In Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM), in which acupuncture is a treatment modality, the horse’s constitution will indicate the organ systems and related body components where disease processes are more likely to develop. For instance, a metal constitution horse will generally develop respiratory issues like heaves or COPD before other constitutions will.
In TCVM the Five Element Theory defines the five different constitutions. Since the Five Element theory was developed thousands of years ago, nature was used to describe the constitutions. The constitutional types are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Certain characteristics are more common to each specific constitution even though you or your horse may have characteristics of multiple constitutions each individual is predominately one constitution.
Wood constitution has spring as its season. These individuals are generally confident and competitive, resulting in a fearless, aggressive, strong attitude toward athletic endeavor. They are generally dominant or the alpha horse, biting with little provocation. They may be active with a crabby or irritable attitude if not getting their way.
Fire constitution has summer as its season. These individuals are generally lively, playful individuals, wanting to be the center of attention. They are noisy, communicative and very friendly usually loving to be petted. Although difficult to calm down, high-strung, excited, or hard to keep still; they are generally proficient in competition.
Earth constitution has late summer as its season. These individuals are laid back, relaxed, friendly, loyal individuals that are eager to please, slow and consistent, tolerant with mothering abilities. They are the honest, large, round, kid’s horse that you could trust anyone to ride.
Metal constitution has fall as its season. These individuals are independent, the leader in the group who loves order and obeys the rules. With a disciplined attitude, they are organized, confident, consistent and ready for what happens next. They are comfortable being quiet and aloof or on the edge of the herd instead of in the middle of everything.
Water constitution has winter as its season. These individuals are timid, shy, fearful individuals who watch the Veterinarian as he or she does everything. As a good observer, they are nervous or worry during an exam and may bit or kick you out of fear. They are introverted or self-contained and generally hide or run away.
What is your horse’s constitution?
Why does it matter if we know our horse’s constitution? With each constitution there are negative behavioral traits that begin to arise indicating a divergence from a balanced constitution. As the individual leaves balance, behavioral issues start to signal constitutional imbalance and constitutional organ systems or body structures and functions will begin to have problems or not work efficiently. These changes are the beginning of the disease process or the loss of health balance. As we all know the sooner we address and correct a disease process, the more successful and usually more economical the treatment process is.
The primary organ of the Wood constitution is the liver, with the secondary organ being the Gall Bladder. Although the horse does not have a gall bladder the final bile ducts serve that function in TCVM. The sense organ related to liver is the eyes, with the tendon and ligaments along with the hooves or nails, joints and tears being directed by the liver. It is also a purification organ of the body. Imbalances of this constitution may begin as an easily angered, irritable individual that has red eyes or eye problems. As athletes they will tend to have tendon or ligament problems with hoof issues. Liver problems can arise with an incidence of seizures or mental behavior changes.
The primary organ of the Fire constitution is the heart/pericardium with the secondary organ being the small intestine/triple heater or internal fire of an individual. The sense organ is the tongue with circulation being the primary purpose and the transportation vessels along with sweating being under the influence of the heart. Also in TCVM the mind is controlled by the heart. If imbalance develops in the fire constitution, we may see it as one or more of the following: restlessness, hyperactivity, anxiety or separation anxiety, insomnia or disturbance of the mind. Imbalances may reveal themselves as blood vessel disorders or heart problems. Tongue ulcerations or issues of anhidrosis (lack of sweating) or excessive sweating are influenced by the heart.
The primary organ of the Earth constitution is the spleen (pancreas) with the secondary organ being the stomach. The sense organ is the lips and gums with digestion along with the muscles and saliva being controlled by the spleen. Behavior imbalance is seen first as excessive worrying consequent digestive issues like loss of appetite, diarrhea and constipation, vomiting or colic. Muscle weakness, loss of muscle mass or muscle issues along with obesity are also an indication of spleen imbalance.
The primary organ of the Metal constitution is the lung with the secondary organ being the large intestine. The nose is the sense organ. Metal constitution’s primary purpose is respiration but controls the skin, hair, and nasal fluid. Consequently excessive sadness or grief may arise with lung imbalance. Physical changes usually first manifest themselves as a weak voice, allergies, dry skin, upper respiratory issues, cough, asthma, heaves, sinus problems or lung infections.
The primary organ of the Water constitution is the kidney with the secondary organ being the bladder. The sense organ is the ears with elimination as its primary purpose along with bones, teeth, neural tissue and bone marrow being controlled by this constitution. Total withdrawal is a behavioral change that maybe seen with a constitutional imbalance along with deafness, premature aging, reproductive, renal and urinary problems. Imbalances with this constitution can be illustrated with rear or back weakness, arthritis or disc disease and even disturbed growth.
In conclusion, we have discussed the defining attributes of the five constitutions and the organ system and body function ascribed to each one. Hopefully I have answered some questions about your horse and spurred some questions or comments in regards to the behavior and health of your horse. In a follow-up blog I will go into the Constitutional Theory of TCVM to illustrate how the organ systems are related and shed some light on why in traditional western medicine we see certain disease process progressing as other disease processes develop.
1 John 1:8-9: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.