May 2020 – Mid Month Update

Holistic Horsekeeping
How to have a healthy happy horse

In This Issue:
1. Horse Temperament: How Self Confident is your Horse?
2. Horse Harmony/Horse Temperament Resources

1. Horse Temperament: How Self Confident is your Horse?

Below is a newsletter I wrote when I first got Martini. I have had her 2 years now and I am happy to report she has settled nicely. I was not able to work with her much for about 6 months while we were moving but when I did start her back she remembered what we had worked on. I continued with my plan of just walking her and letting my body get timed up with hers. Gradually I added serpentines and tighter circles using my body to guide and staying out of her mouth. Now she rarely does any chomping with her mouth and she is relaxed about learning new things because she understands me better and knows she won’t get in trouble. She loves to go out on rides and her confidence on the trails is building.

Even well trained horses struggle with moving to a new home (in Martini’s case she has moved twice) and understanding a new person in their life. Martini and I are still building our relationship and the slow work has really paid off. I believe if I had gone right to training her for any kind of competition it would have set her back in her confidence and trust in me. She is ready to go to work now and I look forward to finding something super fun we can both enjoy.

Martini, my new Shao Yin (Fire/Water) mare is not very self-confident. Understanding horse temperament has helped me recognize what horses will need extra help building self-confidence. Martini very much wants to please me and if she even suspects she is not doing well she gets very anxious. Her anxiety shows up as busyness in her mouth. When she is feeling good about herself and what we are doing she has a quiet mouth. Anything new that I offer gets her to chomping the bit. Something as simple as teaching Martini to come up to the fence for me to get on brought on anxiety and lot of bit chomping. So, what I am doing is focusing on what she is good at.

Martini is very solid in her basic training. Her gaits are smooth and she is forward and straight. She has a nice stop but she is not real soft. I will want to spend some time with her timing up my hands and legs so she will be able to feel back to me. Martini has been trained for barrel racing so she is pretty good at doing small circles. Thanks to the great start she got I won’t have to work much on her form. Martini is a natural athlete and she has a good skill set for barrel racing which is what she is bred to do. Her function is good so I just need to stay out of her way as she does her job.

So I could focus on getting Martini to soften her feel but right now that only gets her unsettled and busy with her mouth. I tried doing the exercises to roll her hind and bring her front end but unfortunately this was weird and upsetting to her. She does not understand what I am asking and it does not help that my timing is not great to make it easy for her. So I am doing 90% of what she is good at and understands and throwing in a little bit of soft feel and bending every now and then and then going right back to what she knows. I can already see her confidence building as she realizes she is not going to get in trouble if she does not understand what I want. Mostly, I tell her how good she is and how happy I am with her.

From Martini’s point of view I am not nearly as skilled as the trainers who started her. I want her to be confident enough in herself that she won’t get too worried when I make a mistake or mess up our timing. I want her to partner with me but not depend too much on me to always be perfect. I want her to know that I am more concerned with our relationship than any training goals. Cerise, my sensitive, Fire mare taught me so much about feel. A soft feel was something I had to earn with her. I am blessed to have another horse that is also sensitive so I can continue my learning and see her self-confidence grow as we grow into our partnership.

2. Horse Harmony/Horse Temperament Resources

Have you read Horse Harmony: Understanding Types and Temperaments and Horse Harmony: A Feeding Guide? If you are new to the temperament typing system developed by Madalyn Ward, DVM, then this is an excellent place to start. You can find both in paperback and digital Kindle formats on the books page on Holistic Horsekeeping. You can see a preview of Horse Harmony HERE to see what it’s all about. Then surf over to and you’ll find plenty of other temperament typing resources including help in typing your horse from one of our specially trained temperament consultants, an overview of each type, an online class on temperament typing, balancing formulas by type and more.

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