Horse Temperament: Learned behaviors at a ranch sorting

Remi lopingI took Remi, my Yang Ming(Metal/Earth), horse temperament, gelding, to a ranch sorting last weekend. We both had a blast. Remi has had some bad experiences in the past and he can get very tense when going to new places. I want him to be able to overcome his learned behaviors of holding his breath and holding tension in his entire body. This tension has lead to some pretty major bucking fits and this sure does not work for either of us. I want Remi to look forward to going to new places. I want him to have fun when we do new things and I want to stay in the saddle.

Remi had never been to this ranch so I was so pleased when he stepped out of the trailer and took a deep breath. He stayed relaxed and comfortable while I saddled up. Once we got to the arena Remi worked quietly, just like he does at home. This is the first time he has ever been this relaxed at a new place.

There are several possible reasons for Remi to be letting go of his past learned behaviors. One is that I have finally found a horse feeding program that is working for him. Remi has had so much body pain in the past from sore feet to chronic muscle soreness. After years of leaving Remi barefoot I now shoe him with fill in pads for overall hoof support. As much as I wanted to leave him barefoot I feel he was not ever going to be able to be sound without shoes. Remi has mild symptoms of Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy and in the past this contributed to his tight, painful muscles. I have increased the fat in his diet in the form of rice bran and chia seeds.

I have Remi on Succeed to help his with his hind gut digestion. Since starting the Succeed, Remi has been much less tight in his ribs. I give Remi di-magnesium malate and this combined with the chia seeds has helped his foot pain. As a Yang Ming horse temperament Remi needs extra enzymes and pungent herbs to help him with protein digestion. I use this brand of fortified enzymes and he gets 3 a day. This may seem like a complicated program but it is worth it to me for Remi to feel good enough to let go of past learned defensive behaviors.

Remi’s Yang Ming horse feeding program:

Kool and Kalm ultra low starch horse feed

Empower fat supplement

Succeed digestive support

Enzymes fortified with pungent herbs

Di-magnesium malate

Chia seeds

Grass hay

In addition to an individualized horse feeding program I have made training adjustments based on Remi being a Yang Ming horse temperament. The Metal part of Remi loves routine. When I first got Remi I made the mistake of trying to take him to many new places before I had his trust. A Wood horse temperament would have liked the variety but it only made Remi more anxious. I started working with him at home and in only a couple of new places so he could have some expectation of what was happening to him. I also made sure he had mastered every level of an exercise before introducing the next step.

Remi’s background was roping and barrel racing and I found that speed triggered Remi’s past learned behaviors. Even watching other horses go fast made him nervous. The ranch sorting event does not involve speed so much as it does having the ability to maneuver so it is perfect for Remi. The fact that Remi loves the cow work makes a difference, too. I was fascinated to watch Remi during the sorting practice. If there was a talented team of sorters in the pen he watched them very intently. If it was a less skilled team he paid no attention. After watching a few good teams Remi put his head down and licked and chewed, as if to say – I got this.

The last area that has helped Remi let go of past learned behaviors revolves around treats. If Remi was a Fire horse, praise, for a job well done, would have been enough for him but as an Earth horse temperament he loves food. Because much of Remi’s training involves repetition, he can get bored. Now, when he tries extra hard to do an exercise well I give him a treat. Remi is never rude about mugging me for treats but he has learned to expect them. He will give a soft nicker when he feels he did well. This is my cue to invite him to bring his head around for a treat. If Remi is working hard to learn but having trouble I will stop and offer him a treat, then we will regroup to continue his lesson.

Remi’s Yang Ming training program:

Introduce only a few new riding locations at a time

Keep a routine

Repeat each step on an exercise until it is fully learned

Let Remi watch other horses do a job well

Give treats for good work

I have had a few people question my motives with the horse temperament typing system. Some say I try to put horses in a “box” and therefore limit them. Nothing could be further from my intention. My goal is to find what “box” they live in so I can understand them and their needs better. Once a horse is fully accepted for who he is and his needs are met, then and only then, should we ask him to do more of what we want from him. Remi is a perfect example of how a troubled horse let go of negative learned behaviors when his individual needs were met. Horses are such giving creatures, humans not so much. My intention with the horse temperament typing is to help us know our horses better and have better partnership with them.

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