Maisie is much bigger than Dawn, at least 4 and maybe 5 inches taller, and much longer in the neck and body - her neck seems to go out in front almost endlessly in contrast to Dawn. But Maisie is much more delicately built than Dawn, and somewhat narrower. Dawn's head and girth size are only slightly smaller than Maisie's. Maisie has smooth, gliding gaits and a lovely round smooth rocking horse canter, in part due to to those long sloping pasterns that are the cause of many of her soundness issues. Dawn is very short-coupled and athletic, with somewhat springy gaits with more motion in all planes than Maisie's. Maisie is elegant, Dawn is powerful.
Maisie and Dawn also have very different personalities. Dawn is naturally a very dominant horse, and never hesitates to express her opinions - she really wants to get things right. Maisie is submissive and pretty willing to please. Maisie finds it easier to trust and will give you the benefit of the doubt, while Dawn has to be persuaded that you're worth trusting. When she doesn't understand, Maisie gets fussy and Dawn gets worried. Maisie is responsive, but almost never as hair-trigger sensitive as Dawn - there's more margin for error with Maisie. Dawn is also very, very smart, and can try to anticipate and can be a perfectionist, which requires sensitive handling to avoid her worrying. The risk with Dawn is that she'll learn the wrong thing, or not be convinced that what you want to do is right. Maisie sometimes has trouble learning and gets easily frustrated - with her the risk is that she hasn't understood so the challenge is to give her a chance to figure things out so she doesn't feel too pressured - but once she learns something, she's got it forever.
Now, despite the differences between my horses, I try to approach them with the same care and consideration for their feelings about the work, and try to get a solid conversation back and forth established. I also really try, every day, to bring softness and consistency, as much as I am able, to my interactions with both of them. Since they are different individuals - all horses are individuals and any groupings of types ultimately give way to the specifics of the individual horse - my work with them plays out in different ways and follows somewhat different paths - there is no one size fits all program, although many of the principles are the same. I think that's what makes the work so interesting - it isn't abstract, it's how it relates to the individual horse. When I was changing how I worked with horses, I found this question of how to apply common ways of working and mindset to individual horses very challenging and difficult - it was hard that there was no set program that could be applied to all horses. (See the sidebar section "Steps on the Journey" for more about this - the whole thing still amazes me.) But the more I've worked in this way, the more I'm beginning to understand the underlying commonalities and how it plays out for each horse - I'm still very much on the road with this, still learning, and expect I always will be.
As I was thinking about how different each of my horses has been to ride, somehow the comparison to different types of cars came into my mind. Now this is not to say that horses should ever be analogized to mechanical things - too many people treat their horses like pieces of disposable sports equipment without feelings in my opinion. So just for fun, here are my horses as the cars they remind me of.
Promise was like a really fine mid-range BMW - say 500 series. Fairly big, firm ride and handling and plenty of acceleration when needed, and somewhat luxurious. Noble was like a good-quality sedan - say a Toyota Camry - easy to drive, very low maintenance, and plenty nimble and pleasant to drive, but more than anything else, reliable. Lily was like a Hummer - very large and square, could go over or through anything, do-or-die competitive but a somewhat rough ride. (Norman is, well, just Norman - I've never ridden him (but I have driven him) and he's not a car, he's an opera diva!) Maisie is like a very comfortable and well-appointed luxury car with sensitive handling, but one that's high maintenance and sometimes prone to mechanical problems, but really, really beautiful - say a Jaguar. Dawn is a fine sports car - small, very handy, very zippy, very sensitive steering and handling, all function and not just form - maybe a Porsche. (I was telling my husband about this, and he says Maisie is a Buick and Dawn is a Jeep Wrangler!)
What cars are your horses like?