It’s the beginning of a hot month, but I’m thinking about snowflakes. We’re always told that everyone is unique, and I think it’s true. No one is exactly like someone else, or even the same with every passing moment. It’s the same for horses. You will never find a horse that reacts the same way to everything.
Why do people feel the need to categorize their horses into boxes? Shouldn’t it be enough to know that every horse is different? It was revolutionary when the Parellis came out with ‘Horsenalities’. I personally benefited from the ‘Horsenality’ chart a lot! Seeing the difference between my introverted, fearful mare and my extroverted, dominant gelding really helped me change my approach. Then I read Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s book, ‘What Horses Reveal’ and became excited with his way of categorizing horse types based on their physical appearance as much as their personalities. Isn’t it obvious that people, as well as horses, have physical signs that display who they are on the inside?
I am in total agreement with those who think personality is molded according to childhood experience, trauma and a good deal of other factors. That is definitely true, and I think both of these systems work with that assumption. Everyone has different reasons for being who they are. For me personally, learning to notice similarities between horses (and humans!) was beneficial because it helped me draw lines in my training, making me more well-rounded for every horse I happen to work with.
Meet Drifter ….
A Bashkir Curly who came to us because my dad (the complete opposite of a horse person) pitied his living conditions and bought him. He was, apparently, a bucker. At the time, I was looking for a horse but Drifter was too wild. He literally screamed when he was taken more than a hundred feet of the herd, and one time, he actually charged through fences and into the bush with a 22′ line hanging off his halter. Crazy? We thought so.
Currently, Drifter is the most reliable of our horses. He is the leader of the herd and could cause any horse to jump to the moon and back if necessary. He is definitely a ‘needs oriented’ horse, but he will stick by you till the end.
Drifter and I had nothing in common until my horse, Epic, passed on. Like me, Drifter was one of Epic’s best friends. My mom kindly let me ride him sometimes, but I just couldn’t get a handle on who he was. He seemed aloof, and at the same time incredibly personable. He would take care of me, but he never got to know me. Turning to Hempfling’s book, I managed to get a handle on Drifter’s personality.
According to Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling’s classification system, Drifter is a Minister/Sergeant type. This means that his life call seems to be influencing others. The Minister in him makes him gentle and sensitive – reassuring almost – and the Sergeant gives him that aloof air of superiority without the dominance towards humans. To Drifter, the human has the final word. Sure, he gets upset if the human is scattered and confused, but he follows commands to the detail. Drifter likes seriousness and despises play, which befuddled me after my playful Epic died. But this is just how he is. Again, not all horses are the same
According to the Parelli Horsenality test, Drifter is a Right-Brained Extrovert. This means he is instinct oriented and inclined to go forward. You can see how this broad classification posed some problems for our inwardly complicated Drifter. My mom could not get a handle on him this way. Drifter could be devilishly dominant, but he could also be as bombproof and submissive as a dove. It goes to show how horses aren’t either dominant or instinctive. They can be both, with a little added something.
My analyses of Drifter is this: Drifter is an influencer. He is king, but he acknowledges when he isn’t. He puts his needs first, while being infinitely aware of his rider’s. What makes me believe in Klaus’ system is Drifter’s ability to accept food rewards without becoming dominant. He takes them as an offering before and after his training and believe me, it makes all the difference! Like a Sergeant, Drifter needs to know he’s going to be repaid. He is justice oriented – and if justice isn’t served correctly, he will lose all motivation. At the same time, he is like catapult, ready to take off at any time. Riding Drifter feels like you’re on a tight rubber band, and if you’ve really blown it …it will snap.
So you can see how putting a horse into a box doesn’t really work – but it helps. Searching until you find the answers is the only effective system I’ve found for classifying horses.
Although he’s my mom’s horse (and Sergeants are very attached to their ONE person), Drifter has taken me under his wing. I’ve learnt the system that works for him, and he is learning to tolerate my playfulness. We are definitely not a match, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from one another.
The snowflakes don’t need a category to be recognized.