Know your barrel horse

Here’s an interesting article.  When you are having troubles, put some thought into who your horse is and why he/she is acting the way they are.  Knowing your horse will help you determine what is wrong. Whether it be a soundness issue a mental issue or a training issue.  Having some insight into how and why they react certain ways my help you solve your problem.  Enjoy – Michelle


Several people have asked me how the Five-Element horse typing system compares to the Parelli Horsenality system, so here are my thoughts.

The Horsenality system is a fantastic system to identify behavior in a horse, and once the behavior has been correctly identified the best way to approach the behavior can be chosen. I believe a horse’s Horsenality profile can be influenced by his environment and training.

I believe the Five-Element typing system helps identify the underlying temperament of the horse and certain temperaments will have more of a tendency to exhibit one Horsenality profile over another.

Here are the Horsenality profiles as described on the Parelli website. I list the general characteristics of each type (i.e., Right Brain/Extrovert), and then compare them to the Five-Element types.

++++ Horsenality Descriptions ++++

Horsenality – Right Brain/Extrovert
Characteristics of a “Right Brained” (RB) Extrovert include being frantic, fearful, and may have a tendency to bolt and rear. RB Extroverts are usually held back and tied down when they are panicky (martingales, nosebands, gag bits, twisted wire, etc) but what they really need is to feel safe and develop trust.

Horsenality – Left Brain/Extrovert
Characteristics of a “Left Brained” (LB) Extrovert include being mischievous, energetic, willful, disobedient, domineering, and may have a tendency to be mouthy, nip and bite. LB Extroverts are easy to train unless you are boring and repetitive in which case they act up and become unruly.

Horsenality – Left Brain/Introvert
Characteristics of “Left Brained” (LB) Introverts include bored, disinterested, unmotivated, sulls up (stops and won’t go forward in defiance), lazy and stubborn and may have a tendency to buck. LB Introverts simply win out by being non-responsive until you give up. This type horse will respond rewards for good behavior and will perform better if he sees a purpose for an activity.

Horsenality – Right Brain/Introvert
Characteristics of a “Right Brained” (RB) Introvert include being tense, shy, unpredictable, and may have a tendency to freeze, and then explode. RB Introverts are usually pushed to go forward when they are hesitant and unsure. Slowing down the training until the horse has confidence and understands what he is learning is the way to go with this type.

Get more detailed descriptions of each type on the Parelli website:

++++ How Five-Element Types Compare to Horsenalities ++++
Based on my understanding of the Horsenality system, I would expect a balanced Fire horse to behave most often as a Left Brain/Extrovert. If stressed by rough handling or pain or frightened, the Fire horse could tip into the Right Brain/Extrovert profile and need his trust to be re established.

The Earth horse will usually fall into the Left Brain/Extrovert profile. This type horse is very solid and will not likely shift into Right Brain behavior unless severely stressed. The Earth horse can shift to Left Brain/Introverted behavior if he is not treated with kindness and motivated to learn new things.

The Metal horse will tend to behave as a Left Brain/Introvert unless he has been pushed to learn too many new things faster than he was able. In this case he can shift to Right Brain/Extrovert behavior, and his training will need to be slowed down until he regains his confidence and shifts back into a less reactive frame of mind, which will allow him to learn.

The Water Horse is likely to naturally show up as a Right Brain/Extrovert and with correct handling focused on building trust he can be taught to respond rather than react.

The Wood horse tends to behave from the Left Brain side with a full range of Extroverted and Introverted characteristics. If the Wood horse is kept stimulated with new activities and his energy channeled into positive work he can be a very rewarding horse to work with.

I feel using these two systems together can be very powerful to not only deal with the behavior you are seeing in the moment and to look under that and see why the behavior is occurring. It the Five-Element type is identified early in the horse’s life then he can be handled in such a way as to keep him solid in the positive Horsenality characteristics and less likely to develop an undesirable Horsenality. Knowing your horse’s underlying Five-Element type can also help you select the correct Horsenality profile and chose the best actions to take to prevent or correct less than desirable behavior.

Madalyn Ward, DVM, is a recognized author and veterinarian in the field of holistic horsekeeping. For free tips on horse health, horse personality types, and horse nutrition, plus one-stop shopping on holistic horse products, visit

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