Playing with “Horsenality”

 Last month, you were introduced to the concept of horses having an innate “horsanality”, just as humans tend to have a predominate type of personality.  Horse can fall in one of four areas:  right brain extrovert, right brain introvert, left brain introvert, and left brain extrovert.  But, keep in mind that horses can all exhibit behaviors in all four areas.

To begin, right brain extroverts are looking for safety.  Most often than not, they can’t stand still, are over reactive, and are spooky.  These horses have difficulty, backing up, standing still, and are often scared.  When playing with this type of horse, it is crucial to make things simple, as they get confused easily, with a desired goal of causing him to become more relaxed.  Consistency is very helpful, whether it be through patterns or transitions.  Matching the horse’s energy and adding a bit more will interrupt his fear pattern.  When playing on-line, use longer lines to allow the horse more “drift”, and keep sessions short.  Finally, respect any thresholds the horse is experience; don’t “push him over the cliff” when he’s hesitating.  Other things that don’t work well with right brain extroverts include holding him back, which just increases his fear, or straight lines, which causes him to gain more speed (straight lines are okay once he has more self-control).  Additionally, being too soft and not being a strong and focused leader will also increase his fear. 

Next, right brain introverts are unpredictable, shy, hesitant, and tend to shut down.  These horses are seeking comfort.  Success comes when the human goes slowly at first and waits for the horse to “come out of his shell.”  When this horse begins to trust, he will offer much more.  Wait time is essential; ask and then wait until he does what you ask or at least looks to you for more direction.  Just as with the right brain extrovert, be consistent because he has trouble with change.  Once again, keep it simple and utilize repetition to seek calmness.  Be sure to not ask for too much at one time and stay soft.  Getting bigger and punishing a right brain introvert will lead to a loss of trust and will cause a retreat back into his shell, a total shutdown.

Left brain introverts are often described as being “lazy” or “stubborn”.  Quite simply, he is always wondering, “what’s in it for me” or, “why should I?”  He is a thinker, not a mover.  The goal for these horses is to motivate them.  At first, using incentives, such as treats, rest, or scratches, will help build motivation.  Reverse psychology is huge with this “horsanality” so asking him to do less than what he is offering you will cause him to offer more!  Similar to the right brain introvert, giving time to think will also motivate him; he’s not slow, he just needs to get over those thoughts of being resistant.  This guy will thrive with variety and not a lot of repetition.  He also dislikes working too much and not being able to play enough.

Finally, the left brain extrovert loves to play.  He’s mouthy, bites and strikes, is exuberant, and is often described as being “naughty”.  He likes to move his feet and gets bored very easily.  He thrives with learning new things weekly and often enjoys learning “tricks”, especially when he can use his mouth, such as picking things up from the ground.  Left brain extroverts are more successful on longer lines as they give him the room he needs to move.  Furthermore, slow, calm riding is not what he’d prefer to because he wants to be able to go somewhere.  If being perceived as being “naughty” and is punished, he’ll start showing aggression or, he may completely shut down and go into his shell, much like a right brain introvert. 

Overall, to have success with horses, understanding their innate “horsanality” is a critical piece.  The integrity of the horse is maintained; thus, allowing his development to be positive and progressive.  Fear, intimidation, and mechanical devices have no place in this type of horse development.

 To learn more about “horsenalities” and how to get great results with your horse, visit Parelli Natural Horse Training at

 Erin Fowle lives in Scott Valley and is a teacher and rancher.  She is also a Parelli Professional.  For more information, contact her at

(“Horsenality is a registered trademark of Parelli Natural Horsemanship and is part of the intellectual property of Pat and Linda Parelli)


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