The 5 Element theory, aka Wu Xing refer to the 5 elements in the natural world, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water and their inter-relationships. It is a guiding principle in Chinese culture and thought and is used not only in medicine, but in art, music, military strategy, feng sui and martial arts.
"The 5 Element theory was first formed in China around the time of the Yin and Zhou Dynasties (16th century BC to 221 BC). Later, it was adopted into medical practice, thus becoming a founding theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The 5 element priciples can describe the nature of the Zang-Fu organs, the inter-relationships between organs and the relationship between the animal body and and the natural world. Thus, the theory of the 5 Elements, together with the theory of Yin-Yang, serves to guide clinical diagnosis and treatment" ....(Dr. Xie, Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine, volume 1, fundamental principles.)
We use 5 element theory to diagnose the personality of the animal and his/her human companions. Many emotional problems of animals are direct reactions to their environment and caretakers so if we can reduce stress and conflict in the environment, both animal and human can be happier and healthier in their relationship.
Here is a quick overview and horse/human example of each element.
A wood animal is confident, active and athletic. They can be superstar performers but are sensitive to stress and are easily angered and tend to be crabby and impatient. They will be alpha in the herd/pack and will need a strong and fair trainer. Their most common medical issues are ligament, tendon, eye and hoof problems.
A fire animal is friendly and hyper excitable. They are excellent show animals and love to be loved and come alive in the show ring or in front of a crowd. They are inquisitive with strangers and like to call to their herd mates/bark and are always moving. A fire needs a smart, watchful trainer with a full bag to tricks to keep an easily distracted fire engaged. The Fire's most common medical complaints are shen disturbance (mental issues), gastric ulcers, cardiac problems and over heating.
An Earth animal is friendly but lazy and laid back. They enjoy sleeping and eating and are eager to please. They are good workers once they get going on a task but tend to be slow and are not motivated to be superstars. They are happy to follow along on a trail ride and don't need to be first in line. Earths can be stubborn and become crabby if they feel forced into performing. The earth is food motivated and a smart trainer will use treats and positive reinforcement. Earth animals suffer from muscle pain and gastrointestinal problems.
A Metal animal is very neat, quiet and confident. They are disciplined and know their job. They can not think outside the box and don't know why anyone would want to. They are in the middle of the pecking order and are happy to be turned out alone or be an only pet. They are a trainer's dream because once taught a task, will be happy to perform it the same way over and over, however they are very difficult to reschool to a new discipline. The Metal needs an organized, disciplined and determined ie Metal trainer, to be re-schooled but once trained is a school master. Their most common medical issues deal with the immune system and the lungs. They may have very sensitive skin, anhydrosis (lack the ability to sweat), and wind issues.
A Water animal tends to be fearful of strangers both human and other animals. They can kick out or bite when afraid. They are usually submissive to all other animals in the pack/herd. They need a patient, kind and confident trainer who can give them emotional support. Waters tend to suffer from diseases involving the kidneys,nerves, ears and bones.