Do Horses Have Personalities
Animals can't speak our language, but watching their behavior can be very interesting, amusing, & entertaining. Anyone who has had a close relationship with animals, knows these living, feeling beings have personalities. Some people debate this, and think animals don’t have personalities, they have temperaments. Temperament is the natural predisposition of the animal and how they will behave towards people and other animals. Some scientists believe the term personality is giving human traits to animals called anthropomorphism.
There is no one definition of animal personality the science community agrees on. Most animal personality studies focus on the behavioral traits of the animals. Although not all agree on any one definition, the most widely accepted states that temperament is generally defined as the inherited and early tendencies that show up throughout life and are the basics of the animal behavior. Some animal researchers prefer to use the word temperament in lieu of the word personality.
Temperament or Personality
Temperament is considered behavioral responses from the combination of inherited and and acquired physical and mental characteristics that influence how the animal will react in situations.
Sometimes people project their own personality traits on their pets, also part of anthropomorphism. Many scientists look to avoid the word personality in terms of animals so as not to make anthropomorphic associations. Scientists look to avoid making references that animals are people.
In people, personality comes from experiences, and environment. Some scientists do not believe animals have personalities. It becomes easy to see personality traits in domestic animals.
Whether one calls it temperament or personality, an animal’s behavior is certainly not mechanical, certainly unique and can even endear them to us.
Do Horses Have Personalities
For people who work with horses, knowing the personality type of the equine makes training easier and helps to bring out the best in the horse. Being around horses can be very rewarding. Some horses are simple to train, and others are more resistant. Sometimes people are working with a difficult horse and deem the animal to have behavior problems. But sometimes the horse’s temperament does not fit the training methods.
Different temperaments, personalities respond to the same situations, differently.
Horse personalities do not usually fall neatly into one descriptive category. Often a horse will have variations and blends of different personality traits. The age of a horse, gender, and experience are also factors in the characteristics of a horse’s personality. It is helpful to understand a horse’s personality when a person is working with the animal, so they know which approach is most effective, and why the horse may be reacting to the stimuli the way they are.
People do tend to humanize animals. The problem with doing this, is when we portray a horse in human terms, we expect the horse to act like a person would. But our perceptions, reactions, and reasons for behaving are very different than that of a horse. A horse’s instinct is based on using their survival skills to run away since they are prey animals. Humans by nature, are predators. Predators and prey animals naturally think differently.
Variables in Horse Temperament and Personality
The Experts and Horse Personality
People have divided horse temperament and personality into several categories:
Traits such as introversion and extroversion. When a person who is working with a horse, knows if they are introverted or extroverted, whether they are confident, or fearful, and what motivates them such as food or playing, the interaction with the horse will be much more rewarding.
- Six Temperaments by J. Warren Evans is a Professor of Animal Science at Texas A&M University and the author of a book called The Horse.
- Extremely nervous
Most horses are a mixture of these temperaments, and may display a dominant behavior on one day and a different behavior on another day.
- Some people divide horse temperament by breed, and by gender, and by age, and by categories of:
- hot blooded
- cold blooded
Different breeds have different temperament traits. Warm blooded breeds tend to be more reactive. Cold blooded breeds tend to be more tolerant and non complaining compared to warm or hot blooded breeds. Genetics play a role in a horse’s temperament, which coincides with horses of similar breeds, who naturally share similar genes. Gender also plays a role in personality and temperament. Stallions, an intact male horse will naturally react to their sexual urges, and tend to be more aggressive, and competitive. Geldings, which are fixed horses are less aggressive, less distracted by other horses, yet will still behave like a stallion in the presence of a female horse.
Mares are calmer than stallions, but their temperament varies depending on their estrus cycle. Female horses tend to be more sensitive than male horses.
A horse’s temperament is affected by their age. Most young horses are playful, learn faster, more curious, adapt to changes more readily, and are reactive to older horses.
Older horses are more mature, calmer than younger and middle aged horses.
People who work with horses know that most equine’s personalities are changeable and flexible as they age.
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Outstanding Personality Traits
Some people divide horse personality groups into:
The social horse enjoys interaction and attention from people. They are playful with other horses, and tend to be very tolerant. As a young horse, the social personality tends to have a short attention span due to their curiosity and interest in the world around them.
A fearful horse is uncomfortable with change, my overreact, and tends to be cautious and guarded. This type of horse gets their confidence from the horses and people they bond with.
The aloof horse prefers to be by themselves. They show little reaction to stimuli in their environment, but tend to be tolerant of whatever is going on in their surroundings.
The challenging horse is very self confident, and may even be arrogant. They are territorial and confrontational, sometimes coming across as a bully.
As with all the other personality traits, these characteristics show up as a mixture, with one trait being more outstanding than the others.
Within a horse’s personality are passive, aggressive, and passive aggressive variations. The passivity or aggressiveness of a horse is dependent in large part, on what experiences the horse has been exposed to.
Others divide horses into these six personality types:
the leader or controlling horse
the happy go lucky horse
the focused, serious, workhorse
the caretaker horse
Horse Personality and How Horses Learn
Horses have different personalities and they also learn differently. Based on this, horses can be divided into two categories can divide horses into two categories when training them based on how they learn:
Some evaluate a horse’s personality by:
how the horse forms relationships with other horses and with people
how the horse interacts with its environment
how a horse responds to various skill tests for sensitivity
how a horse responds to awareness of its surroundings
how intelligent a horse is based on testing
the confidence of a horse
how cooperative the horse appears to be
A horse’s personality is affected by how the horse is handled and managed. They will show different traits with different people and different horses they are interacting with.
How an animal reacts to the stimuli in its environment, how a horse learns and performs, and how a horse feels about itself are displayed their behavior and from their personality.
Cooperative and confident horses are generally easier horses to train. Horses that are less cooperative and less confident, but highly sensitive and intelligent, can be more challenging to work with.
Horses show their personality and temperament traits in their behavior, reactions, and interactions with people and other horses. Depending on how they are handled and treated, is what brings out different temperaments and personality traits.
There are many different ways to look at a horse’s personality. These amazing animals display distinct behaviors depending on what is going on around them, who they are around, their genetics, and their level of feeling secure.
There are debates that defining a horse’s personality is giving human characteristics to horses. Yet their reactions, their behaviors, and their response to people, other horses, and their environment lead many to feel these sensitive creatures do not just show these actions because of an inborn temperament, but also because of a personality that has developed from the animal’s experiences that influence their behavior.
The more we know about horses, the more we can understand how to work with them in an environment that is beneficial for the animal and for us.
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