It's Elementary - The Wood Element

Dynamic and Dominant

A powerful stallion strides up to the starting gate. He is bursting with energy, and his rider struggles to hold him back to save the horse’s energy for the race. The horse’s desire to move is obvious; he looks like a coiled spring ready to release. The horse is aware of competitors in gates on either side and pushes impatiently at his gate, eager to explode down the track ahead of the others. The bell rings, the gates open and the horses thunder down the track with the stallion in the lead. He is pleased with his place and looks determined to stay there. This horse describes the archetype of the Wood Element. This means that the Wood Element is predominant in this horse. Once you identify your animal as having a Wood constitution you can support him with simple lifestyle measures to keep this Element optimally balanced. Let’s see what the Wood animal looks like.

The Wood animal usually ranks high in the herd or pack and is often the leader when they go out. He thrives on movement and becomes ill-tempered, impatient and irritable when confined or told what to do. His strength is a dynamic athleticism and a powerful leadership ability. When this power is channeled into movement, rigorous training or competition, the Wood animal glows with vitality. He tends to have a clear head especially in a crisis, though many Wood animals startle easily in the woods as they keep themselves always alert and aware. Wood horses make a great partners in rigorous sport disciplines like racing, eventing or endurance. Wood dogs are equally active and competitive and also thrive in activities like racing.

Becoming the Peaceful Warrior

Wood animals are the embodiment of the saying: “If you have to fight you’ve already lost. When under pressure, Wood animals are more likely to fight back than take flight in panic. They test their handlers – daily or even hourly (!) to see who is boss. They demand clear boundaries and firm leadership if they are to respect human authority. Inconsistent rules undermine the Wood animal’s respect for his owner and leads to power struggles. But don’t mistake “firm for an excuse to become a tyrant. These animals will not shy from a fight and can become dangerously aggressive when handled harshly.

What many Wood animal handlers don’t realize is that animals with the Wood temperament don’t test you because they like being bullies. They just want to know whether or not you’re going to assume the role of  Boss. If a Wood animal finds you wanting as a leader they will try to fill the vacancy and become the Boss themselves. To earn the Wood horse’s respect as the leader, stay clear, consistent, firm and above all be present. When you establish a stable, consistent hierarchy, you will see the Wood animal breathe a sigh of relief. Your Wood animal may still test you regularly to make sure you are going to lead but he will become a faithful follower – a peaceful warrior – instead of an skeptical (and aggressive) underling. Stay steadfast and clear and it will get easier.

Fast learner

Training a Wood animal is easy once you establish a hierarchy with clear boundaries. The Wood animal is an eager learner. He learns quickly so avoid repetition – his impatient nature will be frustrated by slow, methodical lesson plans. Keep it interesting, varied and consider integrating some competitive aspect to the lesson to keep him progressing smoothly.

For a successful training session, remember that the Wood horse may need to “get the buck out (or the Wood dog get a run) before you begin. Honoring that very real need to move, will make the lesson to follow more fun for both of you and save you from starting the day off with a fight. You will have a clear, willing, attentive animal in your hands instead of a bomb waiting to go off. Also, for Wood horses, because he is impatient to get going, keep your pre-ride grooming to just the basics. Save longer grooming jobs or health care procedures for after your ride when he is enjoying the afterglow of a good work-out. Afterward is a great time to do massage, stretching and acupressure too for all Wood animals.

Supporting an athlete

On a physical level, the Wood animal’s most important health need is lots and lots of movement. For horses this means turn-out. Many performance horses are kept in small stalls and this deeply impacts the Wood horse. If you can’t arrange for adequate turn-out, especially in rainy months, make sure to schedule frequent free movement sessions – including rider-free runaround time in the arena or round pen if possible. For dogs, this means lots and lots of walks (or runs) in the forest or at the park. Do not skip your outside time if you can avoid it, especially for more than one day, or you will pay for it with an over-active and impatient dog.

This animal is often athletically gifted, but there are still weaknesses that need support. He may have overall muscle tension, tendon injuries, eye ailments or poor hoof quality for horses or nail quality for dogs. Keeping the Wood Element balanced is strongly recommended because Wood animals do not make the best patients. Their impatience with physical discomfort and confinement can make a daily regime of eye drops or two months of stall rest after a tendon injury an unappealing proposition. Wood animals are also prone to head injuries. As for their hooves, Wood horses often have poor hoof growth, cracked or shelly hooves or other problems that require special shoeing. They often make difficult candidates for barefoot shoeing – extra measures like supplements, herbs, acupressure and more may be needed to make going barefoot possible. Wood dogs may have problems with their nails that need extra care. Also if your Wood animal is in competition, make sure that you are giving him what he needs to perform smoothly at his level – massage, chiropractics, acupuncture, supplements and herbs are just a few of the ways to assist your Wood animal when he is pushing his body to its current limits.

That time of the month?

Wood females may have all of the qualities and issues described above, and may add on a few of their own, especially when in heat. In that time they may display very difficult behaviors. Either that or they will show the reverse pattern – estrus may be the only time during their cycle when they are friendly and easy to handle. In either case a dominant and difficult female animal needs help to stay stable. Hormone therapy can help change behavioral symptoms but will not fix the cause of the issue – an overactive Wood Element. In fact, instead of healing the problem, hormone therapies can actually exacerbate the core imbalance in a Wood horse. An acupressurist or acupuncturist can design a program of herbs and/or acupoint treatment to even out the Wood imbalance and keep your animal smiling instead of growling (in dogs) or pinning her ears (in horses).

Aging athlete

Even after you have retired your old campaigner, don’t forget that an aging Wood animal still needs support to stay healthy. He may not be as vigorous as when he was two but he might be easier to handle. Still Wood animals are prone to becoming grumpy old men and may need extra acupressure or acupuncture to age gracefully. He will also maintain the Wood Element’s physical vulnerabilities so pay attention to his body’s “weak links. Note that retirement can be hard for this animal. He often rebels against the limitations of an aging body because in his mind he is still ready for action. Keep him busy with gentle work so that he feels engaged and useful – this animal dislikes boredom. And remember turn-out for horses and long walks for dogs are perhaps the most important health measures that you can provide.

Does your animal sound like a Wood animal? If so support the Wood Element with these tips to keep your animal happy.

The Wood Element at a Glance

Five Element theory separates body functions, emotional characteristics and other aspects of health and well-being into five categories or “Elements. These distinctions help practitioners determine which Element needs healing and support. Below are the Wood Element qualities. For example, a horse who is prone to aggressive impatience especially in Spring, and has a tendon injury and eye irritation may be a Wood horse. Wood animals benefit from herbs, acupressure and lifestyle changes that balance the Wood Element.

Emotional Characteristics of the Wood Animal

Emotional strengths: Leadership, clarity under pressure, strategic decisions

Stressed by: Confinement, overbearing leadership, weak leadership, inconsistent rules and boundaries, repetitive work, lack of physical challenges, sentimentality, slow activities, retirement

Balanced by: Firm, consistent boundaries; clear, competent leadership; challenging physical work; varied work; gentle kindness

Vulnerable to: Overwork; fighting first and acting questions later; pushing too hard; overexertion especially in competition

Responds to stress with: Aggression, impatience, frustration, anger, pawing, kicking, biting, pinning ears, testing the handler, using force, explosion

Learning style: Benefits from challenges, competition, lots of movement and or speed work, variation in the lesson

Tips for Success: Be PRESENT and lead this animal by being firm and kind at all times

Physical Characteristics of the Wood Animal

Favorite sports: Horses: Track racing, jumping, barrel racing, endurance, anything vigorous and challenging.   Dogs: racing, Agility, any competitive athletic events

Common ailments: Tendon and ligament injuries, muscle soreness and stiffness, hoof/nail issues, eye conditions, poll and neck tension, hip or hock pain, right sided problems, heat cycle aggression in mares/bitches, springtime ailments, “stallion/stud  behavior – even in castrated animals

Tips for Well-being: Regular massage for muscle tension; stretching for the tendons and muscles; proper warm up and cool down; as much turn out/outside time as possible; excellent hoof care for horses; Springtime detoxification program; herbs, acupressure and acupuncture to keep the energy balanced and flowing; massage and acupressure after working out – not before

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