Revealing Your Horse’s APTITUDE By Linda Parelli
Just like people, some horses are more suitable for certain jobs or activities, and trying to make a horse do something that he doesn’t have the aptitude for can make things challenging.
It’s like trying to push a round peg through a square hole. The more mismatched the shapes, the harder it is; and the harder you push it, the more damage you are likely to cause.
In the performance world, trainers and competitors have defined a profile for the ideal horse as a jumper, cutter, reiner, eventer, endurance mount—whatever your chosen discipline. They look for a certain athletic type, breed, disposition and spirit level because time and experience have proven that this style of horse is more likely to be successful in the competition.
In the recreational world, the options are very diverse and don’t necessarily involve riding or competition. The goal is primarily to have fun with the horse in whatever form that takes, and to be able to do things like take relaxing trail rides with friends. So what happens when you end up with a horse that is scared to death of being in foreign territory with a bunch of strange horses, or you have a horse with more ambition than average that just wants to poke around?
Finally, there are kid horses. If you were shopping for a horse for your precious child, what horse should you look for? How do you find the kind, gentle spirit to which you can entrust a young human life?
Understanding horses at a deeper level will help you select the right horse for your endeavor as well as adapt yourself and the horse you have to reach your goal without sacrificing the relationship. It’s all about Horsenality (each horse’s personality) aptitude.
Horses for Courses
Ideally you would want to select the right horse for the right activity. But what if you already have a wonderful relationship with your horse and find out he is not wired for the activity you want to do, and you don’t want to sell and buy horses until you find the one that works?
Take heart. Everything can work to a certain degree, and once you understand more about the situation, you’ll have more clarity about what to do. It may mean you need to modify your goals or keep the same goal and take more time and be more generous with your expectations. The worst thing you can do is force your horse to do things he can’t do well and end up destroying the relationship or his delicate emotional health.
Should you decide that you don’t want to change your goal and you don’t have the time or inclination to go the extra mile for your horse, then giving him to someone who has the same interests he does might be a great idea, especially for him. That’s way better than just putting him up for sale and not knowing where he’ll end up. You can then look for a horse with the right Horsenality.
Professional breeders have invested decades and even centuries to genetically produce the ideal horse, one who is athletically gifted for a certain specialty and has a tractable disposition. While the quality of horse produced today is by far the best the world has seen, there is no guarantee that the horse will love doing what it is bred for. Every breed of horse still features individual Horsenalities, so he might have the right physical attributes but not quite the right mental aptitude for the sport of your choice.
The moral of the story is to learn to be a good picker so you can select a horse with all the right qualities, Horsenality included. Some progressive breeders are already including Horsenality in their program, such as Atwood Ranch in California. This ranch charts the Horsenalities of their young stock so buyers know exactly what their aptitudes are before they write the check.
The Parelli Program suits any horse, and with careful development your horse can even compete in events that he is not perfectly suited for if you are willing to do what it takes to help the horse be successful. This is where too many performance horses don’t make it. They are talented athletes who may not be entirely suited Horsenality-wise, but their training program is too inflexible or does not provide the necessary foundation for building confidence so they can take the pressure.
Choosing the right horse is the first thing.
Match—Mismatch . . . Oh, Boy!
If you’ve found out that what you want to do is really not what your horse is suited for, but want to make it work, the following real-life examples show how mismatches can work between humanalities, Horsenalities™ and horse sports.
The Horsenality™ Profile can also be used to chart yourself. This can be a great help in understanding the dynamics of your relationship and how you need to flex your style so the partnership has a chance to succeed. Extroverts usually find it very hard to slow down enough for Introverted horses, and vice versa. Getting enough energy up and being able to sustain long enough is hard for Introverts with Extroverted horses. And then there’s that thing called spirit, that bottomless energy and boundless drive that marks the difference between average and exceptional in both horse and human!
Can There Be an All-Rounder?
Absolutely. Many horses can do a variety of sports at a comfortably low to medium level, and many riders, too. But as soon as the goals get higher, finding the horse that can excel in all areas is tough, especially if you are not a talented or accomplished horseman; and the higher the goal, the more important the match. Some sports, like eventing and reined cow horse, really test the versatility of horses and riders and drive them to develop a more balanced set of skills, because they demand both fast and slow speeds, technical precision and endurance.
Fulfillment is in revealing your horse and discovering your potential so you can live your dream. Our job is to help you reach your dream while keeping the relationship with your horse intact or, better still, improving it.
Horsenality™ Aptitude Chart
Extrovert: Fast or Long Distance
Introvert: Slow or Short Distance
Left Brain: Variety
Right Brain: Repetition
Left Brain Extrovert
Naturally Excels at: LIBERTY
Reined Cow Horse
Right Brain Extrovert
Naturally Excels at: ONLINE
Airs above the Ground (Haute Ecole)
Left Brain Introvert
Naturally Excels at: FREESTYLE
Mounted Police Horse
Right Brain Introvert
Naturally Excels at: FINESSE
Pat Parelli, coiner of the term “natural horsemanship”, founded his program based on a foundation of love, language and leadership. Parelli Natural Horsemanship allows horse owners at all levels of experience to achieve success with their at-home educational program. Together with his wife Linda, Pat has spread PNH across the globe with campuses in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. Newly launched in 2011, parelliconnect.com provides an online social forum packed with training tools, step-by-step to do lists, video and more. Log on today for your FREE 30-day trial at www.parelliconnect.com.