capable of having “horsenalities?” Linda Parelli, a clinician and educator, says yes.
Linda and Pat Parelli
Pat, a pioneer of natural horsemanship has always been able to connect intuitively with the horse’s inner nature as part of “reading” it.
Linda, who underwent human personality theory studies in the 1980s with Glynn Braddy (Australian researcher), has now modified his personality model to be used with horses. This model is intended to help average horse owners gain a better understanding of their horses. It’s a shortcut to the intuitive connection experienced horsemen make.
Parelli Horsenality Model uses a chart to plot a horse’s unique characteristics. (See “How Does Your Horse Type Out” below). The completed chart can be used to determine if your horse is an introvert or extrovert. It also helps you understand if your horse is dominantly oriented or fearful.
These insights provide valuable insight into how to best approach, handle, train and bond with your horse.
Linda spoke to H&R recently from the Parelli Ranch in Pagosa Spring, Colorado to share more details about her pioneering work.
H&R What does it imply for a horse that they are introverted or extroverted or right-or left-brained.
LINDA Extroverted horses can be like extroverted individuals, active and energetic. Their feet move a lot. Horses that are introverted tend to have less energy and be more quiet by nature. Extroverts are more energetic and have more “go.” Introverts have greater “whoa.”
Left-brained horses are more confident and dominant than right-brained horses. Left-brained horses tend to be more assertive and spookier than right-brained horses.
The four main categories of horsenality can be described as follows:
- Right-brained extrovert (high energy/ high fear)
- Right-brained introvert (high energy/high fear)
- Left-brained introvert (high dominance/low power);
- Left-brained extrovert (high dominance/high energie).
This horsenality chart will help you choose the right horse.
LINDA Most people don’t realize how different horses are from one another, but we blame them for their behavior problems or vices. We’ll either say that he’s lazy or that she’s crazy. He’s stubborn, she’s unfocused, whatever.
The most important thing to remember is that every horsenality reacts differently to stress. A right-brained extrovert will panic and “go” whereas a left-brained introvert will be more calm. The opposite will happen to a left-brained introvert. They’ll be more stoic and obstinate. The chart shows some other differences. This information will help you to determine the best approach for your horse given his horsenality.
It’s amazing to see that those who are skilled with horses can adapt their approach to accommodate different horse types. They may not even realize it. They often find they are more comfortable with certain types of horses because they match their personality with the horse’s.
Our mission is to help horse owners get along with all types of horses. You can unlock the heart of any horse you come in contact with if you understand what makes it tick.
This is what the horses love so much. “She truly gets me!”
H&R: Aren’t we at risk of anthropomorphizing horses when considering their horsenalities. Aren’t our preconceptions or preferences projected onto horses?
LINDAYes or no. An anthropomorphic horse is one that people misunderstand the cause of the horse’s feelings. Your horse may be extremely nervous on trails. He might not walk, jig and jog, or want to run. It might be because your horse is competitive and wants to lead, but that’s a human explanation. Equine behavior is based upon a prey-animal rationale that is all about survival.
Extreme nervousness while on the trail is a classic right-brained extrovert behavior. It’s completely fear-based. Once you understand this, you will see that punishing the horse and holding him back are two of the most dangerous things you can do. Instead, calm down and reassure the horse. This is what the horsenality model can help you to understand. The more you know about horse behavior, the less anamorphic you will become.
H&R Could you tell us more about the differences between right-brained and left-brained horses.
LINDA Right-brained horses tend to be timid and are easy to get along with. They are naturally followers and seek out a leader. They will quickly follow you if they feel secure. Although they can be able to accept approach-and-retreat, they are often uncomfortable with the retreat part. Retreat, retreat, retreat is even better.
Think about how it feels to be timid and have someone push you into your space. You will feel more confident if the person who confronts you turns away and plays hard to get.
Owners learn how to use lots retreat when working with horses who have confidence problems. Instead of holding a horse with confidence issues tightly (which is the worst thing you could do), you give him space by giving him a long lead rope. The horse says, “I get it. You’re not going after me.”
Don’t force a right-brained horse to do something if he is afraid. Instead, give it away and the horse will say, “Hey! I want to look at this!” It is using reverse psychology.
Before you can teach a right-brained animal anything, you need to deal with their fear. If you want to train a fearful or anxious horse, you will need a stronger bit, perhaps a controlling noseband, and a martingale. You “manage” your horse around the arena with all this gear. Although you may believe that you are teaching him something, but the horse will not remember anything because fear will be blocking all of it.
Horses and humans both have difficulty learning when they are in defensive mode.
H&R The left-brained horse?
LINDA This horse is more confident and will challenge your leadership skills. A left-brained horse can learn very quickly if you provide leadership in the right manner. He is completely “present” and can get something in just a few repetitions. He’ll begin to think, “Ask me this one more time and one of us must die!” If you do 10-20 repetitions, however. It’s not me.
These horses are too slow to progress with us. We don’t give them enough work. The horse pushes us around (this is the left-brained extrovert), or refuses to do anything (the right-brained introvert).
If they are treated with kindness, left-brained horses may do well with professional trainers. However, if the trainer is too aggressive, it can lead to a major fight.
H&R How can I determine which horsenality type is best for me?
LINDA You need to learn how to read horses. You can see a horse in action, or a video of him. How he walks, his eyes, and how he moves are all indicators of horsenality. Sometimes, I can even see the difference in a photo. It’s something I have done for a while and am very proficient at.
Learn how to ride a horse, and then try it on many horses. Next, think about which type of horse might be best for you.
Unfortunately, most people tend to pick their poison. People are attracted to certain types of horses for the wrong reasons. Many end up enrolling in our horsenality program to avoid selling that horse. They need to learn how they can deal with the horse. It helps them become a better horseman and teaches them how to be the best for their horse.
If you are buying a horse for the first time, it is important to consider whether you prefer an extrovert or introvert type. You need to be an extrovert if you want one. You must also be mentally flexible, progressive, confident, or a learnaholic to achieve all of these qualities.
Because you will have chosen a challenge.
Extroverts may struggle to manage their own energy when working with an extrovert horse. To calm the horse, you must be present when it is needed. This is a common problem for many people. They follow the horse’s energy instead of guiding.
Do you prefer a left-brained horse or a right-brained one? You might be bullied or you will need to learn to overcome your fear and timidity.
A right-brained introvert could make a great reining or dressage horse. He is naturally loyal and seeks leadership. He enjoys consistency, routine and repetition.
Contrary to his left-brained introvert counterpart, he hates it all. He can easily get bored so if you don’t make it enjoyable for him, it will become more difficult. However, he is often a great trail runner.
In fact, we’ll be launching a horse/personality match system in the first half of next year. The system will include personality testing and identifying what you enjoy or dislike about horses. You will also be assessed on your confidence, athletic abilities, and age.
We hope that it will be a tremendous help to people. Our tagline is “Parelli is more than just riding.” People tend to focus too much on technique when horses require psychological support. True horsemanship is about understanding your horse at all times. You can’t look out of the window and take photos! This is not a train ride. It’s a live, breathing, and reacting animal, and it’s a prey animal!
A motorbike is the best option for those who don’t want all of that. If you are able to communicate with your horse and know how to handle it, you can have everything you need. Your horse will also enjoy the partnership.