discussion on forehead swirls

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discussion on forehead swirls

Post by Admin on Fri Feb 19, 2010 9:45 am

Dear panel:



I don't know how you feel about the theory of behavior as expressed by forehead swirls (whorls) but I have recently purchased a colt with double swirls on his forehead (one above the other). Coincidentally, a few weeks before his purchase, I had viewed videos by the trainer Chris Irwin as posted on the Stateline Tack website. Mr. Irwin describes the forehead swirls as being indicative of temperament and says that two swirls mean there are two horses inside one and that both will have to be trained at the same time. The occurrence of two swirls one on top of the other would indicate, according to Mr. Irwin, a Jekyll/Hyde personality. I have to admit I didn't fully jump on board with this theory at the time. However, when my colt came home and I saw the double swirls (didn't notice them before), I thought it would be a good experiment to either confirm or debunk this theory. I have come to believe in the Jekyll/Hyde theory 100%. This colt has full-spectrum mood swings that I can see coming by the expression on his face. The dominant personality is brave and thoughtful. The "other" personality shows up when the dominant personality is frustrated or nervous for an extended period of time. He is very reactive, can't concentrate, and has jerky, fast movements. He cannot be disciplined at the time because he blows up. I have learned that when this personality is present, to just let him alone and give him something simple to do to try to distract him and calm him down. I'm gaining ground on the other personality as it seems to be becoming less difficult to get him to concentrate when he's present, but I don't know if there's been some precedent set here and there's something specific I should or shouldn't be doing. I'm a very calm person and always keep my cool but feel like I'm floundering with this issue since I've not experienced it before. I tend to just do what I have to do at the time I have to do it and try to always move forward and in a positive manner. Any advice for me? Sometimes I feel discouraged. I've done NH groundwork exercises (with both personalities) and the horse is proficient at this time. By the way, he is 2 1/2 years old.



Thanks, Debbie (and "Who Dun It"), Houston.
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Re: discussion on forehead swirls

Post by Ed Dabney on Fri Feb 19, 2010 10:20 am

Hi Debbie, Having read Linda Tellington-Jones book “Geting in TTouch With Your Horse“ which promotes the theory that a horse’s physical characteristics such as swirls; shape, placement and size of the eyes, face, nostrils, lips and chin can indicate his personality traits and behavior patterns, I believe there may be some validity in this theory but in my experience with hundreds of horses this is not a method I rely upon to discover a particular horse’s “horseanality” or to develop my training plan for each horse. When I first approach a new horse to become familiar with him and begin training I am intuitively evaluating all the details of physical characteristics, body language, expression, posture and movement in context of the present situation and the horse’s history, if known. In other words, use your gut instinct and look at the big picture.



You may be reading too much into this Jekyll/Hyde theory and adjusting your training plan just to make everything you do fit into this particular theory. Beware of over-analyzing. Just approach the horse on face value and meet him where he is on any given day. It sounds like you may be doing this already from your statement, “I tend to just do what I have to do at the time I have to do it and try to always move forward and in a positive manner”

A variety of factors may cause “mood swings” or personality changes in your horse. The weather and changes in barometric pressure – cool and windy or hot and humid, can certainly have an effect on your horse’s behavior. Physical problems, dental, skeletal or muscle pain issues can greatly influence your horse’s attitude and his level of response to your requests.



No matter what personality you are seeing in your horse at the time, it is a good idea to give him lots of little jobs to do to gain his attention and keep his focus on you, the leader who makes all decisions about speed and direction. I congratulate you on doing the NH groundwork with your horse because through these exercises you now have built in cues for controlling all the horse’s body parts and will be able to have him perform these exercises on the ground or mounted to bring his focus back to you and to help him “find himself” again by doing something that is comfortable and familiar to him.



Since a horse is not completely developed physically until age five, I would not be in a hurry to have him trained and riding at two and a half. Just take your time and try to approach every lesson with low stress and calm assurance. Be a confident, consistent leader for him so he can come into a place of peace under your good leadership.



Be in the moment and enjoy the journey,



Ed
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Re: discussion on forehead swirls

Post by Paul Williamson on Sat Feb 20, 2010 2:52 pm

PAUL- Hi Debbie, Nature has given us humans a very complicated nature in comparison with other species, e.g. horses, who have a relatively simple nature. We (humans) tend to over-complicate things - simply because we have the brain capacity to do so. Horses are my favorite animals because of their nature, which is so far from ours. I, myself, do not believe that there's any such thing as a horse with several different personalities. I think that what would help you the most with your horse is for you to stop over-thinking things and start looking at your horse as an energetic youngster going through a variety of phases on his journey towards becoming an adult. Your job is to guide him, show him the way, make sure he's not getting himself into trouble. Provide him of plenty of opportunity to use his energy reserves and try not to work him too much. If he's being a good boy, you can work with him for only a couple of minutes and call it the day. But if you feel he has a lot of energy to burn, give him the oppurtunity to do so. You have to prevent him from getting frustrated because this will make him start looking for his own way of spending his time and energy and you want to be the one calling the shots.



Instead of thinking in personalities, try thinking of what he's trying to express with his behavior. Does he need a spell? Is he bored? Is he trying to form habits to have something to do?



When working with young horses it is very important that they feel safe AND that they experience new things every day in their training to stimulate their mental growth. The two might sound contradicting but during a horse's teen years his attention span is shorter and his energy bigger, which presents his owner with several challenges, all of which make working with horses fun!



If he was my horse, I would consider whether he was too immature to be in work and let him have time to settle and work up an appetite for human encounters and partnerships. But you're the best judge as you know the horse, as long as you remember that he's just a horse. He will always welcome your guidance and kindness but he will not understand your complicated human way of thinking.



Paul Williamson

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