I’ve never known a horse well. That’s why I was intrigued by Margit H. Zeitler-Feicht’s book Horse Behavior Explained.
She goes into great detail about all their physical and emotional needs and how they can be served, as noted in an October article here. Parelli.com’s “Natural Horsemanship,” summarized so generously for me by my dear friend Christen Howell, takes a different approach. It adds a sensitive personality dimension to approaching and training horses. Perelli’s Horsenality chart presents the characteristics of four personality types: Left Brain Extrovert and Introvert and Right Brain Extrovert and Introvert.
Pat and Linda Parelli have designed a beautiful website focused on their history and “Get Started” with home study and advanced DVDs. There also are pages for problem solving, e-news, Facebook, a blog ,a Pro section, and a Savvy Club for stepped lessons.
Their Seven Games are based on real horse play and are used to gain trust and learn communication skills with the horse on line.
The personalities of horses, like ours, are variable. They range from playful and intelligent to easily bored or fearful. Some are gentle beings who require waiting and trust and consistency. Others need frequent short sessions and focused leadership or a need to know why they should do as asked. Punishment and force are never useful in training any horse and can be quite damaging. Learning occurs when pressure on any horse is “released at the correct time.”
I would guess that sensing such a “correct time” takes some experience and sensitivity on the part of the trainer, but the physical indicators a horse gives can be learned. Blinking eyes signal some thinking going on. Relaxed lips, licking and chewing, are meaningful, as are the ears—which “follow attention.” A tail that is swishing, held up, or clamped probably indicates fear. A cocked back leg indicates a relaxed horse. Impatience or frustration are suggested by front leg stomping or pawing.
In my experience with dogs and domestic birds, I gradually became aware of their moods and personalities. The subtle sounds and postures that each animal used to communicate gradually came clear. Both authors cited here, writing about horses, agree– horses’ priorities are—in order of importance—safety, comfort, play and food. That makes a lot of sense for most of our animal friends– and others, even two-legged ones.