This website uses cookies to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic.  Cookie Policy

What is Your Horse’s Personality?

We love to guess about what our horses might be thinking or feeling. We wonder at their emotion, speak for them, or narrate their interactions with other horses. But is this fair? Can we really understand what horses think and feel? Is it helpful or harmful to assign human qualities to a horse?

These are a few questions I want to start to answer in this article and video, because while later in this article I am going to share a framework for human personality traits and how these can give us insights about our horses, I wanted to begin by discussing both sides of anthropomorphizing.

The definition of anthropomorphizing is assigning human traits to animals.

It helps us understand animals and perhaps have more compassion and empathy towards them.

However, while there are similarities, animals do think and learn differently. When we assign human traits to them, we run the risk of expecting too much. We expect them to cognitively understand and generalize situations in the way we do, and get upset when they do not, perhaps blaming it on deliberate disobedience or spite rather than a simple lack of understanding.

When wanting to better understand our horses, making comparisons to human behavior, personality, and emotions can be a starting point. It can help us feel more empathy for a horse who is fearful, anxious, or bored.

But we need to be careful not to take it too far. Not to expect the horse to learn and think in the same way we do.

Having said that, I would like to introduce a model for understanding personality traits. Of course, this model is referring to human traits, but perhaps there are some parallels to our horses as well.

First, a simple and clear definition of personality. In the words of the American Psychological Association (APA), personality is:

“individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving” (APA, 2017).

Personality has been studied in humans since the ancient Greeks as they sought to answer the questions of what makes people so different and what drives behavior.

There are many contributors to the study of personality through the ages, and many models that attempt to explain and sort personality.

The model I would like to look at here is called the Big 5. It is generally accepted as being the most simple, yet accurate, description of personality traits.

Description of the Big 5

Keep in mind that these descriptions are for the human experience. We don’t truly understand what a horse experiences, but perhaps we can gain insights by considering the differences amongst people.

1 – Openness

The first factor is openness to new experience. An individuals level of curiosity about the world, and comfort level with the new and different.

2 – Conscientiousness

This second factor is the level of care taken to oneself, one’s surroundings, and one’s work or activities. In people we would call a well dressed person, who keeps their house clean, and always shows up for work on time conscientious.

3 – Extraversion

Extraversion is the extent to which an individual gets energy from interacting with others. Extraversion in people is characterized by sociability, talkativeness, assertiveness and excitability.

Generally, an extroverted individual is energized being around people and social situations. An introvert is energized by quiet time alone.

4 – Agreeableness

Agreeableness is the extent to which someone cares to please others. An agreeable person would be described as being kind, sympathetic, and empathetic.

The lower an individual’s amount of agreeableness the more they will pursue their own interests or opinions.

5 – Neurosis

Neurosis implies a mental illness or instability, but in this instance, is meant to indicate an individual’s level of sensitivity.

This is the trait and the part of this Big 5 framework that prompted me to write this piece. I believe that by accepting some horses will have a higher degree of sensitivity, we can make better choices as to the type of horse that is a good match for us as well as set more reasonable expectations on what we can accomplish with any individual horse.

Some individuals, speaking clearly of both people and horses in this instance, are just more reactive, more easily startled, and more observant of the world around them.

Understanding & Accepting Our Horses

There is no “better” set of personality traits. Each unique combination of traits will have its strengths as well as weaknesses.

When we can better understand and accept our horses for who they are, I believe we can create a more fulfilling relationship with them.

Perhaps thinking of personality theory can help us do just that.

 

 

References

  • APA. (2017). Personality. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/topics/personality/
email
Opt In Image
Understanding Your Horse in 7 Days
A Free Course on Horse Behavior

Discover how your horse thinks and what motivates his behavior. Learn to communicate clearly to create a happy and willing riding partner.

I’d also like get more free info on riding and training, as well as the occasional promotion. Your information is safe with us, learn how we use and process data in our Privacy Policy.

Comments

  1. Reply

    • By Julia Burdy

      Reply

  2. Reply

    • By Julia Burdy

      Reply

  3. By Sara

    Reply

    • By Julia Burdy

      Reply

  4. By Laura Ponter

    Reply

  5. By Jenny

    Reply

  6. By Sarah

    Reply

  7. By Linda Grunberg

    Reply

  8. By Nancy B

    Reply

  9. By Kimberley

    Reply

  10. By Sue

    Reply

  11. By Kathy Smiley

    Reply

  12. By Diana

    Reply

  13. By Gail Maduri

    Reply

  14. By Elizabeth D

    Reply

  15. By Monica Dean

    Reply

  16. By ellen de haan

    Reply

  17. By Debra

    Reply

  18. By Amanda

    Reply

  19. By Diane

    Reply

  20. By J. Manes

    Reply

    • By Julia Burdy

      Reply

    • By Sue

      Reply

  21. By Linda Harlin

    Reply

  22. By Heather Macintosh

    Reply

  23. By Marcia Weese

    Reply

  24. By Mary Ann Stoothoff

    Reply

    • By Patricia

      Reply

      • By Joan

        Reply

      • By Betty Washburn

        Reply

    • By Sue

      Reply

      • By Betty Washburn

        Reply

    • By Betty Washburn

      Reply

      • By Sue

        Reply

    • By Julia Burdy

      Reply

  25. By Michele Slowey-Ogert

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *