Book Review: “What Horses Reveal” by Klaus Hempfling

My friend recently lent me this book, “What Horses Reveal” by Klaus Hempfling, and I had a fascinating time delving through its pages. The book is a very complete and complex system of personality typing. The system uses mostly facial features, like the structure and placement of the eyes and nostrils for instance, along with body type to determine the horse’s personality. From there, the system goes on to describe the work that the horse is suited for, the person who would best match the horse, and the type of training that works best.

Unlike Dr. Ward’s book Horse Harmony, which features 11 horse personality types, this book has 26. The names are absolutely fascinating: Unicorn, Dove, Sergeant, Sceptic, Friend, Fat One, Peasant, Dancer, Guardianof the Fire, Origin, Pilgrim, Child, Half-Born, North Wind, Lonely One, Used One, Gipsy, Dandy, Modest One, Frog, Prince, Victor, Minister, King, Tough One, and Pegasus.

The pictures of each type are absolutely gorgeous as well. This is a coffee-table style book, hard bound, and very pretty to look at. I enjoyed reading each of the types and even tried to type a new mustang, who I am about to bring home, based on the pictures I have of her. I found several possible types she could be but struggled mightily with the descriptions. Hempfling’s descriptions of the set of the eyes or nostrils are sometimes much to vague for me. I could not tell, even looking at the pictures, whether my new horse’s nostrils were “almond-shaped” and “placed low” on the face or not. I might better tell when I get her home, but I am thus far stumped.

I did find some fascinating correlations with Dr. Ward’s Five-Element horse personalities, though. For instance, the type called the Used One is very close to a Metal type in Dr. Ward’s system. This type (often Quarter Horses) will take punishment and abuse and do their jobs without complaint. The Child is like the Jue Yin type, always curious and childlike but hard to get focused on a job.

You have to be careful with some of the horse type names, though. For instance, the Lonely One is not like a Metal horse in Dr. Ward’s system. Whereas a Metal horse personality wants to be left alone by humans, in Hempfling’s system the Lonely One is often a warmblood that has been so specifically bred for a single purpose (either dressage or show jumping) that they are isolated from their horse herd companions. The Lonely One is often closer to his or her human companions than to other horses.

All in all, this book is intriguing if a bit difficult to use. In my experience, Horse Harmony is a more “quick and dirty” approach to typing horses and breaks it down into simpler steps (free testing for you and your horse here). But if you want something that is a cross between the personality typing of horses and the poetry of the horse-human relationship, check out “What Horses Reveal.” It is definitely novel and enjoyable.

(contributing author)

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