Thursday, May 24, 2012

Horsenality at the Horse and Soul Parelli USA Tour 2012

Part One

I arrived late on Saturday at the Heart and Soul Parelli USA Tour 2012. Managing my pain is still a big part of my day and I can't even get started without getting it under control.  As much as I didn't want to be late, I had to take care of my  pain first or I wouldn't have been able to hear the Parellli message whatever it was.

That I saw there was no printed agenda so I can't tell you for sure what I missed but I suspect it was an introduction to the games Parelli is known for. I arrived at the end of some kind of demonstration.  Then each demo after began with a series of exercises that looked like what I have heard of the Parelli games.

Watching the horses and listening to  comments made during these presentations, the purpose seems to be getting inside the horse's head to get its mind on the handler so the horse is receptive to learning. While I don't know the games, I did recognize the skills the horses exhibited. Considering the pressure of that large crowd (I'd guess well over two thousand), the horses seemed well equipped to deal with the issues before them and were very receptive to their handlers/riders.

Shortly after I arrived there was some discussion on what the Parellis call horsenality. The phrase is coined from a combination of the words  horse and personality and  it describes four different personality types of horses. It is a basic premise in the Parelli version of natural horsemanship.

It's been my experience that horses, just like people, are all different and each behaves in a manner relative to it's innate makeup and its life experience. Both influences affect how each individual deals with our intrusion into their world. Understanding their reactions and motivations gives us tools to make decisions about how we're going to deal with them. If we understand what the horse needs, we're better equipped to help it achieve what we need. Everything I saw this weekend seems to support these beliefs.

To make this easier to understand the Parellis have broken these personality types into four basic sets: Extroverted, Introverted, Right Brain and Left Brain. Each of these has a list of characteristics.  Then the sets appear in combinations of Extroverted Right Brain, Introverted Right Brain, Extroverted Left Brain and Introverted Right Brain.  The Parellis believe understanding a horse's type gives one the tools to know what will work and what won't for each type. For specific information on horsenatiliy and the characteristics

I have to admit anything that is right or left already puts me at a disadvantage. I'm an inside, outside kind of gal when it comes to rein aids. To actually determine my right from my left I must look at my hands and picture which one would have my wedding ring, if I still could wear it, so I am lost with right and left brain anything. My horse would be running over the top of me while I was still trying to determine which side of the brain I was dealing with.

With that being said, I totally get that horses are each different. I also have seen plenty of proof that there are distinct "types" of horses.  I have lots of experience with horses I would describe as extroverts who are over achievers but I'm not really sure where they'd fit on the Parelli scale.   I know how to deal with them and what to expect and that's what counts.

Looking at Parelli's four types, I'm not really sure where any of my horses fit. There are overlaps between the descriptions and my herd but that makes sense to me.  Nothing is black and white and horses can be a little of this and a little of that. Linda Parelli did agree that overlaps do happen and that sometimes a horse will do something uncharacteristic  that could be linked to unknown history or numerous other things. What's important is knowing what is appropriate for each type so the horse has the best opportunity possible to do the right thing.

For me when it comes to horsenality, it would take more effort to learn the descriptions and how to use them than it is worth.   I already have a good feel for reading horses and I usually know what each needs to learn. At this point it's pretty instinctual for me and that's really the whole purpose of horsenality.

I see horsenality as a teaching tool. It's a logical place to start so people understand what might work best for his/her horse. Most beginners, and even some long time horse owners, don't really understand that each horse is different and  their different personalities mean different learning styles.

Labelling these types in a logical manner gives those who haven't known to look something to look for. Once the type of horse is identified, owners can determine the learning style of each horse.  These tools build awareness which translates to empowerment.

Linda Parelli used an example that made perfect sense. The only problem I had with it was the right and left brain part but to the best I can explain it without the "type" of horse she described, here goes. If you approach a reactive horse too abruptly, you're going to get an over reaction. If you approach a dull horse too softly, you'll get no reaction. If you're going to make progress with a horse it's important to understand which of these two horses you're approaching.

For me, I could picture someone moving quickly straight towards Andy's face. Poor boy would immediately be flying backwards and might even tip over......not good. Andy is not a nut case. He is just very sensitive. His heart is huge and he loves to please. I just know I must let him know I'm coming,  approach him slowly and speak softly to him. With reassurance he will try anything. Discipline, even for big things, can usually be done with my voice. Andy hates being yelled at.

Echo on the other hand probably wouldn't even notice someone approaching her quickly or yelling at her.  If her mind was on something else, it can take a small bomb blast to get her attention. Her heart is also huge and she loves to please. She just learns in a totally different style than Andy. Getting into her head takes a totally different approach than getting into Andy's.

Eventually both of those horses will be sold and odds are they will go to very different homes. The most important part of that will be finding someone who understands and appreciates the qualities of each individual and that has the skills to deal with them. Parelli's horsenality concept is designed to do just that.

Even if I did get lost in right and left, I fully appreciated many in the audience could identify what personality they were looking at in the ring.  Repeatedly over the weekend, the audience was asked to name the horsenality in front of them. The response was very much clear and concise. That has to be a good thing for horses.

To be continued..................

An Experience with Linda Parelli


  1. I have this same right-left thing too. Very helpful description of what horsenality is. It makes sense. Glad you are able to post again and get out and do some things.

    1. I think it's some kind of dyslexic thing and it sure made trying to track what they were doing tough because Linda Parelli always used those references. I understand that horsenality idea is her thing but not totally sure about that.

      I really had to push myself to attend and didn't now if I could even make both days. I did though but I have paid for it this week. Posting is about all I'm doing but at least I had some interesting horse stuff to focus on. That helps a lot.

  2. How refreshing to have someone admit they have a bit of trouble with the right/left thing! I understand introvert and extrovert... but can never, ever remember what the left/right brain attributes are!
    Thanks for the interesting look at this.

    1. I can't remember what the attributes are for the brain either. I guess there's not much chance of that when I can get left and right straight in the first place. I've never really gotten it straight for humans either.

      It's a good thing I don't need that to figure out what my horses are up to. I'd be in a world of hurt. The horse would be flying off down the road and I'd still be looking at my hand for my ring finger. LOL Timing would really suck.

  3. I think the "horsenality" thing is a little different, but I believe the premise is good, in that it makes you stop and look at each horse as an individual. I am not a fan of labeling , be it horses or people,and with horse and with people , we need to be able to "shift on the fly" so to speak,and change our approach to best suit the animals needs and the situation at hand. But if "defining" horsenality is helping to better focus the rider/handler on the individual well.. that does make some sense to me

    1. That's pretty much what I thought about. I have seen people letting horses walk right over the top of them thinking that's what's necessary if you want to have horses. I'm thinking tools like these might actually help those people figure out how to teach their horses proper boundaries.

      They did make it clear the four types are not cut in stone. There could be times a right brain introvert might mimic behaviors of another type etc. They pretty much left the door open to be watching the behaviors to decide the type of body language necessary to get through to the horses. I'll post about the particular horse used during this discussion.

  4. I'm with you - right and left brain stuff is too confusing. I have horses as you do that fit into categories of introvert/extrovert and we just have to be aware of how to work with them. Each horse needs something streamlined to their mindset on any given day. So the whole 'horsenality' catch phrase is a clever way to mystify horse personalities in my book anyway. My goal is to assess the horse you have and work with that horse that day. Glad you got out to do some horsey things but sorry you're paying for it now.

    1. I think the point was to demystify horse behavior so I may not have described it well enough. There were characteristics that went with each category and then ways to address those when teaching the horse. It was obvious most of the audience understood it much better than I but then it appeared that most of the audience was well acquainted with the whole Parelli concept.

      Comparing other natural horsemanship type clinics I have seen, it seemed to me this was giving people tools many seemed to understand instead of others I've seen not explaining some of what they're doing. Like anything, it could be misunderstood by someone assuming they got the message when they actually didn't but that can't be blamed on the clinician. I know I can explain something in explicit detail to Dave and he'll be nodding his head in agreement. Then he'll do something totally opposite of what I said. Good listening skills are important but Dave sure hasn't got 'em. LOL

  5. Yeah, I'm with FV. I think it's unhelpful to label your horse (even mentally) as a certain type with certain characteristics. Dixie really has done a 180 from when she was a 5 year old, and if I was still expecting her to react like she did then, we wouldn't understand each other so well.

    1. I didn't get the feel these were intended to be blanket labels. It was more a means to identify what might help a particular horse learn based on the horse's own behavior. If it's coming across like a box to shove a horse into, then I am not explaining it properly.

      Maturity can definitely help a horse and you have put a lot of work into helping Dixie find herself. That's very cool.

      I think the Parelli's intention is to help others do the same. As much as I didn't get the right brain, left brain thing, I did appreciate it was helping people who normally wouldn't know where to start find ground that was useful.