Nutrition and temperament type

Do you know your horse’s temperament type? Knowing this can help you better understand his nutritional needs.

Throughout the year, we have covered each of the five equine temperament types (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood). Hopefully, you were able to find one that resonated with your particular horse. You may be asking, however, why I should go to all the trouble of temperament typing. The number one reason is to develop a feeding program for your horse that will allow him to be as healthy as possible and reach his full potential.

When looking at a group of horses who are all fed the same, have you ever wondered why some are fat and healthy while others are struggling with dull coats, poor hooves, frequent infections or any number of other ailments? There’s a reason why not all horses thrive on the same feeding program. You see, each temperament type has unique nutritional needs. This individual nutritional need goes way past whether a horse is an easy keeper or not. Different temperament types have different needs for protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and even pre- or probiotics.

Let me give you a few examples of how you can use nutrition to support the organs associated with each of the five elements:


The organs are the heart and small intestine. The heart benefits from the bitter flavors found in blue-green algae and alfalfa hay. The small intestine needs prebiotics to create the proper environment to digest protein and absorb minerals.


The organs are the spleen and stomach. The spleen benefits from foods with sweet flavor, such as beet pulp or a small quantity of oats. The stomach enjoys the help of digestive enzymes.


The organs are the lung and large intestine. The lung benefits from the pungent flavors found in garlic or ginger. The large intestine needs quality fat, such as chia seeds, to support its population of bifidus-type fiber-digesting bacteria.


The organs are the kidney and bladder. These are not digestive organs but they contribute to the body’s ability to remove leftover waste from the digestive process. The kidney benefits from the salty flavor found in kelp, and the extra minerals in blue-green algae or alfalfa hay. The bladder will function best when probiotics, including acidophilus, are fed regularly.


The organs are the liver and gallbladder (while horses do not have an actual gallbladder that stores bile, in TCM when we refer to a gallbladder we are relating to the portion of the liver that produces bile). Both these organs contribute greatly to digestion. The liver is critical for proper carbohydrate metabolism and the gallbladder secretes the bile needed for fat digestion. The liver benefits from the sour flavor found in apple cider vinegar, and the gallbladder responds well to dandelion root.

Hopefully, you can see how typing your horse can give you the opportunity to support his health in a very meaningful way. These few examples are for maintaining health, but when you know your horse’s temperament type you can also use nutrition to treat ailments.

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Dr. Madalyn Ward, DVM graduated from Texas A&M University in 1980. After nine years of practice, four at her own Bear Creek Veterinary Clinic in Austin, she remained frustrated about many aspects of conventional medicine. In 1989, she started seeking out information and training in alternative healing. She is trained in Veterinary Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Bowen Therapy, Network Chiropractic and Equine Osteopathy. She has authored three books including "Holistic Horsekeeping" and "Horse Harmony". Visit and