Buying A Horse?

Discover His Five Element Personality Type

By Madalyn Ward, DVM

Determining the five element personality type of a horse before you buy can help you make a suitable choice for your riding discipline.


In addition to finding out how well a horse will fit into your holistic care program, you want to discover whether his personality type will be suitable for the work you have in mind. For instance, the fearful Water horse wouldn’t make a good cross-country horse and the competitive Wood horse wouldn’t make a good backyard pony. When you go to buy a horse, here are some questions you can ask about the horse to help you discover his personality type.


1. Does the handler constantly have to step back to avoid being stepped on? This could be either a Wood or Earth horse. The Wood horse is a dominant personality asserting his dominance by constantly moving the person and the Earth horse may simply be inattentive.


2. Is the horse nervous and constantly looking around, showing alertness and special interest in the environment? Are they looking for things to spook at? Probably a Fire or Water horse.


3. Is the horse basically unconcerned with what’s around him, staying checked out until asked to work? This is a Metal horse.


4. Is the horse constantly looking for treats or wanting to graze? This is an Earth horse. Note that most horses like to eat but Earth horses are especially dedicated to food!


5. Does the horse seem to really enjoy attention and want to be petted? Fire or Earth horses enjoy this kind of attention.


6. Does the horse resist grooming, especially in the flank area? Is the horse sensitive or resistant to girthing? This is a Wood or Fire horse.


7. When asked to move (for instance when asked to pick up a foot) does the horse seem tuned into the handler and move when asked? Any well-trained horse may exhibit this behavior but it’s prevalent in Fire or Water horses.


8. Does the horse seem especially fearful of being alone or being asked to move into a tight space such as a stock? This is classic Water horse behavior.


9. Does the horse show signs of hard work and old injuries but still seem sound and willing to work? This is typical of Metal horses.


10. Does the horse seem willing to respond to requests but take his time? Either Earth or Metal horses will display this kind of behavior. Earth horses are simply slower to respond while Metal horses may question the wisdom of the request before responding.


11. Does the horse resist moving or picking up a foot until pressure is increased? Wood horses typically demonstrate this kind of resistance.


Determining the five element personality type of a horse before you buy can help you make a suitable choice for your riding discipline.


© 2005 All rights reserved. Unless otherwise attributed, all material is written and edited by Madalyn Ward, DVM.

From the June 2005 – Mid Month Holistic Horsekeeping Update, How to Have a Healthy Happy Horse


About the author:

Madalyn Ward is a holistic veterinarian who operates Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, TX. She has been on a holistic path since 1989 and has recently developed the “Healthy Happy Horse” resource group (, to offer support to horse owners wanting to be proactive in the holistic care of their horses. Visit her informative website,, to learn more about horse care issues such as hoof care, supplements, nutrition, horsemanship, and general health.


For more information:

FIVE Element Resources

The best way to discover a horse’s type is to read about each personality type and then put him through the five element test. You can do both with the Holistic Horsekeeping complete Five Element Ebook. Get the details or order online at

Madalyn Ward, DVM
Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic
11608 FM 1826, Austin, Texas 78737