calmest horse breed

The Calmest Horse Breeds

What is the calmest horse breed?

As a barn owner, I am constantly around horses of all shapes and sizes, and just like people, they all have very different personalities.  Unlike people, however, there does seem to be a correlation between breed or type and temperament.

The calmest horse breed is the quarter horse or a draft breed.  Based on an average of the entire breed and not one-off stories of particular horses, it has been shown that these two ‘types’ of horses are more likely to fit into the description of calm than any other breeds.  Having said that all breeds can have really really calm horses and all breeds can have really really crazy nervous horses.  In the long run, you will find that warmbloods and cold-bloods are typically the calmest horse breeds and exhibit the easiest temperaments.  

Why the quarterhorse?

Without question, over my years and years of owning and looking after all types of horses, I can easily say that the quarter horse is the best breed for beginners and is the calmest.  It’s not that I haven’t seen great horses that would work from other breeds, but time and time again the quarter horse is just heads and tails (ha) above the rest when it comes to ease of ownership, trainability and calmness.

One of the other things to really consider is that quarter horses are smaller (generally speaking) and because of that they are easier to handle for beginners and for children.  This article is written because the question that is being answered is most likely being asked by a beginner or a family with kids.  In both of these scenarios, a smaller horse would be better, and a calmer horse would be better, and the quarterhorse fits both.

What characteristics fall into calm?

It is important that we take a short minute to discuss what we actually mean by calm.  I think that there would be a few different adjectives that we could use in place of the word calm.  Words like gentle, easy to be around, trusting, quiet, respectful and attentive.  let’s look at each of these in turn

  • Gentle.  Those of us that have been around a lot of horses probably all have stories about being around a bully type horse.  One that pushes his or her way, one that throws its head, one that pulls on the lead rope, one that lunges at other horses and one that will bite if given the chance.  Gentle horses are the opposite of this.  Usually, they are easy to halter, easy to lead and are always respectful of others around them.  They also have an ease about them when it comes to brushing, tacking, getting Ferrier work done and training in the ring.
  • Easy to be around.  Horses that are easy to be around are usually the ones that you can work with.  These types of horses are quiet in the cross ties, and usually are easy to manage when getting in and out of the barn and the trailer.  They will let you pet them and brush them without concern.
  • Trusting.  This can really work both ways, but a trusting horse is one that will listen to commands and not try to get away with whatever it can.  Many trusting horses only need to be taught something once and then minimum reinforcement over time.  In contrast, non-trusting horses need constant supervision and reinforcement.  This is true both on the ground and under saddle.
  • Respectful.  We touched on this already but one thing a respectful horse does is manage personal space.  You can always tell if a horse doesn’t understand personal space because it will be in yours.  This may seem cute, but it can be very dangerous for the owner.  Horses can break your feet if they step on them, and easily knock you down if they shy while being to close to you.  Falling down can hurt but it also opens up the chance of being stepped on.  It is also important to note here that you and your trainer need to constantly remind your horse about this.  It is essential for safety and a positive horse experience that horses understand respect.
  • Attentive.  This may not seem like a big deal but I have seen so many horses get themselves or their owner into trouble because either they are not paying attention or they are paying attention to the wrong thing.  You may think that nervous horses are always looking for things but more often than not a nervous horse will respond incorrectly to a new stimulus and cause an issue for the rider.  With calm horses, they are usually paying attention to their owners and to their surroundings and not surprised by things.  An attentive horse will not go past the same thing every day going into the barn and have an issue with it.  They will investigate the first time and then understand that they are ok the next time.

The Quarter Horse Breed

The American Quarter horse breed, which includes the Canadian versions, came from mixing thoroughbreds with other stock horses from native America and some Spanish horses.  The result was a smaller, stockier horse capable of really quick speeds over short distances and incredible agility.  As the breed has matured in the 20th and 21st centuries the quarter horse has become known to be very versatile and willing to do just about anything. 

Typically the breed is most used in the western discipline doing things like the rodeo, ranch work and cattle work.  You will, however, still see these horses in all kinds of disciplines typically because of their willingness to work, their ease of training and there relatively low entry-level cost.

The Cold Blood Type

Horses are typically grouped into three different blood types.  These are not medical terms like blood type A, but rather they are a descriptive term used to describe the breeding and temperament of the horse.  I have written another article on riding draft horses and I spend some time in that article explaining the idea of blood type and the differences between the three types.

Coldbloods are one of the blood types and typically their temperament is much calmer and not as nervous as other types of horses.  Warmbloods and hotbloods are (most generally) more nervous and not as calm.  Again I am making a generalization here because there are always examples of calm hotbloods and nervous coldbloods, but in general, this is not the case.

So should I buy a draft horse then?

Draft horses or coldbloods are definitely calmer, but their sheer size can make them significantly harder to deal with especially for beginners and children.  That is the beauty of the quarter horse.  You get a horse that still has a lot of the qualities of the calmer breeds but in a smaller more manageable package.  There are also significantly more quarter horses around so you will be able to find one for less upfront money.

One other thing you can do that many people don’t know about is leasing a horse.  It is a great way to try a horse before you purchase and also see if there is a match before you spend a lot more money.  For more information, you can check out my article on questions to ask before leasing a horse.

What things am I looking for when I go try a horse for purchase?

Ok, so as a barn owner and horse owner (multiple times over) I have learned a lot about the mechanics of purchasing a horse.  This will not be an exhaustive list or a complete article on that subject, but I am going to outline a few of those things here.

  1. Can you easily catch the horse?  This would be my number one issue with any horse purchase.  How easy is it to catch the horse with a haler.  There is nothing and I mean nothing more frustrating than chasing a horse around a field trying to catch it.  No thanks.  I would even try if you could to arrange a one month trial at your home facility to make sure that the horse is trained in this area.  It’s not that you can’t train a horse to be easier to catch but it shows a lot about the personality of a horse if it is easy to catch.
  2. Feet.  You need to check its feet and depending on the amount of money that you are spending it would even be worthwhile to get your Ferrier to look at them too.
  3. Tack.  You will also need some tack for your horse and depending on the type of horse you buy you may need different kinds of tack.  If you are looking for boots check this article out.

Two more things to consider

  1. Vaccinations and vet records.  You definitely need to look into its medical history and check to see if there will be any ongoing expenses, or if there have been any issues in the past.
  2. Teeth.  Something to consider is the horse’s teeth.  If they have not been attended to by a vet or equine dentist they can cause issues and the horse will not be able to eat properly.  It’s worth asking if they have been done.
  3. Tack.  Smaller horses are easier to find tack for typically.  Mostly because there are more of them.  It’s also usually cheaper.