How to help your horse cope with dry weather

Your horse’s ability to tolerate dry weather is largely affected by her temperament type. Once you determine this, you can take steps to help her cope.

Have you ever wondered why different horses react differently to dry weather? Traditional Chinese Medicine can help explain these differences through the concept of temperament typing. Horses fit into five main temperament types, each with a unique personality and response to diet and weather conditions, as well as management and training techniques.

Body type, physical characteristics, health challenges, and personality are all considered when determining a horse’s underlying Five Element type. Knowing your horse’s constitutional type can help you make dietary and lifestyle choices for her that will best support her overall needs on an ongoing basis. If you are looking for a new horse, Five Element typing will aid you in selecting a horse that is well-suited for your lifestyle, the specific activity you wish to undertake with her, or a particular training style.

Five Element typing and health

The Five Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine are Water, Fire, Wood, Metal and Earth. Each element has a connection to specific organs and energy pathways (meridians) in the body, as follows:

According to TCM tradition, when your horse exhibits health problems, they are likely to be related to the organs and meridians associated with her constitutional type. For example, a Metal horse might have chronic respiratory troubles (lungs) and/or problems in the front legs (because that is where the path of the lung meridian and large intestine meridian runs).

Dry weather challenges

Excessive dry weather is a common stressor for horses. The Metal horse temperament is the one most challenged by dry conditions. The organs associated with the Metal element are the Lungs and Large Intestine, and dry weather is a setup for a Metal horse to develop an impaction of the large intestine.

To offset the element of dryness, you want to bring in foods and supplements that supply the element of dampness. Salt creates dampness in the body so making sure your horse has access to good quality, free choice salt is critical. Once the salt need is met, you may want to use additional electrolytes if you have a Metal horse in hard work.

I do not recommend electrolytes for all horses during dry weather because too much dampness can be harmful to some types. The Earth horse is especially challenged by excess dampness and may actually be healthier during dry weather.

Quality fat in the diet is another way to increase dampness in the body during dry conditions. While fat is good for a Metal horse by providing better lubrication for the intestinal tract, it may not be needed for an Earth type unless the manure appears dry. Additional quality fat can also help with dry hooves.

Along with dry weather comes dust. Dust can irritate delicate mucous membranes in the respiratory tract and lack of lubrication can affect the respiratory tract, skin, hooves and large intestine. Since the Metal horse temperament often has challenges with the lung and large intestine, the added insult of dust is extra detrimental.

Another issue that often accompanies dryness is wind. While many horses act more jumpy in windy conditions, wind is most damaging to the Wood horse. Dry, windy conditions can cause the Wood horse to have itchy skin eruptions. Adding the element of dampness in the form of high quality fat, such as rice bran or fish oil, can offset this tendency.

Dry heat is a challenge for the Fire horse. The organs associated with Fire are the heart and small intestine. Heat is most damaging. Dry hot temperatures may bring on enteritis in the Fire horse. Pre- and probiotics given on a daily basis will support a healthy gut microbiome to avoid enteritis colic in the Fire horse during hot dry weather.

Tips at a glance

  • Metal horses are most challenged by dry weather.
  • Wood horses are challenged by dry, windy weather.
  • Fire horses struggle with dry, hot weather.
  • Earth horses may have fewer health challenges during dry weather.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Make sure all horses drink enough water.
  • Consider adding electrolytes to the diet. Kelp is a natural source of salt and electrolyte minerals. Most horses like kelp and will eat it more readily than plain salt, but salt should always be available.
  • Keep an eye on your horse’s manure. If it looks dry, consider adding additional fat to the diet in the form of rice bran, fish oil, flax or chia seeds. Chia can be given on a regular basis for the hooves and coat but you can give extra to provide lubrication in the gut.
  • Add a combination of pre/probiotics, algae and enzymes for digestive support and to increase gut motility.

The more you study horse temperament typing, the more you’ll start to recognize what your horses need to be healthy and happy as individuals. Use the chart on page below to figure out your own horse’s type, so you can give her what she needs to thrive all year long.

Temperament types

The following chart includes a brief description of each horse temperament:

Fire horse The “perfect” show horse Fire horses love to be the center of attention and they want to be adored. They make excellent hunters and dressage horses, as well as good pleasure horses. They need to be told they are loved. They enjoy grooming and bathing because it makes them beautiful.
Wood horse The ultimate competitor Wood horses love physical challenges and must be kept active or they will develop bad habits like kicking and biting. Wood horses

make excellent jumpers, barrel racers and cutters so long as they understand the rules of the game. Don’t try to subdue or overpower a Wood horse – reason with them instead.

Earth horse The dependable lesson horse Earth horses love two things: respect and food. They are solid citizens who want to be appreciated for the good work they do, and food treats often go a long way toward keeping them happy. They make perfect school horses and work well with children. They develop bad habits when their daily routine is upset.
Metal horse The hard-working ranch horse Metal horses enjoy order and control, and can stand up to some of the toughest working conditions. They do their jobs perfectly but otherwise desire very little interaction. They can be found in all disciplines and are often found in working-horse situations like ranching.
Water horse The Arab park horse Water horses need safety and a trustworthy rider. They can be brilliant show horses but panic easily. They perform well in events that call for animation and excitement, and are motivated by cheering crowds. They need steady riders to help them through scary situations.