5 Elements of Chinese Medicine – Fire Horse


Imagine a dressage ring with a full class of participants entering in turn to ride their dressage test. A charismatic chestnut Arab bursting with star quality prances up to the arena. His coat is glowing, his ears pricked forward, his eyes sparkling as he basks in the radiance of his admiring audience. The horse glides through the test, flowing effortlessly through each step with grace and brilliance. Everyone is riveted. When he receives the winning score, no one is surprised. This is a Fire horse.

Every horse embodies common physical and behavioral characteristics of one of the Five Elements of Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM). By understanding how Five Element patterns relate to your horse, you can learn how to keep him healthy and happy on a deep, lasting level.

In part 1, we introduced the Five Elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, and took a closer look at the constitutional profile of the Wood horse. In this article, we explore the Fire horse.

Fire: flash and flare
The socialite
The Fire horse is charismatic and radiant. He may be flashy with his head held high and his tail flying, or he may radiate quiet charm that glows with heartfelt affection. The Fire horse’s prime motivation is connection through relationship. He wants to be with others all the time and withers in isolation. The Fire horse seeks physical and emotional contact and thrives on attention. When balanced, his loving nature feels warm and cuddly and he enjoys doing fun and exciting activities with his rider; he is a great partner and friend. When out of balance, he is emotionally reactive, seeking attention through dramatic behavior. Imbalances also trigger inappropriate bonding – he connects quickly to other horses and creates a spectacle every time he is separated from his new friend.

Four on the floor for balance
Challenges arise when the Fire horse is over-stimulated, especially with new situations. He is emotionally and physically sensitive; chaotic surroundings overload his acute senses leaving him nervous, scattered and ungrounded. The key to happiness with this horse is grounding.

Just before the Fire horse goes off, you see a high head carriage, a collapsed back and fast movement – signs of a mind so active that the horse forgets he has four feet on the ground. It is your job to recognize these signs, step off to the side, and spend some time re-connecting so he can ground through your presence. You might use touch, healing essences like Rescue Remedy, or soothing speech so that he breathes deeply and comes back into his body. Many people regularly use a few drops of Rescue Remedy in their Fire horse’s water.

Loving lessons
Fire horses are fun to train; they learn quickly and enjoy variation. But before you begin, make sure your Fire horse is quiet and grounded. A quiet mind improves focus and makes him receptive to your lesson plan. During work, the Fire horse needs emotional connection and praise. Commend him lavishly when he does even small things well. Moving too fast, a high head position, distracted attention or stumbling and loss of coordination are signs that your Fire horse is mentally saturated. It’s time to take a break! Also realize that the Fire horse can be scatter-brained. He may forget things and need review, but keep the lesson varied and interesting so you keep his attention.

Keep it cool
On a physical level, the Fire horse may have foreleg issues like navicular. He may also experience tension in the neck (from a high head carriage), back (from a collapsed back), shoulder, or girth area. The Fire horse may be sensitive to heat and “wilt” in the hot summer months – he may even suffer heatstroke if asked to exert himself in warm weather. When under stress, the Fire horse is also prone to a nervous stomach, stress colic, inappetance and even stomach ulcers. He may also have what CCM would call “heat” symptoms, which range from high fevers and inflammations to hoof abscesses (especially in the foreleg) and red, irritated rashes like “scratches.” All these symptoms do better when the Fire horse’s mind is calm and cool.

Is your horse a Fire animal? If so, supporting the Fire Element will keep him calm, radiant and balanced. If his temperament doesn’t match the description here or in the previous article, stay tuned. You may have an Earth, Metal or Water horse. We’ll meet them in upcoming issues.

The Fire horse at a glance

Physical characteristics
Common ailments:
Behavioral difficulties, tendon injuries in forelegs, shoulder issues, navicular syndrome, fever, inflammation, infection, sarcoids, sweating issues, hoof abscesses especially in fore feet, hormonal issues, heart conditions, skin rashes, neck tension and weak or sway back, uncoordinated movement and poor body awareness.

Favorite sports: Anything done with their human and equine friends, trail rides to new places, endurance, halter classes.

Tips for health: Lead this horse toward emotional balance, and good health will follow naturally. Monitor heat in the body and environment, and don’t over-exercise in hot weather.

Emotional characteristics
Emotional strengths:
Loving, intimate, joyful, fun, friendly, social.

Stressed by: Over-stimulation, chaotic or busy environments, new things, separation from bonded horses or people, being alone or unsupported, excitement.

Balanced by: Emotional support, attention, touch and/or massage, quiet surroundings, a calm grounded buddy (human or animal), guidance from an alpha (human or animal), calming essences like Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

Vulnerable to: Drama, nervousness, anxiety, overexcitement, distraction, hysteria.

Responds: Flight, moving too much or too fast, high head carriage with dropped back, to stress with diminished body awareness, lack of grounding, seeks constant attention.

Learning style: Benefits from emotional connection during lesson, learns best when feeling loved, fun and variation in lessons, boundaries (physical and emotional), repetition (can be forgetful if scattered or distracted), a calm learning environment.

Tips for success: Stay grounded and lead this horse to emotional calm and balance by your example.


Susan Tenney, CMT, works internationally as a teacher, writer and practitioner of Shiatsu and Five Element Acupressure for animals. She blends massage, acupressure, stretching, movement exercises and lifestyle modifications to improve animal health and performance. Her clients have included the Swiss Equestrian Team and two gold medal-winning United States Equestrian Teams. She is the author of Basic Acupressure for Horses and a growing line of laminated mini-posters on a variety of acupressure topics. An enthusiastic teacher and lecturer, Susan offers clinics for animal owners and professionals in Europe and the U.S., and leads a certification program in Switzerland. www.ElementalAcupressure.com

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