Shannon South sent us this great, not to mention relevant, blog about what we can all learn from the introverts in our lives. We hope you enjoy it!
When I look back on 30 years of horses in my life, it is very evident that I am attracted to extroverted horses. Every horse I have chosen for myself has been an extrovert. I love how they are in constant motion and how quickly their play drives come out. I have never felt the need to seek out, and play with, the introverted Horsenalities™. After all, I understood them on paper and I was having so much fun – why bother?
In February of this year, I purchased a lovely 10-year-old paint gelding. Dexter is intended for my 8-year-old son, and he was chosen for his many years of experience under saddle and his calm, safe, “been there, done that” nature. Knowing that he did not have a natural background, I committed to take the time with Dexter to fill in some gaps, specifically with his ground handling and trailer loading. It is difficult to admit that prior to Dexter, I have not spent any real time with a Left-Brain Introvert – and even harder to admit that I made an assumption that getting Dexter started with the Seven Games would be easy. After all – he didn’t like to move his feet, so how hard could it be?
Pat’s words – “Don’t make or teach assumptions” – quickly took on new meaning. I am used to walking down to the paddock and having my extroverted partners come to the gate – often putting effort into greeting me and getting there. Dexter would remain motionless, with an expression of indifference, at the far end of the field. The catching game involved me catching him, and he always carried an air of resignation. Beginning the Seven Games was a real eye-opener. Asking him to move out of my space usually was met with no response. None. Nothing. And I was left standing there looking at him, completely unsure how to communicate with him. But after calling up my deep reserves of patience, surviving lots of sleepless nights, wracking my brain, and a healthy dose of creativity, I slowly started to draw Dexter out and began to have him act like a partner. My goal is to surprise him at every turn – to do things with him instead of to him. And sometimes that takes lying down in the field to have him “catch” me. And sometimes it is making a point of not loading him in the trailer when he is expecting to be loaded. Sometimes it is not going through the phases by getting bigger and stronger – it is being annoying and pestering him until he responds! And it is working! These days, Dexter puts effort into greeting me at the gate, and has an expression of “what are we going to do today?” My eyes well up with tears when his play drive appears and he takes the rope out of my hand or mouths the trailer door latches.
But through all of this, I began to question why I am so strongly attracted to extroverted horses and why I find this introvert so challenging. As I watched Dexter feel safe enough and comfortable enough to allow his play drive to finally show through, I realized something important…. as a Right-Brain Introvert myself, Dexter is a mirror of myself. Like him, in new situations, I need to quietly assess the situation to feel safe with who is involved and what is going on before I can comfortably carry on a conversation or learn something new or meet new people. Like Dexter, I have often been described as aloof and hard to get to know. Like Dexter, pushing me into the deep end of the pool is not the best way to teach me to swim. Time and patience are keys to helping us feel safe and comfortable so we can be confident and play! And just as the important people in my life figured out, it is oh so interesting to discover how much is going on beneath the surface of those introverts!
Being a partner for Dexter has been the biggest test of my savvy since I started Parelli in 2008. He has challenged me in ways I couldn’t have imagined! When I purchased him, I knew he would be the horse that would teach my son, but I hadn’t anticipated he would be the horse that would teach me the most about myself.