Archive for March, 2011

Ever Fascinating — Horse Personality Types!

I realize a study of horse personality types is not “ever fascinating” to everyone. But, being a horse nut, it is to me. And if you share my passion, then read on.

I have two mares, both coming 10:

Bella, a Mustang from a wild herd with lots of Percheron genes threaded in. I’ve had Bella almost 6 years.

Bella (left) & Corazon

Corazon, a Quarter Horse with a ranch horse heritage as long as your arm. I’ve had Corazon for 6 months.

Both girls are gentle, mellow spirits. I chose each largely for this reason, as I am past the days of wild-west riding and roping and need sound, steady mounts now instead. They are similar in many other ways too: body type (large and chunky), tastes (both are foodies), and manageability (easy-peasey to be around on the ground). They are also both made of of the same two elements when I type them using Dr. Madalyn Ward’s Five-Element Personality Typing System (based on ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine).

Madalyn Ward, DVM, has spent years developing her system, and is one of the major horse  proponents in our country who stresses that horses have different personalities and constitutional types, just like we do, and that they therefore respond differently to food, training, and environment. So “a rose is a rose” does not apply in the horse world (nor the dog, cat, people, or other world).

My Bella is what’s called a Tai Yin (an Earth/Metal combination). Corazon is what’s called a Yang Ming (a Metal/Earth combination). Being so similar in disposition and body type, and sharing the same two elements, one would think they would be very close in personality. But they are not. (You can read a brief description of each of these types HERE.)

I know Bella like the back of my hand, but I am still getting to know Corazon and realized quite some time ago that she is totally different from Bella in many ways.

Bella considers herself my equal. We are very bonded, so she works well with me because she loves our relationship and everything we do together. But she is basically in charge and has very strong opinions. Her strength of will is common among Mustangs, and can often invite abuse, but Bella had the good fortune to be adopted as a yearling by someone who understood her and worked with her in keeping with her personality.

Corazon on the other hand is unsure of herself, lacks confidence, and “stuffs” her feelings. You often don’t know what she’s thinking or feeling, and her way of dealing with fear or confusion is to freeze up. Turns out she was not so lucky in her life and got passed around a lot, probably because people didn’t understand her. She has some old body problems too, so being asked to work through pain would definitely have contributed to her tendency to shut down occasionally. With consistent praise, constant reassurance, body work and good nutrition, her personality is emerging more and more. Her body is loosening up, and she will now express an opinion or two if you ask her to do something she’s not wild about doing.

Pondering these differences, I wrote Dr. Ward asking her for an opinion on how horses who share the same elements can be so different. Here is her response:

The combination Five Element temperaments are more complicated than the pure types. Each combination temperament has its own characteristics in addition to those contributed from each element. Breed and past experiences will also contribute to a horse’s behavior which can make typing more challenging. Taking the time to figure out your horse’s type allows you to understand why he acts the way he does and anticipate problems before they occur. The horse can’t change who he is but we can change how we interact with him so that being with us feels good.

I love this. It affirms my intuition and supports the different way in which I handle each of my girls. Corazon will continue to get all the encouragement and support she needs to fully realize herself; Bella will continue to be my best friend and to own my heart.

The bonus here is that they are a perfect match as “roommates” because Bella leads and Corazon needs a leader! They bonded instantly when I brought Corazon home last August so, whereas not all horses get along, these two compliment each other and make a perfect team. I adore them both and feel I really lucked out!

Corazon (left) & Bella bonding on their first day.

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