Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review and Maisie Settles In

A while ago, I posted a link to this fun horse personality quiz. There's also a book - Is Your Horse a Rock Star?: Understanding Your Horse's Personality, by Dessa Hockley. I was intrigued by the nuanced and quite accurate descriptions of my horses' personalities that came out of the on-line tests, so I ordered the book and have read most of it.

I'd recommend it strongly. I really like some things about it - first, it divides horses into 16, not just a few, personality types, based on pairings of dominant/submissive, energetic/lazy, curious/afraid, and friendly/aloof. It also recognizes that, even within these personality categories, each horse is an individual who may lie far to one end of a character pair, somewhere in the middle or can even switch between - our Dawn, for example is both very strongly curious and very strongly afraid, which makes for some interesting challenges. There is a chapter on each horse type with excellent descriptions and also some very good detailed training suggestions. There is no one-size-fits-all training method - I've believed this for years, which is one reason I don't believe "training systems" suit the best interests of horses - they suit the best interests of trainers who sell the system and owners who want a program to follow (which, to be fair, inexperienced horse people may really need to get started). Horses, and people, are much more complex that this. I think it's important to have a kit of training tools (by which I don't mean gadgets or tack or equipment; I mean a variety of ways of thinking about and approaching a training task with a horse which depends on the specific horse and the specific circumstances), but to always be flexible and willing to rethink and adapt.

Another thing I really like about this book is that it makes the important point that our own personalities enter into the picture too when we're working with horses, and that in some cases we may have to modulate how we would normally act when dealing with a particular horse - for example, if we're very dominant and our horse is also very dominant, we will have to avoid getting in fights with our horse, which will be our natural tendency. We have to be aware of our own strengths and weaknesses, and may sometimes have to grow and change, to work effectively with horses. I've certainly found this to be true for myself.

There is also a very good section on the use of the round pen, and how it can be misused or properly used in a training program, once again depending on the specific personality traits of each horse. Very good stuff. I don't agree with every last detail in this book, but it's very useful and I would recommend it.

* * * * * *
Maisie seems pretty happy to be back at our barn - except when she' stuck in her stall when the other horses are out - then she whinnies and body-slams. She hasn't had any grass in almost two months, so we're reintroducing her slowly - she was pretty excited when she got to graze for 15 minutes yesterday. She got to go out with the mares briefly - she hasn't been out with another horse in two months either. All of the mares already know her but there was much posturing by Dawn and some running around. This morning for a few hours she's in a smaller dry lot with Dawn and two piles of hay. Dawn's strutting around the paddock, going "SQUEEEEE" and doing her "Spanish-walk" strike out with one or both front feet. Occasionally she'll go up to Maisie and sniff her legs and belly - Maisie stands very still and keeps an ear and eye on Dawn, so when Dawn reverts to her posturing Maisie can quickly move away. So far Dawn shows no inclination to chase her or attack her, and Maisie's pretty good at reading the signals and is also very submissive.

Before her turnout yesterday, Maisie and I went on a brief trail ride. She was pretty excited but listened well - even when the mares in turnout spotted her and came running up to the fence. If we don't get rain I hope to do the same today before she gets her brief (30 minutes) turnout with the mares this afternoon. It's great to have a happy horse again!


  1. It does sound like Maisie is happy to be home with her friends. The book sounds interesting I might check it out. Oh, and I like your new background page, the colors really set off the pictures and text.

  2. Just took the quiz, apparently my mare is a people pleaser. I wouldn't have guessed that.

    Maisie sounds really happy to be home again. Sometimes you have to change things up before you realize that you don't actually want a change at all.

  3. That book sounds really interesting - I've been looking for a good horse book to read... I just did the online quiz and my horse is a wall flower! cute...

    Glad Maisie is doing well back at "home"... Too bad the other barn didn't work out, but even better that you were in a position to move her back to the other barn...

  4. thanks for the review. I liked the concept but thought it was a little gimmicky/ not applicable to training but now I think I will check it out!

  5. Kate, I too love your new background, very nice.

    The book sounds very interesting, I will check it out. I do know what you are saying about the training "packages", some of the things work on Gilly and some don't. He is a VERY smart horse, although he is also a lazy horse, but what a thinker....or should I say stinker? Both actually, not mean but very willful with a mind of his own. He is NOTHING like the other two horse I had in the past. He comes up with new challenges for me all the time, the others just went quietly along with what was asked of them.

    I have worked with several of the trainers materials that are on RFDTV and some have worked and some not. Yes, I agree that every horse is different, so what works for one won't necessary work with another. I am NOT a trainer and only want my horse to be a good horse for me to ride, so I definitely need the help! We aren't in a hurry to get anywhere in training.
    So reading posts like yours, very insightful by the way, love your writings! Reading all kinds of book, Marks have really helped me rethink things in a different way, is all good.

    I too am getting an education with this horse and maybe that's the way it's supposed to be, who can say.

    I think there was a reason he didn't want to get on the trailer when I was going to take him to a lesson. Not that he just didn't want to get on the trailer. The woman I was taking him to is good but she is ALL about money and how much she can get out of you. So since Gilly refused this has given me time to rethink a lot about this trainer and try to find another way to work with him.

    Sometimes it IS best to listen to the horse, they do have a LOT to say to us if we will only listen!

    Keep up the great posts, Kate! I do enjoy them so much, you have helped me rethink a lot of things with my horse!

  6. Good post, seems like another book on horses?

  7. My favorite trainer--Lockie Richards--always had dozens of ways to approach training, all dependent on the unique horse and rider. He was amazing.

    So happy to hear Maisie is smiling again. Funny that Dawn should be showing off so much, but I guess she just needs to reestablish the relationship on her terms.

  8. Great review Kate and I'm very happy Maisie is feeling better about herself now that she's back with a herd and able to graze a bit.

  9. I just recieved my copy of "Is Your Horse a Rock Star " yesterday. My mare Miami is a goddess, which I thought was hilarious because I always called her a princess. With five horses at my barn the differences in their personalities has fascinated me. I love the book and suggestions on how to deal with training the different types of horses. I totally agree the one size fits all training just doesn't work. I have found getting basics down with my mare a challenge becuase she loves the fancy moves. She does better with us mixing it up. As we work on basic riding and slow transitions and turns we are learning spanish walk and jumping from the ground. She loves to show off her latest moves.


Thank you for commenting - we appreciate it. No spam or marketing comments will be published.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.