July 24, 2014

Horsenality/Humanality course notes (part 3): Horsenality & Strategy

For the horsenalities, one really instructive thing that Linda did was to show videos of the different horsenalities having, ah, challenging moments. 

The LBE was having a grand time: he was standing up on his back feet practically dancing whenever his human approached, and you could tell it was all a big game to him. The LBI would plant his front feet and buck with his back end and land actually going backwards whenever the rider asked him forwards (you could just here him saying, “Shan’t!”). The RBE was identical to Linda’s drawing of RBE’s on wheels (with the rider at about a 45 degree angle to the ground as she got left behind), and the RBI was, as Linda hardly needed to note, by far the scariest of all: he was all over the place, explosive, and completely unpredictable.

Here’s an overview of what each type tends to do when they’re pushed, upset, or, as Patrick would put it, triggered—and what each one needs in that situation:



LBE

go UP

needs: play


RBE

go  FORWARD

needs: focus


LBI

WON’T move

needs: a reason


RBI

CAN’T move

needs: gentleness



Linda also explained the idea of spirit—as in, horsenality is determined by innate characteristics, learned behavior, environment, and spirit. While the first three are pretty self-explanatory, I’ve always been unclear on spirit. For instance, it can be a bit confusing to think of what a high-spirited introvert would look like.

But Linda clarified that spirit is, essentially, an amplifier—or a volume control—on a given horsenality’s traits. So whatever the behavior is, the higher the spirit level = the more effort the horse will put into the behavior. A resisting LBI might lie down if he’s got a high spirit level, but depending on what he’s doing, he might also move his feet a lot. However, the movement will be in the service of being a more extreme LBI—which is to say, pursuing his own ideas and resisting yours. (This is why to be successful with LBI’s, you have to make it their idea, because that is when they are motivated to move.)

Ideally, we learn to harmonize with our horses so that they don’t need to exhibit extreme behaviors, just as we try to communicate with other people in a way that doesn’t trigger them into being reactive. In addition to outlining the needs of the individual horsenalities (which I’ll discuss below), Linda gave two general pieces of advice about our own attitude that will help with our ability to harmonize with any horse:

(1) Before a session with your horse, visualize not so much what you want to do with your horse, but more how you want to do it and how you want your horse to look/feel. Primary goals are things like trust, responsiveness, confidence, relaxation, and we should be looking to reward these things as much as, if not more than, the specific movements we want from our horses.

(2) Warm-up is not training—it’s play time. Really don’t be critical here; just let them go and let them express themselves however they need to. The goal of a warm-up is to get them calm, confident, and responsive, and if you correct them, they won’t get there. If you plan to teach something new on the ground, that’s fine, but have a clear idea in your head about when you’re warming up and when you’re teaching. Until they’re connected, you’re still in warm-up, and zero brace is the concept you need here, as well as the belief that the horse can do no wrong.

The other big thing you’re trying to do during warm-up is to match your horse’s energy. The introvert/extrovert axis is more important here than the right brain/left brain, and you identify this by looking at the energy the horse is projecting. Is it inward, or outward? Where is his focus? Up and around, or more internal? That’s the first big question you need to answer so that you can harmonize with your horse.

After that, you can move on more to particulars. Here’s what Linda said about each horsenality type:


LEFT BRAIN EXTROVERTS (i.e., Highland)

Quite often, LBE’s aren’t the most dominant: they’re more interested in playing than in dominating. But often they go into fight mode with us because they are allergic to suppression. We tend to brace against them because we’re trying to control them, and when we do this, they can fight for hours. But it’s over in minutes if you don’t give them anything to fight/brace against. You have to take a leap of faith and really believe that zero brace is the key.

You also want to mentally engage/challenge LBE’s from the start. You’re not trying to calm them down or control them: let them play! However, this doesn’t have to be change, change, change; it’s more that when you ask them to go, have them GO! Don’t be afraid of the bigness. You can use this same attitude to embrace their ideas (“Yeah! That’s a great idea! You should GO!”)

Also, praise them a lot. LBE’s love to hear an enthusiastic “Good boy!”


RIGHT BRAIN INTROVERTS (i.e., Hot Jazz)

In an RBI, willingness is a measure of trust/confidence, and hesitancy is the opposite (they may be going forward but they’re thinking backwards because they’re not really confident enough to be going forward yet).

RBI’s want to do the right thing and get stressed when they don’t know how to. They don’t tend to play much, and they may not look at you much either. Linda: “if he can’t look at me, that’s the worst time for me to send him off.” RBI's are often most comfortable with you in Zone 3, 4, or 5, and sometimes that’s a better place for you to rest with them than Z1.

But RBI’s generally want to be in physical proximity to you, and doing things further away from you is hard for them.

With RBI’s you want to take it slowly, and the attitude of “they can do no wrong” is crucial. Don’t be afraid to ask RBI’s to do things, but do give them lots of time to process and build gradually. For example, circles further away and at liberty are hardest for Jazz, so when Linda started, she would let him come in whenever he wanted. As their training progressed, she asked more and more for him to find relaxation (blowing out, more rhythm, lower head, etc.) out on the circle and in movement. (During the demo my class watched, she asked him to keep trotting on the circle until he blew out, which was a progression from letting him come down to the walk to blow out.)

The biggest thing with an RBI is to wait until they’re able to do what you’re asking to do rather than going up your phases. Trust takes time, and particularly if you’ve got damaged goods, it’s a long road. Think about how to make what you want a more comfortable thing for your RBI (for example, if your RBI doesn’t want to go over poles, make the pole the comfort place by doing more away from it and letting her rest by it).

When you’ve asked your RBI to do something hard and stressful, follow it up with something easy and relaxing, like Stick-to-me.

On a side note, Linda has followed Luis Lucio’s lead and started using a heart monitor on her horses, particularly with Jazz. This gives her an indication of what the horse’s stress level really is, since RBI’s will try quite hard for humans even when they’re stressed. Linda rode Jazz around further away from and then closer to his herd mates while calling out his heart rate, and though he looked practically the same, the heart rate varied wildly just at the walk. Luis waits for the heart rate to go below 70 before he does anything, even walking.


LEFT BRAIN INTROVERTS (i.e., Na’avi)

LBI’s are slow on the outside but very busy inside. We tend to think it’s about getting the trot, canter, etc., but what it’s really about is getting the mind: the higher gaits and the responsiveness will come when you have the mind. In fact, as Linda put it, “LBI’s only look LBI’s when we’re doing it wrong.”

With LBI’s, we tend to get sucked into nagging; we often start above phase 1 and stay around phase 2/3 for a long time, both of which really annoy them (which means they go forward even less). Our goal with LBI’s is to be soft and clear, and you always have to start soft yourself if you want your horse to be soft. That’s true with all horses, but it’s particularly important to remember with LBI’s, who often cause us to get forget it.

The worst thing you can do is to try to prevent them from getting slow or micromanage them. (Linda’s definition of micromanaging is, in fact, preventing mistakes, because then you are also preventing them from learning.) The next worse thing you can do is push them when they slow down, or get out ahead of them. Don’t get into a fight: think in terms of allowing them to zig, and then zagging them back—don’t resist the zig.

Break the cycle of nagging by staying true to the progression of your aids. When riding, try not to use your leg. Start with your seat, tap on the shoulder, and then do whatever motivates them (maybe this is tickling them in the ear) and then release quickly. Then start again if you need to. Don’t hang in there, nag, or try to control.

If you ask for a trot and they trot, stop them and make a big fuss praising them (but don’t mess their mane all up rubbing them—you do that with extroverts). Then repeat. Pretty soon they want to trot because they get to stop. 

Same concepts apply if they’re veering off course. Don’t pull on the rein; instead, reset them quickly with the rein, then reward. Repeat as necessary. So rather than, “Gooooooooo theeeeeeeere,” it’s, “GO THERE! Good girl. GO THERE! Good girl.”

Your mantra with an LBI is, “Don’t get mad; get even-tempered.”


RIGHT BRAIN EXTROVERTS

We didn’t actually get to see Linda work with one of these. As with LBE’s, however, you want to avoid saying ‘no’ to them and correcting them a lot or trying to suppress them; instead, give them a direction in which to expend their energy.

If they’re on adrenaline, ideally you want to be able to encourage them to move around and burn it off: “you’d better go!” If you’re not in an environment where that’s possible, use constant and snappy disengages and changes of direction until the adrenaline’s gone.


At the end of the day, what’s true about each horsenality is this: “Horsemanship has to be about the horse’s needs. The perfect horse is there, right in front of you, and you’re either bringing out the best in them or the worst in them.”

I’ll close with a few audio clips of Linda and Patrick reprising their delightful Savvy Summit roles as horses and humans of different –analities paired together. The last video is of Linda speaking the part of a fellow student’s LBI horse. When Urszula asked a question about her horse, Linda asked if she’d like to come up and have a conversation with her horse (i.e., Linda). What ensued was hilarious in the way that only Linda impersonating an LBI horse can be. Enjoy!

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(Video images once again courtesy of Becky Shewchuk.)