10 Irrefutable Laws – Law 06

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Law 6 – To be a leader, you need to know the personalities of who you are leading.

Take four people and ask them to take out the garbage from the kitchen.  The first one, you say, “Take out the garbage, please.”  The second one, you say, “Get the garbage out now so we can have some time to play.”  The third one, you say, “Take the garbage bag out of the container, tie up the top, walk it out to the receptacle and place it there, return to the kitchen, put a new, clean bag in the container, and close the door.”  The fourth one, you say, “I love it when you take out the garbage.  You are such a man, and I’m so lucky to have you with me.”

You can see the goal of taking out the garbage is the same, but the way you lead the person into doing the task is different for each.  According to Hippocrates, about 2000 years ago, there are four types of people.

  • The Choleric: demanding, dominant, can’t stand stupid – the one where you need to make the task their idea. 
  • The Phlegmatic: easy-going, needs security – the one who avoids conflict. 
  • The Sanguine: self-centered, can’t focus – the one who, if there is fun involved, will do anything. 
  • The Melancholy: order, process – the one who needs to know the specific order of every step.

Most people are a mix of these personality types, with one personality being more dominant than the others.

As I have worked with horses, I have discovered that horses’ personalities are similar to humans.  Over the years, many horsemanship gurus have expanded on these in ways people can follow.  For example, there is the extrovert and the introvert, the left brain thinking and the right brain thinking.  It is all the same, with the bottom line being that to be an effective leader, you will need to know which type you are leading.

I have been able to identify the horse’s personality I’m working on within a minute or two by working on over 70,000 horses.  Many of you don’t want to wait this long, so I have developed a plan for you to become an expert identifier.  To do this, all you need to do is ask the horse.  I don’t mean voicing your question.  Just apply a few different ways of asking the horse to do something for you.  Based on the response, you will be close to guessing the personality.

First, ask the horse to move to a different spot in the stall.  If he goes willingly, he is probably a phlegmatic horse willing to do almost anything without reason.  They are easygoing.  If he needs some instruction to move, like “I need you to move back a full step please,” he is a list-making melancholy personality.  If you wave a finger at him while looking him in the eye and say, “Git!” he might be a fun-loving, playful, sanguine.  They usually also step forward again to be in your face.  Finally, if you ask them to go backward and the horse looks at you and says, “Why should I,” or  “Make me,” he is a dominant, demanding, choleric personality.

There are layers on top of these personalities.  Intelligence is one of them.  Stupid horses are just stupid, and smart horses are smart.  Here is another hint.  Look at the size and clarity of the eyes and the distance between the two eyes.  Eyeballs are a direct extension of the brain.  They sprout out from it during the development of the foal on stalks called the optic nerve. So when you look at eyeballs, you are looking at the horse’s (or person’s) brain.  Eyes set wide apart and are large and clear are usually intelligent horses who will listen to you and give respect when earned. Narrow-set eyes and eyeballs smaller than they should be (called pig-eyed horses by horsemen) are less intelligent – sometimes a lot less.  They can also be stubborn and unwilling to give back respect.

Horses with large foreheads, especially when looked at in profile, are usually more intelligent and kinder. On the other hand, horses with a crease in their head can either be difficult or slow in intelligence.

Of course, there are always some horses that are just felons.  I often say that even Al Capone (a notorious US gangster) needed a dentist.  With gangsters, you need just a little more confidence than the horse, who, by definition, is very confident.  They are not for the new horse handler.

I love most trained and well-handled stallions.  Wild stallions can be difficult to impossible just because they are more confident than humans.  They use expletives when they say, “No!”  Here is something many horse owners don’t know.  Almost every male horse (stallions and geldings) has up to 4 tall, sharp teeth in the interdental space called canine teeth shaped like daggers.  They are there to tear flesh in a fight.  Most female horses do not have these teeth, but those that do can be very confident, content with being alone, and pushy with other horses and are often called the alpha mare. In a few, they can even be stallion-like in aggression.  I love working on mares with canines because they connect easily, but they can be a challenge for a new horse owner.  You can quickly feel for these teeth before purchasing a mare.

Some personalities appear to be breed-specific, but I have not found this the case.  Instead, people see that some breeds are more expressive than others.  For example, most Thoroughbreds can be more willing to express their personalities than Morgans or some warmblood horses.

Personalities of horses rarely change.  If it does, the horse wants to, but a person cannot change them through training.

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