Now that I’m working with the idea that Hempflings’ horse personalities (What Horses Reveal) is more about seeing the horse as a whole, maybe even as an archetype, it’s been easier to type the Big Guy.
Big Guy has always baffled me when I went through the book trying to diagram out his face. I think I was trying too hard and looking for an absolute fit when in reality he is The Victor:
His finely and delicately shaped ears are the length of my hand. His nostrils are also very large; about the size of my closed fist. His face, in profile, is mostly flat and straight with a slight bump right above the nose which may be due to having worn a halter when he was thin and starved.
His lower jaw becomes flat like a platter when excited or being contrary; Linda Tellington-Jones refers to this type of chin. My experience is that his chin becomes flatter when he is excited or right before he’s going to disobey.
In this photo (above) he was first let out from his 45 day stall rest into a small paddock. It was an exciting day as you can see by his intent, faraway eye, flared nostril and flattened chin.
Overall, the mass of the head, seems delicate as well as dominated by ears, eyes and nose. This photo (below) seems to show a horse in prime condition, fit for anything, however, in reality, this is a horse (post pelvic fracture) who was never greatly balanced or athletic; a horse who is delicate and was often having soundness issues. Looks can be decieving.
Body-wise, Big Guy has a straighter shoulder, long legs that are rather weak and vulnerable, a lower set neck and a muscle texture that seems smooth. He only gained well-defined muscle when he was being jumped. In this walking photo (below) he seems to elongate from front to tail with a natural lower headset. The back behind the withers seems weaker then the photo taken above on the same day.
As a registered Jockey Club Thoroughbred, Big Guy has been bred for generations to be a racehorse. His lip is tatooed which I’m told only happens if the horse is brought to the track. Reviewing his official papers, I highly doubt he actually raced. In fact, Big Guy is rather slow in his canter and only becomes fast and nimble when he’s been startled by some dangerous black barrels which have been moved 10 feet.
Hempflings’ character, The Victor:
Hot-blooded, very, very specially bred and equipped with special abilities these horses are very easily tipped over the edge tempermentally and exhibit behavior that is ultimately uncontrollable….
Horses of this type are extremely sensitive, fine, and alert, and despite, in many cases, countless negative experiences with humans they are still wonderfully cooperative. They want to understand and to be understood…
One of the really nice things about Big Guy is he always tried. He always wanted to be good, was willing (even when his body let him down) and was always a pleasant horse, temper-wise to be around. It was this wanting-to-please attitude that made him go behind the bit “see I can look pretty mommy! see!” due to being worked by someone else in draw reins.
I found that people either really liked him or hated him. On the surface, I think people thought this should be an “easy” horse and when he wasn’t, it infuriated them. For example, one of my farriers was so angered by Big Guy’s inability to stand still and keep balanced while being shod that he threw his rasp across the barn!
I had to give up the idea of him being a lesson horse. If a student got out of balance, he couldn’t cope. If a student got mad, he gave them even worse behavior. Students became frustrated and didn’t understand that he was an ADHD horse that had to be ridden every stride, his attention brought back to the job at hand with a half-halt.
These are the type of horses, that because of their easy going personality and seemingly athletic ability, will be asked to perform and when they don’t, like a robot, give exactly what the rider wants, the rider says things like: “horsie was so naughty today I had to spank him!” “this horse never does what I ask!” “he’s being mean… stubborn…stupid… blah blah blah.”
It’s rather sad that many Thoroughbreds are given to teen girls who neither understand their temperment or abilities. Instead they post Youtube video crap, blog entires and message board posts about how their horse, Noble, acted like a shithead again and refused a jump – or didn’t take the correct lead – or tried to buck them off.
Teenage girl, if you are reading this, (not likely) grow up! Figure it out! Maybe Noble was tired of you asking him to jump the same crap 30 times in a row for two hours! Maybe Noble was sick of you riding him for hours, asking repeatedly for canter before putting him back in the barn soaking wet and heaving!
It is important to always work these horses in a very quiet way. By nature this horse will want to go forward and he will want to let off a little steam one way or another…Caution is advised if you in any way whatsoever “heat up” this horse. It is a character peculiarity of this horse to become easily over excited….
Looking back through the history I’ve had with Big Guy, I wouldn’t say he was overally reactive, like say Beautiful Boy. Total freakouts happened only a few times: when we went out to the pasture after I had moved the black barrels (the only time he dumped me), taking him inside the indoor where he revolted under saddle, and when he saw deer. OTOH his life with me was not overally demanding with competitions. Perhaps he would have acted differently if we had been doing a lot of that.
However, it’s of note that once this horse really took off, nothing stopped him. Forget one-rein stops. Either bail or hold on for dear life!
He also likes to do what I call his Fight Club Moves when he gets irritated by his rider or the work. Fall out of balance and he will strike out with his foreleg, moving sideways to show his displeasure. Or like in this instance, I was asking him to work his hind leg (during his pelvic rehab), so he dashed sideways.
It was this sensitive nature that would make him sound one day and then lame for a week. One day he was so dead lame, I called the vet out. She told me that he was trimmed unevenly and needed another EIGHTH OF AN INCH rasped off. The farrier practicaly blew his top and almost refused. I told him to try it and we’d see. He did, and the horse was perfectly sound!
Thankfully, Big Guy has not been prone to colic or have ulcers, though he does have melanomas like many gray horses. His lack of internal system problems may be due to the fact of how I’ve kept him: with plenty of pasture and turnout, stalls only for the worst weather, with large amounts of grass or hay his main diet with supplemental graining. He’s had stable companionship and did no showing or lots of traveling.
I do know that he was very stressed at the Hell Job – probably feeding off my own unhappiness, losing his horse companion Dear One, and the constant comings and goings of the Show Jumping Barn. When we held the horse show, he practically was ready to die of a heart attack from sheer panic of watching the mayhem!
Interestingly enough in Hempfling’s section about exercises for The Victor, he recommends the shoulder-in. This was one exercise I did a lot with Big Guy and it had great results. Because of his balance and inflexibility issues, using serpentines, spiral in and spiral outs, shoulder-in, and entering canter after a shoulder-in was very helpful.
I’m not writing that all Thoroughbreds belong to this group, but many of Big Guys’ traits and behavior do fit. He’s sensitive, willing to try, yet oddly frail. It’s no wonder that so many professional racehorses literally run themselves to death, under owners who are chasing after a big purse and damn the consequences.
Hempfling’s Video Montage of Horse Personalities ~ The Victor at 1:30
Important Disclaimer!! Use of quoted material from Klaus Hempflings’ book What Horses Reveal is based upon fair copyright use. The 1961 Report of the Register of Copyrights on the General Revision of the U.S. Copyright Law cites examples of activities that courts have regarded as fair use: “quotation of excerpts in a review or criticism for purposes of illustration or comment; quotation of short passages in a scholarly or technical work, for illustration or clarification of the author’s observations…
I am not a KFH student and my comments etc… upon the work is to be taken as my sole responsibility. For further clarification you need to seek out Hempfling himself through his website, books, videos or clinics.