Does Your Yang Ming Horse Twist His Jaw?

What is your Yang Ming horse trying to tell you with that weird jaw thingy he does? Long before I studied horse temperament typing I remember wondering why some horses would twist through the jaw for no obvious physical reason. By twist through the jaw I mean stretch out the neck and turn the head to the side and move the lower jaw to one side or the other. I have learned that this jaw move, unlike a yawn, is a sign of lack of understanding.

Normally I get nice yawning when I am working on a horse but I remember being frustrated because I thought these jaw twisting horses were not benefiting from my body work. Now that I am doing horse temperament typing I look back and realize those were Yang Ming horses and they were just expressing their lack of understanding about what I was doing. This jaw twist is the Yang Ming saying “I don’t know what you want from me and this bothers me”.

You see, the Yang Ming is a Metal/Earth combination horse temperament and the Metal side wants to understand his job and go do it while the Earth side wants to get along well with you. If a straight Metal horse does not understand what you are asking him to do he will just ignore you and shut down, but the Earth type is happy to do stuff with you even if he does not understand it. So the Yang Ming wants to do stuff with you but it is really important to him to understand what exactly he is supposed to be doing. Does that make sense?

So this morning I was riding my Yang Ming horse temperament gelding, Remi, and we were having a great time. We are getting ready for the shovel race at the cowgirl rodeo so we dragged a cedar stump with our rope and he was good with that. After I finished dragging the stump I wanted to get the rope off it but I did not want to get off Remi and then have to get back on. I know it sounds lazy but what can I say. I was moving Remi around and shaking my rope loose off the individual roots on the stump. After a few minutes of this Remi started doing his jaw twist so I knew he did not get what I was doing.

I never want the horse I am riding to be bothered, so I took a minute to look at things from Remi’s point of view. I sent Remi a very clear picture of me getting off and taking the rope off the stump. Then I sent him another picture of me getting the rope free without getting off. Then I made sure that as I focused on shaking my rope loose that I also gave Remi the proper releases of pressure when he moved his feet where I needed him to. Bingo, no more jaw twisting. Remi relaxed, I got the rope off the stump and Remi got a little snack treat for being such a good boy.

Horse temperament typing is an emerging discipline and it offers a whole new insight into horse behavior. Jaw twisting is a perfect example of a behavior that is specific to a temperament type. You see it in Metal and Metal horse combos but most often in the Yang Ming. When we notice this kind of communication from the horse and respond, it is like we are telling the horse that we are listening and we care what he is saying. This means so much to the horse and for that matter isn’t that what we want from others as well?

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