Horse Temperament: Can You Breed for a Certain Type?

Whether you can breed for a certain horse temperament is a great question. In my experience you can attempt to breed for a certain horse temperament but there are no guarantees.

I have also been asked, by someone who took the online level one certification course, if any breeds tended to be a specific horse temperament type. That is another great question, and I am excited to hear people thinking along these lines. For instance, are all competitive thoroughbreds Wood temperament types? Or could all sensitive Arabians be Fire temperament types? Unfortunately, while it is tempting to stereotype breeds, this theory does not hold up.  This is why I developed the Five Element horse temperament typing system.

The frustrating but true fact is that each horse is born with his own temperament regardless of our efforts. For example, in most cases breeding two competitive, athletic, Wood temperament horses will get you a competitive, athletic foal. Sometimes, though, you get a laid back couch potato. Crossing gentle Earth horses does not guarantee that you won’t have a spooky, high energy, Water foal. Just as parents can marvel at how different their children can be, despite having the same genetics and being raised in the same environment, so it is with horses.

So what does this lack of control of horse temperament mean for someone who wants to select or breed the horse most fitting for a certain sport or individual? Unfortunately, selecting the wrong temperament often means that horses get put in jobs they hate or with owners who don’t suit. The wrong horse for the job means money wasted on training, as well as disappointment and hard feelings for all concerned. After all, aren’t all thoroughbreds supposed to love racing? Not! Don’t all quarter horses love to work cows? Nope.

With the Five Element typing system you have a much better chance of determining what type horse you actually have, regardless of breed or breeding. Being able to recognize a horse temperament has huge advantages. Here are a few:

  • Higher chance the horse will enjoy and be good at his job
  • Less chance of being injured by a horse with a challenging temperament
  • Better chance you can market a horse to the right person
  • Less chance of losing your investment for a high-priced prospect
  • Lower vet bills because you can understand how to best manage your horse
  • Better and faster response to training from the horse

At first, learning how to recognize horse temperaments can seem daunting, but with practice you will be able to spot that couch potato thoroughbred who will fit perfectly into your hunter program. You will also be able to see the spark in the eye of the ranch-bred quarter horse who could be your next barrel racing champion.

Learning how to type a horse is no different than learning any other horse discipline or event. No doubt you were not an expert the first time you jumped a fence or roped a cow. Learning a new skill takes time and focus but we offer several great tools to get you started. Just check out the resources in the next section.

How to Learn Five Element Horse Temperament Typing

If you would like to reap the benefits listed above, which come from recognizing and working with a horse’s temperament type, then we have lots of different ways for you to learn about horse temperament typing. We have resources for audio, visual, text-based, and multi-media learners. Here are all the ways you can begin to gain more insight into temperament tying, and develop more harmony with your horse:

Horse Harmony book
Horse Harmony ebook
Horse Harmony one-on-one consults
Horse Harmony test
Horse Harmony blog
Holistic Horsekeeping forum (Five Element section)
TallGrass Level one online certification course


Understanding horse types and temperaments

Start by mastering the pure types they are less complicated than the combinations. Taking the time to figure out a horse’s type allows you understand why he acts the way he does and anticipate problems before they occur. This could mean buying the right horse or getting along better with the one you have.  The horse can’t change who he is to fit our needs but once we understand typing, we can change how we interact with him so that being with us makes him feel good and allows him to be successful, regardless of his breed or breeding.

If you liked this post, please leave a comment or get more great holistic horse info at Holistic Horsekeeping, Horse Harmony Test, Horse Harmony, and on Twitter.



8 thoughts on “Horse Temperament: Can You Breed for a Certain Type?

  1. Sharon Larson

    You couldn’t have posted this as a better time for me! As I contemplate between purchasing a colt or just breeding to get a foal, I’ve been wondering if I could actually “create” the foals temperament through breeding. You make a good point; it is what it is, and it’s best for all if we learn the personality it is born with.

    It’s funny, I coach people to embrace who they are rather than trying to make themselves be something different. Perhaps I should apply the same way of thinking to my horses!


  2. Shannon

    I have two quarter horses from the same dam. My gelding is a total Earth horse, he’s solid as a rock. My mare is 100% Fire/Water. What a difference the sire makes!

  3. Madalyn Ward, DVM Post author

    I agree totally with the parallel between people and horses. What if all parents and teachers could see the temperament of a child and support that child in being who he is and building on his talents.
    Horses can’t change who they are. People try to, but does this really serve them. We can learn from working with the horses how to accept people for who they are as well. Madalyn

  4. offshore company

    …A cold blooded horse is a horse which belongs to a breed known for having a stable calm temperament. Most cold bloods are also very strong rugged durable animals and they have been used as work horses and stable companions for centuries.

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