A client visiting Dragonfly Farm today said that she had once heard that horses fall into three categories, Volunteers, Draftees, and Draft Dodgers. I nearly split my sides laughing, because we ALL know horses that fall into one of those categories! When I thought about it a little more, I decided that I would add two more categories to that list: Hippies (free spirits) and POWs (prisoners of war).
Now, this is mostly for fun… it can be unhelpful to get too comfortable with pigeon holing your horse into a “type” because then you can start to make assumptions about his motivations and behavior which can blind you to observing what is actually going on in the moment. Horses change according to their environment, comfort level with what they’re being asked to do, and the leadership or pressure they are getting from their human. So it is essential to stay in the moment and carefully read your horse so that your actions can be appropriate for his state of mind AT THE TIME.
So, with that disclaimer, let’s have a bit of fun with this. Here are my definitions and where (I think!) the Dragonfly Farm horses fit:
Volunteer: This horse has a strong play drive, is very social, and is always on the lookout for his next adventure! Generally he is sensitive, forward, and offers his rider 110%. Dezi and Borrego are Volunteers. I think Doc Boy is by nature, but his damaging experiences with abuse have landed him in another category….
Draftees: This horse is a pleasant horse, amiable and willing but not as extroverted and playful as the Volunteer. He’s more motivated by comfort, rest, and food than play… he feels as though he should be “compensated” for his work rather than the stimulation of the work being it’s own reward. Calypso, Ozzie, (and maybe Maggie) are in this category.
Draft Dodgers: This horse isn’t looking for any extra work thank you very much! He would prefer to conserve his energy and can be the trickiest type of horse to motivate to go to work with a smile on his face. These types are often quiet, gentle, “bombproof” horses in the positive, but can also be lazy, stubborn, or sneaky on the negative side. To help this horse reach his full partnership potential is a challenge worthy of a horseman! I would put Whimsy and Lakota (and maybe Maggie… I’m on the fence about her) in the Draft Dodger category.
Hippies: The Hippie can be shaped into a Volunteer because he has a lot of the same positive traits: a high play drive, energy, and motivation. But the Hippie has his OWN agenda and strong opinions and would rather not work for your cause! Hippies are often smarter than Volunteers but can be mischievous, unfocused, and dominant. The big challenge with a Hippie is to convert him into a Volunteer without squashing that exuberant spirit. I can name more than a few client Hippies… they know who they are 🙂
POWs (Prisoners of War): This is the most tragic category, because these are the horses who feel that they are behind enemy lines with humans. These can be untamed horses who are fearful of humans, but most often with domesticated horses they are horses who have suffered abuse or high-pressure situations that caused them to see humans as the enemy. This is sort of a false category, because the REAL and beautiful nature of the horse is underneath waiting to be drawn out with good handling and care. Doc Boy is recovering from this category, and moving closer to his true nature (which I suspect is as a Volunteer) every day!
So… what is your horse?