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The 5 Calmest Horse Breeds

Holly has been a horse owner, breeder, and trainer for many yaers. She got her own pony at the age of 8.

Having the right horse can be an amazing experience!

Having the right horse can be an amazing experience!

I've loved horses for as long as I can remember. We got our first family horse when I was five or six, and I got my own pony when I was eight. Since then, I've owned and handled many horses.

For the most part, the breeds have included Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Morgans, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Paints, Tennessee Walking Horses, draft crosses, Welsh ponies, Shetland ponies, and miniature horses. I've had some absolutely wonderful mounts, but I've also had a few that were difficult to train and hard to manage.

Some breeds, in general, are usually calmer and have an overall better temperament than others. Hot-blooded horses, like Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Barbs are often considered to be quick-tempered and more spirited. Cold-bloods, the draft breeds, are usually calm and laid back. If you're wondering which popular horse breeds are the calmest and are probably good choices for beginners, I'm sharing some information with you here.

Remember, this is based on my experiences and is to be used only as a general guideline. Every horse is unique, with its own personality and level of training. For example, I had a thoroughbred mare that was one of the calmest, sweetest horses I've ever known, so not every horse fits a certain mold.

Quarter Horses are usually great mounts for beginners.

Quarter Horses are usually great mounts for beginners.

1. American Quarter Horse

I love this breed! The Quarter Horse began as a ranch horse in the American Southwest. In general, Quarter Horses are calm, with great temperaments. Most of them actually enjoy being ridden and like to work. It's in their DNA. They excel at working cattle, reining, timed events, trail riding, and pleasure riding. A good Quarter Horse can be the perfect fit for the entire family.

Personally, I prefer the original “bulldog” (foundation) Quarter Horse—the stock type that's shorter and more muscular, with heavier bone. From my experience, the taller, leggier version (appendix) is more like a Thoroughbred in temperament and disposition. The AQHA is the most popular registry in the world, and you'll find many shows, youth activities, and other programs in which to take part.

Believe it or not, this is a stallion the kids are riding!

Believe it or not, this is a stallion the kids are riding!

2. Tennessee Walking Horse

This is another American breed that began its development in Tennessee in the late 1700s. In appearance, Walkers are usually tall, with an elegant look. They're best known for their running walk gait, which is extremely smooth. If you want a comfortable ride, this might be the breed for you.

Tennessee Walking Horses are usually calm and take well to training. They're also known for their surefootedness, making them great trail horse prospects. To give you an idea of just how unflappable these horses can be, they're often used for hunting, where the riders might fire while mounted.

Make sure to get a horse that's healthy, sound, and well trained.

Make sure to get a horse that's healthy, sound, and well trained.

3. The Morgan

The Morgan is an American breed that began its development in the late 1700s, in New England. It's a well-built horse that's compact and muscular, with a short, strong back. These horses seem to thrive on human interaction and are willing partners in numerous tasks and activities.

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Because of their calm demeanor, they are often chosen for mounted police. Crowds, noise, and traffic don't seem to bother them. They are widely used as lesson horses, too, due to their calm dispositions and patience with new riders.

The Appaloosa is my favorite horse breed.

The Appaloosa is my favorite horse breed.

4. The Appaloosa

The Appaloosa is my favorite horse breed. They have beautiful coat patterns and a fascinating history. The Appaloosa was developed by the Nez Perce tribe in the northwestern U.S. This was one of the first tribes to implement selective breeding of their horses.

I've owned and handled several Appaloosas, including mares, fillies, stallions, colts, and geldings. Not one of them had a mean bone in its body. Some were a little more spirited than others but none were flighty or nervous. They didn't spook easy. We rode them in shows, in parades, on trails, and to work cattle. We even handled an extremely gentle stallion, which is usually considered to be difficult to manage, that was practically bombproof with small children and novice riders. Another great characteristic of the Appaloosa is that it's sure-footed, making it a superb trail horse.

Draft breeds are gentle giants.

Draft breeds are gentle giants.

5. Draft Crosses

Draft horses—Shires, Belgians, Percherons, Suffolk Punches, and Clydesdales—are known as “gentle giants” because of their sweet dispositions and even temperaments. Of course, one drawback to owning a draft is their sheer size, which can be intimidating, especially for a beginning rider. To get the best of both worlds, you might want to consider a draft cross—a horse that's half draft and half saddle horse. Such a horse can be a wonderful mount for beginners who are interested in trail riding and riding for pleasure. Of course, such a cross can also be used to pull wagons and heavy loads.

Sex Matters

The sex of a horse usually has a big impact on its personality. Stallions are rarely suitable for beginners and can even be a handful for an experienced horseman. Mares can be super sweet, but they can also be moody. Occasionally, they might be unpredictable.

Geldings, stallions that have been castrated, are usually the best choice for beginners. Since they're not ruled by their hormones, geldings are the same pretty much every day. Generally speaking, geldings don't have mood swings, they don't get excited around mares, and they're not territorial.

Older horses are usually much calmer than young horses.

Older horses are usually much calmer than young horses.

Age Is Also a Key Factor

When it comes to choosing a calm horse for a beginner, the animal's age is very important, along with its training history. Older horses are usually calmer than younger horses because they've experienced a lot more. They don't usually get spooked by things that might alarm a younger horse that hasn't experienced the world of sights and sounds as much. Older horses usually have a “been there, done that” attitude.

Some unknowing parents want to buy a young horse for their child so they can grow up together. That's not a good decision! A novice rider on a green horse can be a combination for disaster. It's much better to get an older horse that has a lot of miles under the saddle.

Before Buying a Horse

As I mentioned, the above is not sure-fire advice. You might come across a completely rank Quarter Horse, which isn't representative of the breed. That being said, the five breeds I've described are good places to start in your search. Don't forget to take age and sex in consideration, too.

When searching for a horse for a beginner, it's best to take a knowledgeable horseman or trainer with you. Even if you have to pay a fee for their service, it's a great investment to ensure you get a safe, healthy, well-trained mount. If there's any doubt about the animal's health or soundness, have it checked by a vet before purchasing. Good luck on your hunt for a calm, gentle horse!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Holle Abee

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