Horsenality Horse Training: Do’s and Don’ts
The Do’s and Don’ts For Each Parelli Horsenality Type
The Parelli Natural Horsemanship journey starts with understanding the basic nature of your horse. Horses are prey animals, hunted in nature. Safety is their primary concern and fear is their primary reaction. They are herd animals who look to their “alpha” for leadership. Understanding even these basics can transform your frustration with a horse as you learn to step into his shoes and see the world from his point of view as well as become his trusted leader.
The next step in the journey to understanding your horse is to determine his or her individual personality type.“Horsenality” is the term that Pat Parelli coined to refer to his system of understanding horses through their basic personality types. A combination of the words “horse” and “personality,” Horsenality™ is a convenient way to talk about horse psychology in the Parelli Natural Horsemanship method of horse training.
Below is a handy list of Do’s and Don’ts for each Horsenality type. If you are new to Parelli, you can learn more about using your horse’s personality in horse training with our Horsenality Success Series DVD, available in the Parelli webstore. You can also determine your horse’s personality through our instant, digital Horsenality report.
This horse is a playful character that needs interesting things to do. He is obsessed with learning and needs variety and new things to keep it fun.
- Teach him something new at least once a week.
- Keep sessions active, interesting and playful. Use obstacles, become more imaginative and when he’s really playful, increase the pace and get him to do more.
- Mischief is his middle name; so give him things to do with that busy mind and mouth. This horse loves to play tricks on you, so why not teach him some tricks on purpose?
- Use long lines – 22′ and 45′. Give him room to move!
- Praise him a lot: rubs and scratches, smiles, laughter… you having fun as well, is very rewarding for this kind of Horsenality.
- Encourage his ideas and he’ll become interested in yours.
- Move his feet and he’ll give you his mind.
- Use the Patterns! They give him purpose.
- Bore him with endless, mindless repetition. This guy is smart! When you know he’s got it, move on. You can always come back to it and add polish little by little.
- Slow, calm riding is not really this horse’s dream. He wants to be active, go somewhere.
- Short lines (12′) are too confining when playing on the ground.
- Punish him, ever. He doesn’t know he’s being naughty; he’s just having fun! If he’s high-spirited, and you punish him he’ll become aggressive. If you end up scaring or suppressing him he’ll shut down and crawl inside his shell to save his dignity.
- Argue with him as it’s an opportunity for him to dominate. Encourage his idea instead and he’ll come around sooner.
This horse constantly needs reassurance. He gets confused easily and then gets afraid,so he needs you to make things simple, which will help him relax; especially since that is not something that comes easily for him around humans.
- Frequent disengagement and transitions. Also use a lot of consistency, it’s calming. For example, circles are great and the more worried your horse is, the smaller you need to make the circles. You could also weave around barrels or buckets placed six-feet apart. Frequent transitions also uses the principle of consistency… keep doing one-rein transitions every few strides, from walk to trot, until your horse refocuses and calms down.
- Speed up, match the energy and add “four ounces.” You need to be asking your horse to go more quickly than he really wants to; this interrupts the fear pattern. If you don’t feel safe and confident doing this when riding, get off and do it from the ground. For example, if your horse gets frantic and wants to head to the arena gate, paces at the gate, etc., take him there and get him to pace back and forth faster than he wants to do it! Do it until he relaxes and be ready to start again.
- Use longer lines when playing on the ground, it will give your horse more drift. (22’is ideal unless you are good with a 45’ Line).
- Respect thresholds; use approach and retreat to overcome them.
- Keep learning sessions short and simple.
- Relax when he relaxes. Until then keep your energy up and get your horse busy.
- Parelli Patterns! They give him focus.
- Straight lines help a horse gather speed. You don’t want this! Use straight lines only when your horse is more self-controlled.
- Don’t hold him back; this increases fear. Give the energy a focus and remember to use ONE rein for control – it disengages and calms.
- On Line is better than Liberty if your horse is upset. That way you can “hold his hand”. He’ll tend to get lost and disconnected at Liberty.
- Don’t teach your horse more than one thing at a time.
- Don’t try to teach him when he’s upset or unconfident. That’s the time to use calming strategies.
- Forcing him over thresholds usually results in an accident.
- Don’t wait for things to get better, he needs your leadership to help him get calm again.
This shy, timid, shrinking violet avoids pressure by retreating into himself. Success involves going very slowly at first and waiting for him to come out of his shell, to trust more. Pretty soon he’ll be offering you more.
- Wait – wait – wait – WAIT! Ask your horse for something and then wait until he does it or looks at you to ask for clarification or more direction. If you just go through your phases to get him to act when you want, he’ll be tense, lose confidence and trust. He may even blow up.
- Use the tiniest and softest suggestions and wait. This horse sees every little thing you do, sometimes he doesn’t respond because his brain is locked up in fear.
- Be consistent. The Right Brain horse has trouble with change so do simple things with lots of repetition until he’s calm.
- Move his heart and he’ll give you his confidence.
- Confidence is everything. If you focus on this, your horse will give you everything else.
- Parelli Patterns! They give him confidence.
- Make your horse do things when he’s not looking at you. This tells you he’s afraid of the pressure you are putting on him. You might not think it’s pressure, but you can frustrate this Horsenality with phase 1 simply because you are asking and asking and not waiting long enough for the response.
- Ask too much. Ask less in the beginning and you’ll get more in the end. Don’t ask more unless your horse is calm and trusting.
- Use big phases. You don’t need them. He can see you, he just can’t think when he’s afraid or rushed/pushed.
- Punish your horse for not doing what you want. Remember, this is fear, and punishment does not make a horse braver.
Welcome to the land of “Why should I? What’s in it for me?” This horse reads people like abook. He knows what you want and he’s not going to give it to you, unless you treat him right. Even though he appears stubborn or lazy, he’s not at all lazy in the mind! Reverse psychology is where it’s at, oh… and treats!
- Use incentive – treats, grazing, rest, scratches, etc. Incentive is not bribing because you’ll ask your horse to do something before rewarding him. A bribe is when you use the treat to lure him into doing it. There’s a big difference.
- Ask him to do less than he’s offering. It will blow his mind! He’ll then start offering more.
- Give him time to think. He’s not a slow thinker; he’s just got to stop thinking resistant thoughts before he can be more in tune with you.
- Variety is important, it makes life interesting.
- Use more drive than draw.
- Teach him some tricks. This is fun for both of you and is a good way to make him feel clever.
- Move his mind and he’ll move his feet.
- Parelli Patterns! They encourage him to think and show how smart he is.
- Make him work. He uses energy only for the things he thinks are fun.
- Punish him. You’ll have a big fight on your hands. This horse is a master intimidator of people when he dislikes them!
- Don’t push him. He’ll have you working harder than him! He’s also great at objecting when asked to go faster and usually responds by kicking up, swishing his tail or laying back his ears. Just don’t go there. Do the opposite of what he expects.
- Don’t micromanage – ask him to do something and then wait for him to do it. If he doesn’t, resend.
- Don’t get tougher, get more ‘interesting’ – do less to get more. Surprise him with a flick under the flank and a treat (cookie, rub or rest) when he tries.
- Use much repetition. He cannot see the point in doing the same thing over and over and will lose motivation and respect for you. He’s smart. Treat him like he is.
- Let your horse come to you with his ears back. Send/chase him away until he asks for permission to come to you.
- Get fooled into thinking that he’s lazy. He’s just unmotivated by you, so figure out how to make things more interesting!
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