Lessons From An Introvert

by Parelli Central on May 29, 2012

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.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Lora Deitrick March 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm

I have an Left Brain Intervert…… I need help. He is not afraid of anything human. He is motionless on the ground. First one to the gate. Loves food. More slow then go. Great personality. BUT do an extra circle in the round pen or change direction one extra time when he doesn’t feel like it, the tail will swish, the ears will pin and he will turn into the fence instead of turning towards you. May throw his hind legs up in the air…..will plant his feet when asking him to back. I try to get my energy up and do the asking, asking more and spanking. We do this time and time again. In the saddle he will do good until he decides he has had enough and will be hardly unable to flex him or be able to yeild his hind quarters. Before those times he will be great. Last week I took him out and we did circles in the field at a walk or trot, up and down ditches and as we were trotting a straight line he went up on his hind legs. Never has he even offered to do that. He is always heavy on the front. I leg go and went over his back as I thought he was going on over. When I recovered he was standing there waiting for me. I have gone over and over in my mind what happened. I felt and saw no warning. He has been ridden on over 100 trail rides. I got back on and he was fine. I don’t feel he is safe for anyone else to ride. Any suggestions?


Cathy Sugden March 25, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Hi Lora – This is a question for the Parelli professionals. My question to you is how often do you give treats to your LBI? Maybe is wondering what’s in it for him? Also, congrats on getting off went he went up. My guess on that is that he was waiting to see how you would handle that!
Also, try to think like a horse would think. Maybe going over it in YOUR mind is not what HE is doing! Good luck. I hope you get a proper answer:)


Margo Barrett March 25, 2013 at 6:34 pm

You’ve gotten the perfect response from the typical strong willed LBI. As to what you have described in your post, it sounds like you keep saying ” lets do this one more time”. He is more or less telling you, I’ve done it, I’m finished doing it, and I’m not going to do it any more!!! I see no purpose to doing another circle, ect… What is possibly in it for me???
The secret here is reverse psychology. Ask for slower transitions at a walk without stopping. Long rest in between request. Once he does something you’ve asked, or tried, move on to something new…but slowly. Allow him plenty of time to think. Take him on a trail ride somewhere new. If he gets a little antsy, get off and walk with him. Give purpose to everything you do. These guys hate repetition. There are more ways to reward besides treats. I wouldn’t give him a treat till our SHORT session was over. Oh, did I say short? He will do more for you if you slow down, and keep his sessions short. It’ll be better to do 15 to 30 minutes as oppose to 1 hour sessions with him.
I love these wonderful guys! Mine taught me the true meaning of patience! After he realizes you understand his needs, he’ll offer you everything he can.
I also suggest you seek the help of a Parelli Professional, who can watch you and your actions, or better yet, find yourself a L2/L3 clinic to participate in.
Good luck with your Super LBI!
Margo Barrett


Karen Eklund June 9, 2012 at 5:58 am

I enjoyed your blog. I have started playing with my daughters deserted LBI horse recently. My horse was sore and I had a Jerry Williams intensive clinic to attend so I started playing with Cowboy in preparation of taking hi to the clinic. My daughter had moved away to college and left her “horse days” and horse here. What a privilege to get to form a relationship with a new horse and to test my what I have learned. I love the differences between my horses and the challenges of finding new solutions. I love your reminders to take the “sayings” to heart. They DO make a difference when we put them in effect.


Patsy June 3, 2012 at 3:02 pm

How interesting!! I read all of these articles, and want to thank you for sharing. I had to laugh with you & your experience, which is similar to mine. Most people who know me find it hard to believe that I am naturally a RBI. Going into nursing & raising a family brought me out of my “safe” turtle shell a lot, but PNH & Linda’s brilliant Horsenality work has done even more. And now my main equine challenge is a LBI who makes me laugh all the time with her why should I antics. I do appreciate your growing with the new horse, and you go girl, it will be worth the effort :)


Carole Boegli June 3, 2012 at 6:38 am

Hi Shannon, what a great blog, my mare is an LBI too and I found it very challenging and also humbling to be interesting enough at times and slow enough at other times for her to come to me and enjoy to play and I certainly can understand your tears when partnership and friendship started happening.
So happy for you and Dexter, well done ))))


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