Have you ever met a horse who will do just about anything to please
you but can’t thrive unless conditions are just perfect?
If so, you have just met the prototypical Shao Yin (Fire/Water)
temperament horse. The Shao Yin horse is the perfect show horse, hubby
horse, kid’s horse and school master, but ONLY after he has learned
his job and has all of his needs met.
In other words, the Shao Yin horse is kind of like the Princess in the
story “The Princess and the Pea.”
Walker: The Total Shao Yin Horse
A perfect example of a Shao Yin horse is Walker, a five-year-old quarter horse who will do anything to please but can’t tolerate high-stress situations (that’s him in the picture or see a picture of him here).
Walker had early training in reining, where he excelled in spins and stops but had a rough start. It turns out that Walker was dropped off at the trainer’s at age three. Because he was not halter-broke at the time, the trainer roped him to vaccinate, shoe, deworm, and
halter-break him. The experience was not pleasant for Walker yet he continued to excel because of his desire to please.
After 90 days in training, he was bought by an amateur rider who wanted to try reining. When this did not work out, Walker’s owner started him in roping. During the initial ground-work and desensitization exercises, Walker freaked out because of his early experience of being roped, and began running around out of control. He finally slid into a ten foot sliding stop and scraped all the hair off his hocks.
After this incident, both of his back legs swelled up and he was lame for a short period of time. This isn’t surprising since Shao Yin horses often have very sensitive skin, poor response to stress, and less-than-perfect immune systems.
Walker’s Nutritional Nightmare
During this same period, Walker’s owner had started him on high levels of blue-green algae, mangosteen juice, probiotics, and enzymes. The goal was to boost Walker’s immune system and improve his overall condition, especially the quality of his feet.
Unfortunately the plan backfired. All the extra nutrition started an enormous detoxification process in Walker’s system, releasing toxins he had developed as a result of mental and emotional stress he suffered early in his career. He lost a lot of weight (see his ribs in the picture?) and continued to have poor-quality hooves. His owner quickly reduced his level of supplements and started feeding him Eleviv, an herbal combination that helped him better manage stress.
Eventually, Walker learned the basics of roping well enough for his owner to heel a few steers. However, his owner was not a good enough roper to support him through his next levels of training, so she brought Walker to a trainer who excelled in roping and handled Walker’s anxious nature with ease.
Walker’s Perfect Training Program
With consistent daily rides focused on softness, correctness, and reward, the trainer was able to teach Walker to be an excellent heel horse. This training program is perfect for the Shoa Yin because it breaks learning down into manageable portions, which satisfies the Water element, and also offers a lot of support and attention, which satisfies the Fire part of the temperament. Today, Walker not only loves his job as a heeler, but is also able to handle other people riding him in breakaway calf-roping and other sports involving cows and ropes.
Walker also loves his “Princess and the Pea” environment: he lives in box stall warmed by a blanket and a heat lamp. Is that the life of Riley or what? While this setup might drive a Wood horse crazy, it fulfills Walker’s need for reassurance, support, admiration, and safety. He feels secure, cozy, and loved wit this training and management program.
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“Hold My Hoof” – Supporting a Shao Yin Horse
As you can probably tell reading Walker’s case study above, Shao Yin horses can be steady companions and excellent competitors, but they also have very definite needs. They often need a lot of hand-holding, or hoof-holding. If these needs are not met, the Shao Yin horse can very easily break down mentally, emotionally, and physically. In fact,
many Shao Yin horses under stress develop Cushing’s.
What might a Shao Yin’s needs be? In terms of training and management, some of the requirements include:
– frequent attention and love
– a logical progression in training with low stress
– much praise and only light correction
– support for his physical needs, such as blanketing, special hoof
care, or extra join support
– weight control as this type of horse can be too fat, too thin, or
both at the same time
In terms of nutritional support, the Shao Yin needs:
– access to many trace minerals to support the Water element (algae is
a good choice here)
– large quantities of hay but much less grain
– antioxidants to reduce the inflammatory tendency of the Fire element
(coenzyme Q10 works well)
– fiber, such as beet pulp, to support digestion
– quality fats such as coconut oil or chia seeds
– stress management support, such as Eleviv or Relax Blend
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