Probably like many of you, Horsenality is one of my favorite subjects to study. Through this study, we find that one of the key components of horsemanship is learning not to judge or to make excuses for a horse’s individual Horsenality. Likewise, as Parelli students, we are taught to not make assumptions, including assumptions about how a horse might “normally” respond to certain stimuli. Instead, we learn to be savvy enough to understand what outcome the horse is seeking at the time (safety, comfort, play, or food) and use that as a natural motivator. There is a well-known phrase that knowledge is power. Recently, I experienced what happens when assumptions of what’s “normal” collide with the knowledge of Horsenality.
A few weeks ago, I called a local vet out to examine my 16-year-old Egyptian Arabian, Rydel. She had been having some lameness issues in her hind legs, and I wanted to get a professional opinion. Having recently moved to the area, the vet had never met my horse or me before and I was excited to get a fresh opinion on her condition. The vet entered the scene to find an un-tied Rydel being groomed as the rope dangled casually on the ground. The vet made some initial queries regarding my horse’s health and then instructed us into the arena to evaluate her movement. Rydel and I both walked into the arena in our normal moseying fashion, after which Rydel lined up next to me and waited for further leadership. The vet did another once-over of my horse and then promptly exclaimed, “Is she always this calm? She just looks miserable!” She then went on to explain that all the Arabians she has ever seen are so much more “lively” and it seems so unusual that Rydel would have such a “solemn” disposition and therefore must be in a lot of pain.
Hearing this, I was a little taken aback but matter-of-factly explained that Rydel is an extreme introvert (and a Right-Brain Introvert at that!) and has been this way her whole life. The vet continued to examine Rydel by flexing and running her hands along her legs. The vet then began to verbalize her theories regarding the source of the lameness. She had a very intense and inquisitive look on her face as she bent over slightly and moved in toward Rydel’s hindquarters to get a closer look. Noting the pressure, Rydel obediently yielded her hindquarters away from the vet, leaving her frustrated and me chuckling to myself. Later, the vet had me circle my horse at the trot and asked, “Does she always trot this slowly?” At this, I said yes and made a feeble attempt to explain why that my introvert generally doesn’t feel the need to move her feet that quickly. Throughout the exam, we continued to discuss the nuances of Rydel’s unique Horsenality traits and what is commonly expected of her breed. Finally, I thanked the vet for her insight and treatment plan and we went our separate ways.
Looking back on the experience, I realize how much I had been taking my knowledge of Horsenality for granted. Reading and analyzing my horse has become such an ingrained thought process that it took me a while to comprehend how my horse’s Horsenality might not be as transparent to someone who lacks that knowledge. This is not to say that I get it right all the time. I’ll be a student of Horsenality my entire life, and I am perfectly okay with that, because when it comes to understanding and building a relationship with my horse, I know that this knowledge is more than powerful – it is everything