Posts tagged horses

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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Overcoming Fear and Pain in a Horse

This is something that is definitely easier said than done. And often people, even horse people, mistake fear or pain for defiance and meanness.



When I talked to this little girl a few days ago, it was hard to even get her to open up at first. She was very mistrusting and fearful, so having someone start talking to her who she couldn’t see was a pretty scary thing. She never did reveal her true, underlying personality because she was “flat” emotionally from her past experiences and dealings with humans. But she did show me lots of mental pictures and convey lots of feelings and ideas about why she behaves as she does.

I was called in to talk to this four-year-old filly because she spooked, shied, bolted, and bit—to the extreme. She had been bought from two “horse traders” not too many months ago, as a three-year-old who had been started at two, and nothing more was known about her background. Her new owner was very badly injured in an accident soon after getting her, when the filly spooked and bolted out from under her. She’d been hand-walked ever since (2-1/2 hours a day), but exhibited the same behavior even then, plus was now biting at her owner while they walked.

Not a pretty picture. Her owner was understandably afraid to ride her again, and was getting shoved and knocked around considerably by the filly during their walks. Both owner and horse were now afraid, so the filly had no strong leader to trust—a must in a horse’s natural life.

A four-year-old is still basically a baby horse, and if they’ve had a rough start like this girl, that young age is doubly stacked against them. This filly did show me that she had once been a normal, happy, frolicking foal, which gave me hope that that basic personality could still be resurrected. She showed me a traumatic weaning, very rough handling, and that she had extreme pain and restriction in her neck, which seemed to cut off neurological and circulatory function to the extent that her peripheral vision was restricted. So things coming into her vision “from the wrong place,” suddenly and unexpectedly, caused much of her spooking. Horses, being prey animals, can see peripherally almost all the way behind them, and that’s where predators come from. So it’s no wonder she freaked out all the time. And she said she was biting because her head was being jerked on, and it hurt!

Her owner, who had never consulted with an animal communicator before, and who was a novice horse-person, wanted me to explain things to the filly and simply tell her how she needed to behave. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, though many people think it must be. It is assumed that if you can talk to an animal, you can just tell them what to do, how to be, not to be afraid, etc. No. You can’t override fear or pain via intellectual explanation. I have a bad back, and if someone told me to simply ignore the pain and carry on normally when I’m in the middle of an extreme episode, I would think they were both nuts and lacking compassion. I think it’s the same with animals. They might hear us tell them “everything is okay,” but until we can provide concrete help that engenders trust and relief, no change will occur.

For this baby I recommended much shorter walks in-hand, a non-invasive technique of body work called Ortho-Bionomy, and trainer Carolyn Resnick’s at-liberty approach designed to appeal to a horse in the horse’s own “language,” thereby building trust and confidence in both horse and owner.

When I have a session like this, no matter how detached and emotionally clear I try to stay, it always pains me to have to sign off, knowing that things could go either way. Sometimes I get feedback later; sometimes I don’t. And horses like this filly, who are in a state of pain and mistrust, are dangerous animals who often end up being passed around and suffering more and more abuse due to lack of understanding.

I hope and pray in this case that this little girl gets the help she needs, and that her human companions won’t continue to write off her behavior as intentional aggression.

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Hot, Dry, Windy and Smoky (HDWS!!) – How to Help Your Horse Under These Conditions

Some might call it coddling, but I am pulling out all the stops to help my horses get through some of the nastiest summer weather conditions they have ever been exposed to.

In spite of normally idyllic conditions, here in New Mexico (as in many Southwest U.S. areas this summer), we haven’t had a drop of rain in I don’t know how long, and wildfires are literally gobbling up the countryside all around us.

The nearest wildfire, just 30 miles away in the Sangre de Christo Mountains. It broke out yesterday.

We have had several days with zero percent humidity, and the winds are raging with gusts up to 50 mph. So smoke fills the air, and has for a few weeks now, causing sneezing, coughing, runny eyes and bad tempers. At least we can get ourselves and our small animals out of it by coming indoors. But our horses are out in it, for better or worse. 

Unlike the 500 acres they had in Texas — with lots of cover, windbreaks, and a steady creek, my horses are restricted to about eight acres here in NM. Acres made up of juniper and sage … and red dirt and sand that the wind flings mercilessly in their eyes when it’s blowing like it is now. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go back because I can no longer take the extreme heat and humidity of Texas. And I don’t think the horses would either. But everything’s a trade-off, so helping them through such harsh conditions as we are experiencing now in N.M.  is at the top of my priority list these days.

Our New Mexico "pasture." Pretty, but very arid, and obviously this picture was not taken during the current conditions!

Here’s what I do for HDWS (hot, dry, windy & smoky).  And it’s paying off. My horses are happy and in great condition. So if you’re distressed about summer conditions where you live (even if you don’t have all four of HDWS), you might want to try some of these tips yourself.

1. Feed the horses behind shelter from the wind. Mine have a run-in barn — smaller than the one in Texas but it’s a great wind block. Normally I like to spread my horses’ hay out and about in their eight acres, so that they have to move a lot to find it. But when conditions are as they are now, the more protection I can provide, the better.

2. Keep fly masks on 24/7 whenever it’s windy, so that dirt and sand can’t blow in your horses’ eyes and irritate, or worse, cause infection or scar a cornea.

3. Amp up nutrition. I use electrolytes (to keep them drinking plenty of water), anti-oxidants, bran (if I feel the dry conditions are starting to plug them up), free-choice minerals from Advanced Biological Concepts, and probiotics, to name just a few. My personal choice for super foods for my horses are the algae-based products sold through Simplexity Health Products, but whatever products you like and have had good luck with, be sure you plug them in NOW. And I recommend a good, wet, sloppy mash at least once a day (whatever the ingredients).

4. Make sure you provide a salt block and a mineral block. Always. That’s just basic!

5. If flies and mosquitos are a problem (which they usually are NOT when the wind is blowing gale force), definitely find a good fly spray, masks and/or sheets to help your horses out. The last thing they need is huge itchy, scratchy welts on top of HDWS!

6. RINSE OR SOAK YOUR HORSES’ HAY! I think this is one of the most important things you can do, as wet hay gives your horses a cool, damp breath every time they inhale while chewing. When things are at their worst, as they are right now, I spread about half my horses’ hay rations out in a long, shallow trough (with drainage) and distribute the rest among small-holed hay nets, which I can hang under shelter or behind wind blocks. I hose everything down liberally, until it’s dripping wet. And, not surprisingly, lots of the water I see draining out from the hay is quite dirty — no doubt dust from dirt or smoke particles that have lodged in my hay stores. Whatever it is, I’m glad it’s out. And my horses seem to love the wet hay too.

Small-holed hay net (you can find these online). Picture this dripping wet.

7. Hose down your horses whenever it’s too hot, their fly spray has gunked up on them, or the dust has made them into a dirt ball. Heck, hose yourself down at the same time! Spray the hose up in the air so it falls on them like rain — they love that!! (Well, some do….)

8. Oh, and don’t work your horse too much under these conditions. Some of the smoke particulates are microscopic and can lodge in the lungs, causing damage. And some horses have weaker lungs than others — like one of my mares — so do them a favor and take every precaution. This point I got from an equine veterinarian.

All I can say, as we get through this trying time, is:  God bless the firefighters! And, please God, bring us rain!

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I know I have a few followers in the UK, so as I write this post I am thinking:  “Egads! What must my buddies in England be thinking about the horrible conditions over here!!!???” I know this post isn’t helpful for you UK horse lovers, what with your gorgeous green and lush countryside, but, even though we are experiencing just AWFUL conditions here right now, I KNOW you would love New Mexico. In fact I have family from Bath arriving any day now, and this is their favorite place to be, ever. They would all move here in a heartbeat if they could. So don’t give up on us! And thanks for reading my posts! Happy summer to you!

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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!

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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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What a Ranch Horse Told Me.

Corazon

I’m talking about mi Corazon (registered name “Ruby Rose Bud”). I call her Corazon (Spanish for “heart”) instead of Ruby now because she has a heart as big as Texas.  And I should know because I’m from Texas.

Really.  Corazon tries her hardest to do right, no matter who is riding her. One friend started crying at the end of her first ride on Corazon because she felt so grateful for Corazon’s sweet disposition and cooperation.

So what’s the ranch horse connection?

I bought Corazon three months ago. I’d been looking for a gentle second riding horse for a while, and a couple of good leads had fallen through. My wonderful riding instructor, Christina, had gone to test Corazon as a candidate for a therapeutic riding program (Corazon failed, for a very minor reason) and emailed me immediately saying “This mare is a gem!”

So I went to see Corazon and snapped her up. She was definitely a gem!

Corazon had not been ridden in months and had lived alone in a small pen with no other horses during that time. She was out of shape and, quite frankly, depressed. But she was so eager to please she was totally amenable to whatever anyone wanted to do with her.

But something was missing — there was just no animation there. I suspected emotional difficulties.

Corazon (left), Bella (right), Bonding

Fortunately, she and my heartthrob mare, Bella, bonded instantly, and that relationship plus access to lots of acreage to roam around in got Corazon moving.  She was off-balance the first few times we rode her, but she was willing to do anything we asked for.

Corazon’s previous owner bought her from a working ranch (Corazon’s bloodlines are primo — she has two grandpas in the Quarter Horse Hall of Fame).  Even when infrequently ridden, she was always great on the trail and very calm. BUT, apparently Corazon was SO calm she was hard to get into a canter.

So Christina tested Corazon out during a lesson at my place about a month after I got her. When Christina was finally able to urge Corazon into a lope, which was not easy, Corazon began to buck. Now this mare does not have the personality of a bucker, so this action confirmed my suspicion that she had some major body problems and pain going on. Christina agreed.

So where are we going with all this?

Well . . . I’ve done extensive body work on Corazon, with lots of big releases and sighs on her part, given her lots of superfood and nutritional supplements, and also finally had a good, deep discussion with her. And here’s what she told me.

  • She had a bad accident as a baby, while running beside her mother.  She fell and landed, hard, on her right shoulder, wrenching her neck and back in a way she has never recovered from.
  • Because of this she was never able to do some of the things  that she was asked to do when she started being trained as a young ranch horse.
  • When she was tested on cows she could not respond fast enough. She felt a lot of derision from humans.
  • She was deemed a failure by humans. She was considered to be “lazy.” She felt shunned.
  • She knew she was supposed to be a great ranch/cow horse, but she utterly failed. So she was sold.
  • She would love to be able to really run, or at least lope comfortably, but has never been able to because of pain.

So.

My work is cut out for me. As an animal communicator it is my duty and desire to let Corazon know someone finally understands her dilemma. And as a student of herbology, nutrition, homeopathy, and body work,  it is my duty and desire to help bring Corazon through her pysical and emotional roadblocks.

And as her forever caretaker . . .  well . . . I just want her to know how much I adore her and that she is a treasure.

The most amazing thing about all of this is that, no matter what, Corazon always gives her all. She does her best!

The bottom line?

Corazon is such a solid and dependable girl that, despite her own self-doubts and physical pain, I can put any guest or child on her for a lovely and gentle ride. Now I just have to convince her of her worthiness and that she is not a failure. AND help calm her bodily aches and pains.

And it is in MY heart, Corazon, to do this.

Corazon . . . finally learning to be at ease

 

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What Makes a Horse Mean?

If you’ve been around horses much at all in your life, then you’ve seen those horses who flatten their ears when you go to feed them, or who take the first opportunity to cow kick you with a hind leg when you’re doing nothing more than trying to clean their stall, . . . or who employ numerous other dangerous actions seemingly for no reason at all.

There can be lots of reasons for these behaviors. Plus, horses are like people — they have different personalities and so some are just grumpier than others. But usually a horse who is mean has had a bad experience and is holding the memory so is reacting out of fear or expectation that something bad will happen again. Usually, with the right handling, they can get over it.

But there are exceptions.

I talked to a horse this week who was the most mean-spirited I have ever encountered. I was asked to talk to and reason with him because he overtly tries to hurt people. He strikes with his front feet, and he bites with a vengeance. If you’ve ever watched a horse do this, or kick with his rear feet for that matter, you know what deadly aim they have and how vicious they can be.

Most horses use these defensive techniques as a warning, so they don’t really aim to connect. I’ve seen my own horses in the past give a very gentle kick to one of my pups who didn’t yet have barn etiquette down — just enough to roll the pup and scare him into a little more respect. The horse could easily have killed the puppy if he had wanted to. So most of the time an offer to bite or kick is simply a warning that you are pulling the cinch up too tight and too fast or that you’re forgetting how one leg has to be handled differently because of an old injury.

But not the dude I talked to a few days ago, Gus. Given a description of his behavior, I expected him to be scattered in his thinking and unwilling to communicate. But instead he was clear as a bell and was happy to let me know, over and over again, that he had no intention of changing his behavior or trying to get along.

So what was going on here? Well first, the horse was born with an attitude. He was very haughty from the get-go. Second, he was left a stud until he was a year and a half old which certainly would not help an I’m-king-of-the-world stance. Third, he had a bad accident shortly after being gelded that required months of painful rehab. And fourth (at least to my way of thinking), he had received many rabies shots* in his short four years.

The horse was pissed. He had been in pain for much of his life (and still was, he showed me), and he had learned early on that he could easily intimidate the humans around him. So why not?

I don’t know what will happen to this horse, but if he cannot be rehabbed he is truly a danger to all humans. A horse in this shape has very special needs — physical and mental — and there are few people truly equipped to satisfy them. Patience and love can help a lot, but finding the right combination of feed, activity, supplements, and meds is key as well.

As we all well know from our over-crowded prisons, shifting a mean streak in a hardened criminal is not easy.  Sometimes it cannot be done at all. The bottom line seems to lie in the individual’s nature itself. Some horses, and people, can experience tons of abuse and still be forgiving, loving individuals. Others can suffer the smallest insult and never let it go. I hope Gus can be rehabbed eventually, but if not I sure hope the people around him don’t allow themselves to be victimized or maimed by his mean spirit.

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* Over-vaccinating can be very detrimental to animal or human. The rabies vaccine in particular can affect the nervous system in deleterious ways, including exacerbating aggression. To read more about how vaccines really work, go HERE.

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