December 2019 – Mid Month Update

Holistic Horsekeeping
How to have a healthy happy horse.


  1. Why They Balk
  2. Holiday Gifts for Horse Lovers


1. Why They Balk

Failure to move forward when asked (balk) is what causes many training challenges. Each horse personality has a different reason for not wanting to move forward when asked.

Fire horse temperament: These horses love to move forward but will often resist any effort flex and bend though their ribs and jaw. An exercise where you ask the horse to move forward off your leg while you keep their head flexed around towards your knee. You do this by picking a spot you want to move towards and using your inside leg when your horse is headed that direction and taking your leg away when they are facing away. If your horse is soft and moves well off your leg it should take you no time at all to spiral to your target.

If your Fire horse is not soft, you will need to increase leg pressure when your horse resists and praise lavishly even 1 tiny step towards your destination with good bend. Be patient and politely insist. Quit with even a small effort from your Fire horse. You can build on this.

Earth horse temperament: These horses tend to be a bit balky under the best of conditions so expect to have to use quite a bit of leg and maybe even a little crop to get them to go forward at a nice tempo. Once they realize that it is easier to do what you ask they will agree. The Earth horse temperament is willing but not the most physically flexible so don’t ask them to work in deep collection early in training. As he gets more supple you can ask for more headset and collection.

When your Earth horse temperament does well, reward him with a nice break from work.

Metal horse temperament: These horses are the least physically flexible and they will tend to balk when they feel any pressure on their face. Like the Earth horse temperament, you will need lots of leg but resist the temptation to reach for a crop until you are sure your Metal horse understands what you are asking. Ask for enough forward steps off your leg until you are sure your horse understood he did the right action then stop and let him process the new information.

Repeat the same cue several times until your Metal horse temperament moves off your leg every time. Only when you are sure your horse understands the leg cue do you ask for him to get soft to your hands as you ask him to step off. It is very important to break exercises down for the Metal horse temperament, but once they get them you will have few problems with future compliance. Reward the Metal horse temperament with a pat or rub on the neck.

Water horse temperament: Water horses are generally flexible and very willing to move forward. They must be taught to give to rein pressure while standing still or they will respond by going faster when they feel any pressure on their head. Trying to block their forward movement with more rein pressure will quickly result in a rear.

Teach the Water horse temperament to accept the pressure by dropping the nose while standing and once the nose is dropped ask for a tiny forward step, then release quickly. Continue to add more steps with softness as your Water horse trusts that you are not going to shut down his forward motion. Reward your Water horse personality with a kind word to build his confidence.

Wood Horse temperament: These horses tend to have very sticky feet and often do not want to move off the leg with or without any pressure on the face. They also like to argue so don’t let yourself be drawn into a conflict over something as simple as stepping off from leg pressure.

The best plan with a Wood horse temperament is to give him somewhere to go and a job to do. For example, use him to work another horse from the saddle and in the process of doing this job he will learn to move off your leg and follow your rein aids. If your Wood horse likes to jump set up a challenging course and use your leg and rein aids to help him with turning and rebalancing. Reward your Wood horse with quitting the exercise and moving on to something fun like a ride out.

Taking each personality and working with them individually will make your training sessions much more productive and safe. Feeding a horse (as you will see in Horse Harmony: A Feeding Guide) based on his temperament and using balancing formulas as needed can help him be the best he can be.

2. Holiday Gifts for Horse Lovers

Yes the holiday season is once again upon us and Holistic Horsekeeping can help you out with some great gift ideas for the horse lovers on your list. Here are a few suggestions. And if you want us to provide you with a gift certificate that you can wrap or send as a physical gift, just let us know when you order and we’ll be happy to do that.

Books, DVDs, Audios, Ebooks
A Consult with Madalyn Ward, DVM
Mentoring Program one-on-one with Dr. Ward
Online Horse Temperament Typing Course
A variety of supplemental products for horses in our webstore

And for gift ideas for your horse friends, take a look at this video letting you know what different temperament type horses would appreciate. If you don’t see the video below, you can find it at

++++ Copyright | Getting On and Off the List ++++

Unless otherwise attributed, all material is written and edited by Madalyn Ward, DVM. Copyright (c) 2019 and Madalyn Ward, DVM. All rights reserved.

If you like the material in this newsletter please let your friends know about it. You may reprint material in other electronic or print publications provided the above copyright notice and a link to is included in the credits.

You can get off this list by sending an email to

When you forward this material, please send the entire newsletter. Thanks!

Please also enjoy all of Dr. Ward’s web resources:
Twitter: madalynward