Posts tagged Horse Harmony

Quick Tips On Your Horse’s Personality Type

“A horse is a horse, of course, of course…,” Mr. Ed sang for his theme song, but did he fit the average horse mold? Not on your life!

Horses have as diverse personalities as we humans do, and being able to identify them can really help you find your horse-match made in Heaven. One ingenious personality typing system, devised by equine veterinarian, Dr. Madalyn Ward, can be studied in her book, Horse Harmony – Understanding Horse Types & Temperaments. And you can test your horse (and yourself) for free on her site in order to see if the two of you are a good match. Dr. Ward’s system is based on ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine, which breaks down constitutional types into 11 different groups, each of which is unique in terms of what kind of nutrition, activity, training/learning methods, etc. suit it best.

Intrigued? Here are a few quick clues on identifying the personality type that best fits your horse. These are excerpted from Dr. Ward’s most recent newsletter, with permission. If you like what you see here, visit the site, take the test, and, better yet, buy the book to read about your horse’s type in depth.

Horse Temperament: 11 Quirks for 11 Types
We list 11 quirks below, one associated with each horse temperament type. Scan through the list and see if any of these quirks rings a bell. This will help you determine your horse’s temperament type, especially if you are straddling the fence between two types!
Fire: Often rolls the tongue or flaps the lips, especially when younger or under stress.
Earth: When happy, often gives a contented sigh and carries an air of calm and peace.
Water: When balanced, has the keen look of the eagle and is one of the most regal-looking types.
Metal: Thrilled to do his job as soon as he learns it. Does a trademark grimace with his mouth when he can’t figure out his job.
Wood: Loves to break things. If every gate, post, and horse toy on your place is busted or bent, you’re horse is a Wood!
Shao Yang (Fire/Wood): Dislikes being touched, especially on the feet or toward the hind end.
Jue Yin (Wood/Fire): Causes trouble in a playful way … loves to mess with you!
Tai Yang (Water/Fire): Exuberant and loves to move … the happier he is, the faster he moves, ears pricked and exuberant! Why walk when you can trot? Why trot when you can canter?
Shao Yin (Fire/Water): The most affectionate type, likely to nudge you, loving, innocent.
Yang Ming (Metal/Earth): Willing to please, not very spontaneous (will give lots of warning before bucking or shying or causing trouble).
Tai Yin (Earth/Metal): Very dedicated to one person, to the point of happily doing just about anything for the person they love, even if the task is difficult. Will perform for others, but not eagerly.
Horse Temperament: Quirks Ring a Bell?
Hopefully the above list of quirks will help you more easily determine your horse’s temperament type. Sometimes it’s the little things that our horses do that make them stand out as one horse temperament type or another.

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Once In A Lifetime Horses

A rare few have had more than one. Some of us have never had any. But if you’re a horse lover and a lucky duck, you have, hopefully, at some point found that once-in-a-lifetime horse you dreamed of as a child.

I did, after having several horses over a 25- or 30-year period. I adored each and every one of them, but when Bella came into my life six years ago I finally, for the first time, felt that deep bond and understanding one can have with an equine soul mate. Bella is my be-all/end-all equine companion, and sometimes I think she understands me better than I understand myself.

My Beloved Mustang Mare, Bella

Me and My Heartthrob

Unfortunately, lots of folks pick out a horse based on breed, or color, or age, or any number of other things that have nothing to do with the horse’s personality or how it will mesh with theirs. This often leads to frustration and fear on the part of the person and a depressed and lonely horse who will never realize his or her potential. I’ve been there and done that, I’ll admit. I’ve chosen horses or taken rescues who were very poor matches for my personality, skill level, and needs. I loved them all and kept them ’til their dying day, but they were often more pasture potatoes than good mounts or working equines.

A friend of mine, Jane, just became the proud ‘person’ (some would say ‘owner,’ but many of us don’t like that term) of her first horse — a dream she has held for decades that has finally come true. It is thrilling that Jane found her once-in-a-lifetime horse the first time out of the chute! Jane is on cloud nine, and I know she and her new mare have a long, long future together that will include everything horsey that Jane has ever envisioned and will satisfy the mare’s needs and skill set as well.

Jane and Her Once-in-a-Lifetime Horse, Snickers

So how did Jane do it? How does one find that once-in-a-lifetime horse?


Jane searched for months and months and looked at many different horses. If you count the ones she looked at only online I’m sure the numbers would be in the hundreds. Being a new horse ‘owner’ she listened and learned about different breeds and horse personality types, largely from friends and experienced instructors, but also from reading Dr. Madalyn Ward‘s book on the subject: Horse Harmony: Understanding Horse Types & Temperaments — Are You and Your Horse a Good Match.

Jane had an intuitive hunch about this mare, Snickers, from the very get-go which in the long run proved to be accurate. But, while she listened to her intuition, she also did the smart thing and did not move impulsively but rather did her homework and considered many other equine candidates as well. Fortunately, Snickers was still available when Jane made her decision, and they are indeed a match made in Heaven.

So all’s well that ends well. When a horse and person are a good match, they are truly a joyful thing to behold and are an inspiration to all around them. You can tell when they are a team, when they are bonded, when they share understanding and love. Horses are telepathic and sense your mood before you do, so when you’re connected with that once-in-a-lifetime equine, the two of you truly move as one.


If you’re looking for a horse, take your time, do your homework, and trust your inner instincts and judgment. And read Dr. Ward’s Horse Harmony book too — it will give you an amazing insight into eleven different equine personality types based on the ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine system.

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The Polite Way to Colic (If You Are a Horse)

1.  At dinner, eat very slowly — very. And do not lick your plate like you usually do. This should give them the first hint that something is not as it should be.

2.  At breakfast, eat a couple of bites … very slowly, then leave the rest. This should definitely get some attention.

3.  Maintain a somewhat worried look in your eye. This should also help tip someone off that you are feeling kind of puny.

4.  After breakfast do not rush off to the pasture after your herd-mates. Instead, walk very slowly with your head down. Don’t get worked up. Don’t breathe faster than normal or act weird.

5.  Stand around in the pasture and act like you’re trying to eat hay, but you’re really not.

6.  Try to cooperate and move only a little bit when your person pokes you in the butt with something small and hard and holds it there for 2 or 3 minutes. The good thing about this is that it allows you to pass a little gas, which feels really good so you lick and chew a little. And you know she always likes to see you lick and chew, so you are happy this pleases her.

7.  Stand very, very still while she attaches the side of her head to the side of your body for a long time, and then does the same thing on the other side of your body. Even if you don’t know what she’s doing, be very careful not to move. And your stomach is VERY still and quiet, so you know that won’t disturb her.

8.  Go very quietly with your person into whatever area she wants to put you in for “observation” and “treatment.”

9.  Be cooperative and stand still while she administers things in your mouth. One of them sounds like “vomit,” one like “chami…” something, one tastes like liquid grass, and one is gummy and pasty and not quite as nice as the others.

10.  Also try to stand still while your person pulls on your ears, kind of hard, and does funny little massage things all around them and also back by your rump, AND, ahem, RIGHT under your tail, which apparently is a spot that has something to do with making you feel better.

11.  Ignore your roomies who are standing around staring at you, wondering what is going on. Do not act panicky because you are not with them or try to rush over to be let out with them.

12.  Be patient. Your person may come and go for a while and you may be left to your own devices for a few minutes at a time. Do not get upset. Do not get dramatic. And Heaven forbid and above all, do NOT throw yourself down on the ground and start rolling!

13.  Always mind your manners. Be a lady. Or a gentleman.

14.  Lastly, deposit a very small pile of dry manure in your confinement area. This seems to signify some major milestone. Your person acts thrilled and loves you up, and since you always like to please her, this makes you happy. And you feel better now too!


My new mare, Corazon, colicked today and, in all my years of observing and treating colic, her manner and mode of doing so were completely new to me. I would never have suspected colic except that I knew her stoic personality so proceeded through my usual steps. Using homeopathics (Nux vomica and Chamomile), along with probiotics and body work on helpful acupressure points (including, ahem, the anus) has always done the trick for me for mild gas or impaction colic. But the lesson learned today: Certain horse personality types may not show you they’re colicking in the way most horses will. Check out how different they can be at my friend Dr. Madalyn Ward’s horse personality website.  I am grateful to my dear Corazon for teaching me yet another new lesson in the horsey realm. She is indeed the equine epitome of a lady!

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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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A Metal Horse Gets a New Job … and a New Lease On Life!

Lopeh the day I brought her home, November 1, 2009. She was so mistrusting I had to keep a light 'catch string' around her neck for weeks in order to get a hold of her.

If you’ve read this blog in the past, you may remember a bit about the little Quarter Horse mare I rescued back last November. We called her Lopeh. She came out of years of running pretty wild in a breeding herd, and she was only 8 years old. She had had at least 3 babies and supposedly had been ridden somewhere in her distant past. She was the only horse in her herd nobody wanted, and if I hadn’t taken her she probably would have ended up at the slaughter house in Mexico. You can read more about Lopeh HERE and HERE.

Lopeh had a nice soft eye, and she always seemed to want attention, but for at least the first few weeks she just couldn’t let herself relax or trust enough to really fit in and often turned her butt to us, flattened her ears,  and let us know she didn’t want to have anything to do with us. She was pissy with the other horses, kicked my mare Bella who is twice her size hard in the stifle once, and was horribly bossy and intimidating to our 34-year-old gelding, Copper.

I was eager to get some insight into Lopeh’s personality so applied Dr. Madalyn Ward’s Horse Harmony typing system — a test by which one can pretty much nail their horse’s temperament and therefore his dietary and training needs, plus much, much more. But I didn’t really know Lopeh well enough to take the test. The only thing I knew was that she would stand on her head for food, a typical Earth Horse trait, so I thought she was an Earth type. (In hindsight, I figure Lopeh’s fixation on food was probably because she had had to fight for her share in the herd, plus from being depleted from cranking out one baby after another.)

So I contacted Madalyn. From all I told her, Madalyn kept saying she thought Lopeh was a Metal. Metals are very tough horses who love to have a job and a routine. They like to know what to expect. They are not the fastest learners so need patient repetition during training, but once they get it they will perform consistently and well. They aren’t cuddlebugs so don’t crave affection or attention like some other types. Because of all these traits, you find a lot of Metals among good ranch horses.

Sure enough, Lopeh was of the best old King Ranch cow horse stock you can get — bred and built for working on the ranch. You can’t get a finer horse, but they are of a certain type and are definitley tough.

To make a long story kind of short: after six months with me, Lopeh had

Lopeh and me in January. With a slow, gentle approach, she loved learning and working.

softened tremendously.  She became much easier to catch and handle and was at her best any time I really worked with her. But I didn’t have much time for that and certainly not in the way she needed.  Plus she had shown signs that she might buck under saddle, and I’m too old to go flying!

In May I took Lopeh to a trainer for two weeks. Someone I trusted to get her attention and really test her out . . .  because I had decided to go ahead and sell her. I had finally figured out that she was not cut out to be the low-key pleasure horse I needed for myself and my friends, many of whom are horse novices. I still wasn’t sure what personality type she was, but she sure wasn’t a mellow, laid-back Earth horse.

She did well at the trainer’s and I lucked out, I thought, and sold her to an experienced young horse-woman who had wanted her for months. It sounded like a good fit but turned out to be a disaster. Lopeh basically got NO attention (OR decent nutrition) there due to difficulties the family was having, so she took out her frustrations and unhappiness by beating up the other two horses on the property.

When I was informed she wasn’t working out in her new home, I momentarily panicked. But then I remembered that Carlos LoPopolo had wanted her a while back for his non-profit New Mexico Wild Horse Project. Unfortunately, I had just sold Lopeh when I found that out, but I contacted him again and he was still in need of an additional work horse to help manage the Mustangs he oversees on several preserves, ride the fences, and do whatever’s needed via horseback.

The transfer was made, and the very first day Lopeh was ponied out to get the lay of the land and was then ridden bareback every day for the first few days. She never even offered to buck. Carlos was so thrilled with her temperament, her sturdy and cowey conformation, and her progress that he chose her for his personal horse, and within a week they were already at work together.

Carlos and Lopeh out on the range. After just one week, I'd say this looks like one solid Metal horse happy to be doing her job with someone who finally understands her.

Apparently Lopeh is now as happy as can be, has a daily job she was custom-built for,  is no longer bored, and no longer has to take out her emotional frustrations via irritability and general pissiness. Her story is an example of the success that can be achieved when a horse’s personality is perfectly matched with his or her home and job.

I just KNEW Lopeh had it in her and never gave up on her, even though the ranch hands had warned me as I was leading her to the trailer last November: “You better watch that one. You better do some goooood ground work with her before you try anything.”

I wanted to say, Oh go fly a kite!!!! I knew we could make a good horse out of Lopeh. It was just a matter of figuring out who she was and what she needed.


Thanks to Carlos and his wrangler Donna for providing the perfect home for this throwaway horse. Carlos manages the largest herd of wild Spanish Mustangs in the United States, all DNA-proven to be direct descendants of the original Spanish stock. It is Carlos’ mission not to let this line die out, as it represents one of the finest traditions and bloodlines in horse history.  Check out his project at Wild Horses of the West.

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The More, ahem, “Robust” Type Mustang

This pose shows off Bella's Percheron'esque derriere quite nicely, I think.

This pose shows off Bella's Percheron'esque derriere quite nicely, I think.

I bought my very first piece of original art when I was in college — a French lithograph of a teeny, tiny boy standing behind a huge Percheron draft horse, holding her lead rope and yelling at her in French to “move her butt!” Which was literally the only part of her anatomy visible in the sketch. Her name was Bijou, which means jewel in French.

The piece was totally irresistible for me. I had to have it. Maybe I had a premonition that a very similar equine jewel would come into my life one day and become my pride and joy.

That would be my Mustang mare, Bella, above.

Eight years old now, Bella came to me as a 4-year-old from my friend Stephanie, the Mustang Mama of all time. Bella was the first of the many Mustangs  Stephanie has adopted over the years, and I have heard Stephanie express more than once that she was real lucky to make her acquaintance with Mustangs with a horse like Bella! (If you’ve read the recent posts, you know what some of Stephanie’s other Mustangs are like, and what challenges they’ve posed.)

Bella came from a Wyoming herd of Mustangs that has lots of Percheron draft horse blood mixed in, and she typifies what is called a Tai Yin constitution in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This stands for a combination of the elements Earth and Metal. In Horse Harmony — Understanding Horse Types and Temperaments, by Dr. Madalyn Ward, D.V.M., here are some of the passages she uses to describe the Tai Yin horse:

  • …the Tai Yin type tends to have a heavy body and move fairly slowly.
  • The Tai Yin horse is like an iceberg. If you don’t get to know him you may only see the tip of his deep, solid, stable character.
  • …tough physically, and he tends to be a dependable hard worker.
  • He is not overly ambitious, but once he learns a skill he will perform consistently.
  • …often a one-person horse who will not be happy performing for just anyone.
  • He makes a good stock horse but tends not to be quick enough for cutting or reining competition.
  • He is a dependable and competitive trail horse but is not really suited for endurance riding.

Are you getting the picture? Stout, slow, devoted, calm, steady. Likes routine. Likes his person. Doesn’t show a lot of emotion. Isn’t too flashy. Etc.

Nice attributes for a 6-month-old wild filly brought in off the range, wouldn’t you say?

Bella was a dream to work with and raise. Stephanie got up on her and never looked back — just rode her on down the road. In the 3 years she had Bella, Stephanie put hundreds of miles on her, took her camping, taught her to jump (well, after a fashion), to herd cows (also after a fashion), and to be a generally dependable mount.

Bella was a large colt, and she grew, and grew, . . . . . and grew. It became clear  early on that this was not a horse built for speed events or competitive jumping, or for the agility required in moving cattle. And, being rather lazy by nature, Bella often turned her back when it was time to be caught . . . because she knew what was coming and simply didn’t want to have to go to work that day — like some of us.

Stephanie knew I was considering taking another riding horse as a gift to myself for my 60th birthday and felt the match might be a good one. That is putting it mildly. I didn’t want to quit riding, but I wanted a horse I could trust, who wasn’t “hot-blooded” or hard to handle. Obviously, Bella and I were meant for each other and are very much alike. I don’t want to have to work too hard either, and would much rather take a 30-minute amble in the hills or a low-level dressage lesson than a 20-mile trail ride or gallop. Bella likes the same things I do, plus she loves all the extra time I spend fawning over her. The easier-going lifestyle has suited her constitution well too, as she continued to grow until she was 7 years old so now stands 16 hands and weighs in at about 1400 lbs.

If you want a steady pleasure mount, and like to bond with your horse, a Tai Yin might just be your best bet. Sure was for me!!!!


This is the end of this week’s series on Mustang types and temperaments, but we’ve only covered five out of the eleven types. And of course they apply to all horses, not just Mustangs. If you’re curious to learn about the other six types, or want to take an online test to find out the type of your own horse, check out the resources at Horse Harmony. There’s tons of fun stuff to do there, and the book is fantastic!

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A Metal Mustang

Beautiful Reyacita

Beautiful Reyacita

I’m not talking about a bronze statue here. I’m talking about a constitutional type that in Traditional Chinese Medicine is called Metal. And Reyacita is an adorable little Mustang mare who falls into that category.

Reyacita, Rey for short, is the most recent of my friend Stephanie’s Mustangs, having been adopted by her last January from the Canon City, CO, prison BLM Mustang program. She was 3 years old and had been haltered, but that’s as far as her training had gone.

Stephanie has adopted one Mustang a year for many years, and every single one has been totally different from all the rest.

As you can see, Reyacita has an exceptionally beautiful head and face for a Mustang, and a very soft eye. She looks like a pushover, doesn’t she? She did to Stephanie too, and she started out that way. Then things turned rough.

The well-balanced Metal horse, according to Horse Harmony — Understanding Horse Types and Temperaments, by Dr. Madalyn Ward, D.V.M., is “hard-working, consistent, dependable, and tough” and can do well in just about any job.

So what happened with Reyacita? She started out calmly and solidly and looked like she was going to be all those things — but then she blew, and blew hard in a totally unexpected bucking fit! In Stephanie’s words, “I think I pushed her too fast in the beginning, but she was too stoic to let it show.”

This would make sense, given what Stephanie soon found out about Reyacita’s health and considering Dr. Ward’s recommendations for training a Metal horse:

Repetition is the key to success for the Metal horse. Of all of the types, the Metal horse is the slowest to grasp new concepts. It is not that the Metal horse is not intelligent, but he does best when he is allowed to master single skills before moving to the next lesson. Therefore a methodical, step-by-step approach to his training works best.

Stephanie got back on after the bucking fit but then gave both herself and Reyacita a couple of months off.  She also discovered that Rey had a lung problem known as heaves, and Dr. Ward hypothesized that this was the reason she had bucked in the first place — she couldn’t breathe! With good holistic and homeopathic treatment for the lung problem, and once back on a very routinized and revamped training program, Reyacita came right back around to the solid, steady mare she had seemed to be at first.

Reyacita’s lung problem ties in with the Metal constitution and was no doubt one of the clues that helped Stephanie finally figure out her personality type.  According to Dr. Ward, Metal horses are prone to respiratory diseases and heaves. They also have a high pain tolerance, which means they will often keep working until injury or illness incapacitates them, which is what happened with Rey.

This case study is a great example of how figuring out your horse’s constitutional and personality type can make all the difference in how you train, feed, and handle her. Without the changes Stephanie was able to make in Reyacita’s training and care program, no telling what the future would have held for this adorable little horse!

Rey and Steph are way past this point now, but this is the slow, careful approach Stephanie took when she resumed Reyacita's new training program.

Rey and Steph are way past this point now, but this is the slow, gentle approach Stephanie took when she resumed Reyacita's new training program.

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