Human attachments are a complex business. For one thing, when two people come together, they are often unaware of just what it is about one another that creates the attraction. On the other hand, when we are repelled by another person, identifying what about them bothers us is not the problem, yet why this behavior or characteristic infuriates us is quite another matter. But in the world of psychology, categorizing attachments styles has shed much light into the complexities of relationships. Now enter horses. When a horse and a person meet, are horses prone to the same types of attachments that people are? That is to say, can we actually classify their relationships with us or one another into categories the way we do with people?
Looking in the matter further, some established horsemen have attempted to do just that. Pat Parelli, (www.parellinaturalhorsetraining.com), one of the forerunners of the natural horse movement, promulgates what he calls “horsenality types.” Using a pie chart with related descriptions, Parelli breaks down horses’ personalities into four basic types, right brain introvert, right brain extrovert, left brain introvert, and left brain extrovert.
On the other side of the coin, some equine therapy programs attempt to address attachment styles of participants through the horse’s responses to them. One prominent one, Gestalt Equine Therapy (www.gestaltequinepsychotherapy.com), addresses this topic by using congruence levels of people — as reflected by the horse’s willingness to be near them — to determine secure, vs. insecure attachments styles. The idea is that when a person is experiencing congruence, his/her attachment style can be said to be secure. While this approach can be quite revealing about the participants attachment style, the horse’s attachment style is not taken into consideration.