This week, we’re going to do a follow-up of our recent blog about Dessa Hockley’s book, Is Your Horse a Rockstar?. If you haven’t read that blog yet, check it out here: https://horseswithhopeme.org/horse-personalties/. The book gave us a new and fun way to think about the personalities of the horses who come through our rescue. By understanding a horse’s personality, you can gain a better understanding of why they do the things they do.
After we finished writing that blog, we had a thought… The personalities in the book seem to match the horses really well; could we match them to people, too, and use that to inform our interactions with the horses? People are, objectively, a bit more complex than horses. But, for the purposes of this blog, let’s pretend we’re not– after all, life feels a little less complicated in the barn, doesn’t it?
We’re going to take two contrasting personalities and apply them to people, and discuss how each of those two personalities might approach horse training differently. We modified a few of the descriptors to match humans a little bit better:
Dominant or Submissive
Energetic or Laid Back (Lazy)
Confident (Curious) or Anxious (Afraid)
Friendly or Aloof
Let’s take someone who is Submissive, Energetic, Anxious, and Friendly. This person falls into the People-Pleaser category. People-Pleasers are eager to earn the approval of others (horses and people alike!), but they can be inhibited by the insecurity that stems from the Anxious trait. They might be less likely to take risks for fear of making a mistake. When training a horse, a People-Pleaser might have trouble setting boundaries with a horse that is Dominant and Friendly, because they enjoy the friendliness and approval of that horse and don’t want to risk making the horse dislike them. However, the People-Pleaser can learn from a Dominant and Friendly horse why and how to set clear boundaries. This can also help the People-Pleaser to understand that setting boundaries doesn’t make a horse dislike you— in fact, it can improve the relationship!
A person who is Dominant, Laid Back, Confident, and Aloof falls into the Prize Fighter category. The Prize Fighter is not quick to back down from a contest of wills. They have rules, and don’t mind enforcing them. The Prize Fighter is more willing to take risks because they are confident in their abilities and don’t get caught up in worrying about whether or not a horse might be a little offended. A horse that is particularly set on leaving–– mentally or physically–– can be especially challenging for the Prize Fighter. After all, it’s hard to go head-to-head with a horse that is halfway across the arena in the blink of an eye because too much pressure was applied! A horse that falls into the Wild Card category (DEAF) is particularly susceptible to this, because the amount of pressure that they will tolerate may vary on a day-to-day basis. To be able to help a horse like this, the Prize Fighter has to change their own rules, which is not an easy task for a Prize Fighter. Suddenly, the solution is much more about the personal growth of the trainer than it is about the horse.
While working with a horse that has a different personality can be challenging at times, it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone. The horse will push you to learn new things, and you will be able to do the same for the horse!