Monday, July 28, 2014

Horsenalities in the Show Industry: Right Brain Introverts

      Second edition of my "Horsenalities in the Show Industry" goes to the Right Brain Introverts (RBI). They have a hard time in the show world, and are most often the "give away" and "auctioned off" horses. They do not handle stress very well, and when rushed, forced and pushed tend to explode in very dangerous ways. They more often than not end up being labeled as unpredictable and dangerous.

      I have only encountered one true RBI in a show world setting, and he ended up being sent away after hurting two trainers in two different situations. It's difficult for me to understand how so many people can turn their backs on these guys, because their personalities can be so warming and their partnership connections are so strong when properly woven. Gaining their trust can be very difficult, and proving your competence even more so... but the biggest cause of wastage for these guys is because they need time. A lot of it. Time and patience.
      They need time to think through each situation, especially in the beginning, without being pushed or stressed out. When they hit a wall in their comfort level, they hit it hard. And it causes them to recoil in anxiety. As a trainer, it is our responsibility to recognize this recoil and step back and wait for them to relax again. As long as they are pent up, nothing we can do will make them move forward faster than doing nothing at all. They need to break down their own wall slowly, calmly and without persuasion; before they can move on to anything new. And if you do push them, they will get more and more tense.. and build up more and more energy until one little last straw and BOOM. This is when someone is likely to get hurt. A seemingly quiet and ignorant horse turns into a cascade of flying hooves and bucks. Many label this as behaviour associated with the latest action, but it's the build up of the entire session from that first moment of anxiety. They have effectively hidden it within them and suppressed that anxiety until a few seconds ago, when it finally boiled over and exploded.

      So the best way to work with a RBI? Prepare yourself to avoid the beginning phases of anxiety in the first place. Go slow. Be patient, and as always, be supportive. These guys get scared easy, tense up fast and get lost in their own fear world unless you hold their hand and keep them safe. The first signs of anxiety need to be taken as seriously as the big bucking fit you might experience in 20 minutes if you were to ignore those anxiety signs. You need to address them immediately. Step back, relax and wait for them to relax too. Don't ask anything more of them until they breathe a sigh of relief, lick and chew and tag up.

      They take the longest in the beginning, and for awhile it seems like maybe you aren't getting anywhere with them. But as long as you make a little progress every day, and end somewhere better than where you started, you are on a good track. Somedays you start and it feels like you went back in training a few steps from the day before, but that doesn't matter as long as you end on a good note. Make everything possible as positive as you can. And if you can't handle the frustration that you might hit, it is imperative that you step away as soon as you notice it. These guys do not handle negative emotions well. They retreat very quickly and will start to act out in ways that will make you even more frustrated. So nip that vicious cycle in the butt and call it quits before it escalates.

      When handled and treated right, a RBI will give you the world. They will try, go slow and be safe. As long as they feel safe. So work towards your partnership as hard as you can with these guys in the beginning, and once you can break down those walls and start with a trusting friendship from the gate; you'll be set to take on any new challenge together with ease!

      Anyone think they have a RBI at home? What was your first impression of them?

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