Horse temperament typing as a tool – not an excuse

I am sometimes asked by people why they should try to learn what temperament their horse is. Many people feel a horse should behave no matter what and you just train every horse the same and expect them to conform. Well there is some truth to that but what if that method is not working? How many good horses get labeled as difficult or stupid because they did not fit into a set training system.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you should use horse temperament typing to make excuses for a horse or to spoil them by accepting inappropriate behavior. I am saying that if a horse is not responding to one training method then the typing can be a tool you can use to reach that horse and bring out his best rather than labeling him a failure. For instance, my Fire horse temperament mare has a problem with focus which often manifests as slow reaction time when I ask her for change gait or direction. It would be tempting to punish her for ignoring me but in reality she simply forgot I was there. So, I learned to keep her focused on me by asking her for frequent responses every few steps. I also find cantering her briefly at the beginning of the ride to get her working helps her focus when I slow down. She has to work harder to canter and this gets her in “work” mode. She can trot all day and never settle into paying attention.

I still am getting the response from Cerise that I want without making her wrong. I know she wants to please me so I am helping her do that so she feels good about herself. My Wood mule, on the other hand, had no desire to please me and he took my efforts to help him learn as weakness. The quicker I made him uncomfortable for ignoring my cues the faster he responded and the better he behaved. My Yang Ming(Metal/Earth) temperament horse is somewhere in between. He pays attention to me but is sometimes slow to respond because he is just a bit lazy. The minute I raise my energy slightly he jumps to attention and gets right to work.

Horse temperament typing is a tool to help any good horseman make adjustments in training that fit the horse while still insisting that the horse do his best. Madalyn

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