Wanna know a secret?
It's hard to believe, but at one time I used to think that horses were pretty much similar to cows as far as personalities went, (although I knew there were some fundamental differences). I mean I could see that some horses were more spirited or stubborn or friendlier than others, but I didn't really look too far beyond the basics. Ha - wasn't I just way off base?
Horses have personalities; all right, wait - make that big, fat PERSONALITIES with all of the likes, dislikes and idiosyncrasies that go with them. Now if this is news to you I would have to say you are really missing out . The thing is, I'd missed out too for years and years on all but the superficial side of horses (and that's a mighty big shame, I can tell you!) Horses are extremely skilled at hiding their individuality, and it can take years in a comfortable environment before a "horse in hiding" will feel free enough to reveal their true self.
I've created this lens using a book I really enjoyed and our own equine residents to give you a glimpse of horses as they really are: In a word? SPUNKTACULAR! :o)
Want some insight on personalities? - Yes, I know it's a people book :o)
This was one of the best books I've read. The personality traits can be adjusted for horses to a certain extent; I think all horses possess some Melancholy traits: makes friends cautiously, schedule oriented, purposeful, sensitive...see what I mean? :o)
The book discusses four basic personality types
(and they sometimes overlap)
I started each module below with the scenario, "A new object in his/her world is..." which best illustrates the distinct differences in each of the horse's personalities. Here is a breakdown of each of the personality types discussed in the book:
CHOLERIC: [The Commander] Strong, decisive, dominant, stubborn, and sometimes arrogant. Tend to focus on taking charge, but can sometimes run right over others.
Otherwise referred to as B-O-S-S-Y.
MELANCHOLY: [The Analyst] Analysis of the facts, thoughtful, assessing, and evaluating the positives and negatives of a given situation. Preferring order and predictability, they can paralyze themselves by over analyzing a situation...
Slightly shy of OCD.
SANGUINE: [The Social Butterfly] Friendly, outgoing, and fun-loving. Makes friends easily, love to be sociable and entertaining but cannot always be depended upon to get the job done...
Your basic social butterfly.
PHLEGMATIC: [Easygoing] Laid back, unexcitable and easy going, they desire peace among all else. Often indifferent, they seek harmony and tend to stick to the status quo...
They just go with the flow, you know? :o)
Left to Right: Lady, Taya, Rina & Bella
Lady is...Slightly stuck up and sweetly shy
She is a Melancholy
A new object in her world is not to be approached at all; it is to be fled away from or stared at from a safe distance (a few hundred feet will do) and might eventually be approached but only after it is certain it didn't eat anyone else that got close to it.
Idiosyncrasy: She will happily wallow in a pile of poop, but she will not set foot in mud.
It took close to three years before Lady started showing any signs of a distinct personality. She is still very introverted and reserved, but we are starting to see more little snippets of her true self every day.
THE PHOTOS: Lady has had two foals (Rina and Taya pictured below). Both times she was an amazing mom; no objections to us near either foal and she was always careful never let them wander too far. For the first couple of weeks after Taya was born, Lady would not allow Taya to get near the electric fence. If Taya strayed too close to it, Lady would insert herself between Taya and the fence and gently turn her away from it using her body. When Taya was old enough, Lady let her go ahead and touch the fence to learn about boundaries. Every afternoon for the first two weeks of her life, Lady exercised Taya in the front yard (photo below right) by trotting her in a big circle. You could almost set your watch by it; pretty neat, huh?
Rina is...Bossy and bullheaded
She is a Choleric/Melancholy
A new object in her world is to be viewed with extreme suspicion and approached most carefully with caution and deliberation (this is the part Rina likes least in her leadership role). She takes her job as Alpha Mare very seriously and rules with an iron hoof, although she is always careful to ensure the safety of her herd.
Idiosyncrasy: Refuses to walk into her room (stall) alone during rainy weather (I have to go first, then I am excused :o)
Rina exemplifies the stubbornness and fiery temperament so often associated with the Arabian breed. She is, however, generous and loyal as well. She enjoys attention but tends to be reserved and slightly standoffish; she is friendly with visitors, but likes to have a minute or two to check them out first.
THE PHOTOS: A frog was passing by her stall and captured her attention (photo below left). The photo below right shows Rina displaying her strong personality as a lead mare to establish dominance over Cinnamon (I think she scared him a little :o)
Bella is...Perpetually prissy and scary smart
She is a Melancholy
A new object in her world in to be approached slowly and analyzed most thoroughly (you can see those little wheels cranking away in there).
Idiosyncrasies: Hates to be petted; loves to stack the feed buckets. Will do absolutely anything for a treat.
Bella tends to be extremely standoffish when it comes to people (I'm excused). She does not like to be petted (never has), but will accept it if I ask her to. She loves to learn tricks and will practice them independently if she can. Considers me (Jen) her personal property and tends to be somewhat jealous and very protective (see video evidence in module below :o)
She is a big thinker and has some excellent problem solving capabilities. Case in point? Once, when they were "little", Rina had colic so we put Bella in her stall (she was taking advantage of the situation and bullying Rina). Bella stayed in her stall for about 10 minutes, and the next thing we knew she was trotting across the yard toward us. While she was not able to undo the latch and let herself out, she was able to lay down and scoot herself under the door. See what I mean???
THE PHOTOS: Below left: Bella off to investigate something that caught her interest. The photo on the right shows her "thinkin' face", (we were playing around with a rain slicker, which was something new to her :o)
One blustery day, while the horses were at play, - I decided to take some video...
(and silly me)
Although I was standing by a tree for safety reasons (just in case), Bella determined the situation to be UNSAFE and appointed herself official protector of her hapless biped. After shooting several short clips, I opted to retreat indoors because my poor guardian was getting stressed out ;o)
P.S. I was using the zoom much of the time, so I'm not quite as close as it appears.
Taya is...Chock full of sunshine and sass
She is a Sanguine/Phlegmatic
A new object in her world is something to be investigated immediately (and possibly pilfered to play with later).
Idiosyncrasies: Obsessed with shoelaces and fascinated by power tools.
Taya is our little ray of pasture sunshine: both happy and easygoing. She loves people, adores attention, and is the first to say hello when anyone comes to visit so we've elected her the official ambassador for The Girls. As laid back as she may be, Taya does have a mischievous streak. If we are outside working, it is always a wise decision to hide the tools. She is happy to stay nearby and just listen to me talk (and yes I talk to my horses...doesn't everybody?? :o)
THE PHOTOS: Below left is of Taya celebrating a big milestone; Graduation Day. This was the day she left her mom (Lady) to join "the big kids" (Rina and Bella). She marched straight in to their paddock with her head up, little chest thrown out and tail high. It wasn't long after introductions were made before the celebrating began. Of course she also manages to drive Rina up the wall when she's feeling frisky (Photo below right). But then, what are little sisters for after all?
The Moo Crew
Slightly scrambled... - (but left to right as best I can) Cinnamon, Max, Champ, Shadow & Retta
Shadow is...A weenie, an egomaniac and complete drama queen
He is Melancholy with aspirations of a Choleric [A Wannabee]
A new object in his world is to be snorted at repeatedly from a safe distance under cover (like maybe behind a tree or person). It is NEVER to be approached unless everyone else is looking; then he has to step up and be the man *sigh*.
Idiosyncrasies: Too numerous to mention - He has his very own "Blankie" if that's any indication :o)
Shadow is a former Big Lick horse (see his lens for more info) with an abusive past which factors heavily into his demeanor. He loves people and attention, but is terrified by any major change in his little world; consistency is extremely important to him.
Any time something out of the ordinary happens that may need to be investigated, he will take a few steps forward, then stop to see if anyone is looking. If no one is looking, he will nod several times then snort and peer cautiously at whatever caught his attention without actually getting any closer. When witnesses are present, however, Shadow first checks to see if they are really watching at least 5 or 6 times before swaggering forward (with totally false bravado). Of course if anything even remotely scary happens at this time, he's the first to flee the scene (usually by running over everybody else :o)
THE PHOTOS: Below left: Shadow marching off to investigate a strange movement in the field next door; probably something ferocious (like a squirrel). His audience is watching just beyond the camera which means he has to go look. Photo right: A dramatic episode (also known as a "Blankie moment"). Although he appears to be sick, he isn't. What is he doing, is pouting. When we brought Cinnamon, Retta and Max home (rescues), Shadow chased them around the pasture for a long time before throwing himself on the ground moaning and groaning like he was at death's door. Why? Because the three infidels would not GET OUT of "his" pasture, thereby throwing Shadow into a total tizzy.
Champ is...A bit of a goober with a super sized sense of fun
He is a S-A-N-G-U-I-N-E [oh yeah, definitely]
A new object in his world exists for one of two reasons: 1) It's his birthday and his person brought him a fun toy to play with; or 2) It's his birthday and his person brought him a yummy treat.
Idiosyncrasies: Thinks dewormer is delicious and loves to play with and drink from the water hose.
Champ is friendly, outgoing, and loves people. He also has the best sense of humor out of all of our horses. He has us (his two-legged pets) for entertainment, and plays with us on a regular basis. Champ has whinnied only once in all the years he has been here, and that was at a golf cart across the road (go figure).
Champ is an amiable sort, content to lumber around the pasture at a leisurely pace on most days. He will, however, definitely kick it up a notch for meals and at deworming time (that's his favorite, and do not ask me why because...ick).
THE PHOTOS: Champ playing with a pasture toy (photo below left); saying "howdy" to a pint-sized visitor (below right).
Cinnamon is...A cantankerous old man
He is a Phlegmatic/Choleric
A new object in his world is to be given the once over; but as long as it doesn't interfere with any meals, it is destined to be ignored (because who cares, right???)
Idiosyncrasy: Pleasantly antisocial; tends to be paranoid at mealtimes.
Cinnamon is still very introverted, although he has relaxed considerably since he moved here. We could never accuse him of being friendly, but he will usually accept attention until he's had enough (then he will walk away in dismissal). Rina must have a thing for spots; she has a huge crush on him.
The one thing Cinnamon does get excited about is food, and he is quick to pitch a fit if he thinks anyone is even looking at his bucket. His previous owner was less than reliable when it came to regular feedings, and in spite of our consistency in this area he still has issues. He also volunteers to help with clean up after meals.
THE PHOTOS: Below left: Cinnamon meticulously vacuums each stall after meals to ensure there is no food left on the floor; hot footing it down the hill so he won't be late for supper (photo below right).
Max is...A 900lb "hoovenile" delinquent
He is a Phlegmatic/Choleric
A new object in his world is to be approached immediately and relocated somewhere more appropriate (like his room) where he can play with it later.
Idiosyncrasies: Stirs his food round and round while he eats; and can NOT keep himself out of trouble.
Max is pretty laid back most of the time, although he sure does enjoy aggravating Shadow and the rest of his pasture pals (that seems to be his A#1 mission in life, actually). He likes people and attention, but we have frequent discussions on what it means to respect someone's personal space. We are also working diligently on his manners and developing our "people skills".
He has a penchant for getting himself into trouble, and we often refer to him as our scratch and dent horse. Max's mane stays perpetually snarled, often with bits of grass and twigs sticking out following his latest adventure, and he is usually covered with scratches and dings from his [thoroughly] exasperated herd mates.
THE PHOTOS: Max headed for up close and personal in my space (below left); The photo on the right shows Max's "What'd I do???" look. He employs this every time he gets into trouble or manages to annoy Shadow into doing something he's not supposed to, like kicking the round pen panel between them (in other words, he spends a LOT of time looking this way).
Retta is...Super sweet and slightly senile
She is a Phlegmatic
A new object in her world is most likely tripped over, snuffled at, and then forgotten because it's time to have some more hay.
I haven't figured out her idiosyncrasy yet (I'm betting she forgot what it is :o)
Retta was supposed to be a 7 year old when we rescued her, but I'm pretty sure someone neglected to mention the 1 in front of it (well, either that or her cataracts and gray hair are REALLY early :o) She is very laid back and enjoys visitors, but she likes it if they speak first because she can no longer see them coming.
Retta has adapted pretty well to the loss of her vision, although she does sometimes wind up in Cinnamon's room by accident (he's next door). Max sometimes entertains himself by going in Retta's room, which tricks her into thinking Cinnamon's is hers (and as obsessed as he is about meals, this does NOT go well).
THE PHOTOS: Retta spends her days between the hay pile and the pasture (below left). She gets a little muddled sometimes about where she is and what she's supposed to be doing, but she usually manages to puzzle things out (photo right).
Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling - Took personality traits and combined with physical attributes; really interesting!
Curious about the toy Champ is playing with? - Check it out - it's tons of fun, and our horses absolutely love it!
Toss a handful of treats into the tube, put the top back on and prepare to be entertained. Treats pop out through a hole on one end as the toy is rolled around; our horses absolutely love this toy!
Here's a fun clip for you to watch - Just don't forget I'm an absolute amateur in the video department!
What exactly do horses DO when the temperatures in Alabama turn Arctic? Run around like loonies of course (it's a time-honored tradition for keeping warm. This clip features Max and Cinnamon squaring off to play "The Game" (but don't worry, they are not fighting! :o)
NOTE: The bobble with the camera towards the end was compliments of Taya who decided to give my sleeve, which was attached to the arm holding the camera, a great big happy slurp (it's nice to be loved).