The introverted horse, or as I like to call him, Whiskey, my wilting flower. His horsenality tends to lean towards the attributes of a right-brained introvert. This horse has been a tremendous challenge for me and to that, I thank him because I have learned and am learning so much more all of the time.
So, let's take a moment to talk about an introverted horse and in particular, the right-brained (reactionary, thinking like a prey animal) introverted horse. This horse tends to be quiet and obedient, they freeze then explode, and they act shy and timid, are truly unpredictable, kick out of fear or frustration, are very emotional, and unfortunately also can go catatonic. They have a tendency to stop, have more whoa than go, they are defensive, spooky, and unconfident. I have seen all of this in Whiskey and have even been told he should be euthanized because of it (no way, he is a great horse). The goal of course is to help him become more left-brained (logical and thinking). The left-brained introvert is clever, responsive, argumentative, food oriented, stubborn, but confident, curious, tolerant and unconcerned. Isn't this interesting because I have seen all of this in him too.
So, after yesterday's fun, I started thinking about the times I have had fun and success with Whiskey in an attempt to further plan and move forward not only in our relationship but in our skill level. I have ridden Whiskey on trail rides, in the arena, have dome amazing things with obstacles, and have also faced times where he was totally out of his mind, unable to do anything and where he's gone totally catatonic and becomes an emotional basket case. It seems to me that this all comes down to my leadership and how I am communicating with him.
Here are the things I have done when we were successful and what I think it achieved:
- Lots of Studying -- I believe to be successful in an endeavor, you must study and learn. Never assume you know everything, be able to think outside the box, be willing to be wrong, and be willing to try something new. Building my Parelli Library and studying the materials in it (and practicing what I've learned) makes a tremendous impact on my success. I am a perpetual Parelli Student on the journey of life-long learning.
- Horsenality Assessment -- Knowing what I am dealing with helps me strategize how I can find success. So, knowing who my horse is, every day, helps. I chart my horses' horsnalities often and play with the horse that shows up.
- Planning -- Having a plan before going outside has been really helpful in achieving success. I find that if I just go outside, without a plan, I have no way to gauge success or measure accomplishment. I usually mental prepare and even sometimes write things down to help me have a plan.
- Principles before Goals, Always -- I never compromise my principles to achieve my goals. Sure, I could force my horse to do something but why? For my own satisfaction? I am not satisfied unless I am happy and my horse is equally happy. So, principles before goals, always, always, always.
- Pre-flight Checks using the Seven Games -- Safety is so very important. If I am not safe and get hurt, or my horse gets hurt, all of this effort is worthless. So, I always play with my horse on the ground before any riding. If I am not riding, then I play with him but am creative, not boring, use many obstacles and patterns. I watch for issues to arise and deal with them as necessary.
- Lots of Friendly Game -- I make sure, especially with an introvert that he is safe and that everything is good for him. Friendly is probably one of the most important games for him and for the relationship. It can be played a number of ways and you can be very creative with it.
- Long Phase 1 -- This is vital for an introvert. If you progress through your phases this is akin to yelling at your horse. The introvert needs patience and time to process his thoughts, let him!
- Treats -- These are not to be used as bribes and if your horse gets pushy about it, then you need to work on your communication skills and be clear about your expectations about your horse's behavior. I have used treats with my introverted horse as a way to encourage and help him understand he is doing well, kind of a friendly game I suppose. He is never pushy about them and seems to enjoy it making what we are doing worth it for him.
- Remember the Horse's Hierarchy of Needs (in this order) -- Safety = Confidence + Leadership, Comfort = Release, Play = Fun + Creativity, Food = Incentive
- Patience -- There is no room for frustration in your relationship with horses. You have to each learn to meet in the middle and come to an understanding. I never feel frustrated with my horses anymore, I always take a step back, breathe, and think about why something is occurring, I don't get angry. (This is not easy but you can do it.)
I suppose the point to this post is simple. If you have an introvert, you may have the best horse in your barn who is simply waiting for you to be intelligent enough, patient enough, and creative enough to be his partner. You both need to remember the 8 responsibilities, act on them, and work together to achieve harmony.
For more on horsenalities and other information pieces about Parelli Natural Horsemanship, please visit their website http://www.parelli.com/