What Horsenalities Teach Us
This article was originally published in the August 2012 issue of Savvy Times magazine. Recent back-issues of Savvy Times are available for Parelli members in the Resources section of Parelli Connect.
Learn How To Be A Better Leader
-by Linda Parelli
It’s no secret that every horse is truly unique. Some horses are very confident – bordering on naughty – while others are seemingly frightened by a speck of dust in the breeze. Some horses will do anything for a treat, while others would rather just run around in the pasture all day. How do we begin to understand and connect with our horses? That’s where Horsenality comes in. For those who have never heard the word “Horsenality,” it is a term Pat and I came up with to describe the four main “personality types” that horses demonstrate.
Along with Dr. Patrick Handley, we came up with a series of factors that identify horses as either introverts or extroverts, and either “right-brained” or “left-brained.” If that terminology seems foreign to you, don’t worry; that’s what this article is all about! As we learn about Horsenality, we also begin to understand how much each Horsenality can teach us about ourselves as well.
Let’s get started!
LEFT-BRAIN EXTROVERT – No Rules!
Left-Brain Extroverts are the original rule-breakers. They discover what your rules are and then they challenge you, so that means when you have no rules, they can’t find your edges and the game is over. Left-brain horses are dominant; they challenge your leadership every day, every moment. On many occasions, I have students ask me if their Left-Brain Extrovert horse will ever settle down and get easier. What do you think? Remember, we are talking innate characteristics here, just like human personality, so the answer is, “Well, no!” Either you’re going to bring out the best in your horse, or the worst.
Here are some ‘rules’ that people expect of horses and that Left-Brain Extroverts love to defy: “I expect my horse to be…”
Hmm. Sounds like the complete opposite of this free-spirited horse’s idea of fun! If he was wearing a t-shirt, on the front it would say “Born to defy!” On the back it would say “You’re not the boss of me.” So the more you try to make your Left-Brain Extrovert behave, the worse it gets. But the more you encourage him and pique his interest, the more connected and willing he becomes. But that’s hard for us humans to do with horses, because we have our agendas. Here’s the key: put aside your agenda for a moment. Give your Left-Brain Extrovert what he needs and he’ll give you what you want. This Horsenality will teach you to follow Pat’s mantra: “There are no rules in Parelli, only principles: The Eight Principles.”
LEFT-BRAIN INTROVERT – Reverse Psychology
Left-Brain Introverts are experts at knowing what you want and not doing it.
I remember the first time I heard Pat talk about using reverse psychology, but it took me years to understand what that meant, let alone know how to use it. I had to have my own Left-Brain Introvert before I really got it. Thanks to Remmer, he got me to learn vital lessons in strategic motivation.
As anyone who has a Left-Brain Introvert knows, the Circling Game and going forward are the two most challenging things to achieve with any degree of refinement, consistency or good expression; it’s not that the Left-Brain Introvert doesn’t want to go forward. He just doesn’t want to do it when you ask him to! If your Left-Brain Introvert was wearing a t-shirt, on the front it would say“Born to argue” and on the back it would say “You’re not the boss of me.”
Here is what makes the Left-Brain Introvert less responsive and more cranky:
You need to do the opposite of all of the above! Ask for less energy, use less energy, have a purpose and reward your horse. And reverse psychology? It’s easy… rather than trying to make your horse go faster, ask him to go slower and slower and slower. You’ll be amazed at how that will get his interest up. And once he offers his energy, don’t ask for a lot. Reward him sooner rather than later by slowing down, resting a moment, and giving him some scratches or a cookie. When he sees what’s in it for him, he’ll have more incentive to respond.
RIGHT-BRAIN EXTROVERT – Friendliness
Right-Brain Extroverts are the prey animal personified (or should I say horse-i-fied?). That instinctive flight reaction and intense need for safety is really close to the surface in the Right-Brain Extrovert, so being able to convince them that you are friend and not foe is the major key here.
Pat says it perfectly: “How can you prove to your horse that you are not going to eat him?”That is the ultimate purpose of the Friendly Game; it’s way more than just petting your horse or desensitizing him to stimuli. On your Right-Brain Extrovert’s t-shirt, it would say “Born to run!”
Here are some of the behaviors that can make your Right-Brain Extrovert horse believe that you are not friendly:
Right-Brain Extroverts will teach you to be less direct-line and goal-oriented and have a more friendly approach. Of course you must have goals, but they cannot be what you want your horse to do right now. You have to learn how to cause your idea to become his idea, earn his trust and have him vote for you as his leader. Right-brain horses need you to be a calm, confident leader and friendly teacher, and here’s the best one: Horses don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. They’ll do anything for you once you’ve gained their confidence.
RIGHT-BRAIN INTROVERT –Slow down!
I’ll never forget one of the first reactions from a student after she got her Horsenality/Humanality™ Match Report. It revealed her horse as Right-Brain Introvert and she as Right-Brain Extrovert, opposites on the vertical scale of the model. She said to me, “I thought I was going really slow, but when I read that report, I really got it. You mean really, REALLY S…L…O…W.“
Right-Brain Introverts can be hard to read because they appear calm on the outside, but on the inside their emotions can be running in high gear; you just can’t see it. They are highly emotional but really want to please, so they hide their feelings and do their best until all of a sudden the pressure becomes overwhelming and they blow up. This is why Right-Brain Introverts are often hard to read and therefore seem rather unpredictable.
Here’s what makes Right-Brain Introverts run away inside themselves:
Right-Brain Introverts will teach you to really think about things from the horse’s perspective; you know, how Pat says it: “Walk a mile or a minute in your horse’s horseshoes.” The more opposite your Humanality is from your horse’s Horsenality, the harder that is to do. Their t-shirt would say “Don’t rush me!”
So how do you get that trust? Slow down, feel more, ask for and wait for permission. A good way to think about it is “red light, green light.” When your horse gives you a red light (ears back, tail swish, tension), don’t speed through it. Stop or back off for a moment. When you get the green light (licking lips, blinking eyes, deep sigh, lowered neck, regular breathing), you can continue until the next red light. The key is to watch for those red lights and respond accordingly. When your horse realizes you are actually listening to him and honoring his reactions or opinion, you’ll be amazed at how that will change his perception of you and earn you a lot more trust.
A Perspective on Leadership
Let’s revisit the model and see what each Horsenality can teach you about becoming a better leader. Simply stated, the leader is the one with the plan and that should be you, not your horse. Some horses assume leadership because they are more dominant, and sometimes because fear takes over and their plan for escape does not include you!
You can spank and spur, you can force and make, you can get it done with tails swishing and ears back. You can risk being bucked off, kicked, bitten, struck, run-off with. You can face danger and frustration and resistance every day from your horse… or you can learn how to be the kind of leader a horse would want to follow.