Some people like a wild, hair raising ride on a hot and fiery horse. Others prefer not to take their life into their hands every time they go for a ride! If you are of a nervous disposition, or are new to riding – or if you simply like a calm plod rather than a terrifying gallop – then you might like to look into the calmest horse breeds. Thankfully there are a few of these! Have a look through the list and see which one suits you the best.
What You'll Learn Today
American Quarter Horse
The Quarter Horse was developed for ranch work in America, and they have what is known as “cattle sense” – that is, an ability to remain calm when rounding up herds of potentially frightened, aggressive cows. This ability to remain calm under pressure makes them perfect for new or nervous riders.
The Quarter Horse came about though crosses between the Thoroughbred with various native American horses, such as the Chicksaw horses, which made a breed that was small, compact and hardy as well as extremely fast.
The Quarter Horse comes in most colors, though sorrel is the most common, followed by black, bay, gray, buckskin, and various roan colors. This breed is used for Western riding, stock work, general riding, reining and cutting and in hand showing.
The Morgan is one of the earliest breeds developed in the US and is highly versatile and calm natured. They were used as coach horses, harness racing, general riding and for cavalry during the American Civil War.
Morgans have been influenced by the Quarter Horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Standardbred, and have in their turn influenced other horses.
The Morgan is compact and refined, and generally stands between 14.1 and 16.2 hands. They are usually bay, black and chestnut, though can be gray, roan, dun, silver dapple and various cream dilutions.
The Morgan has been used for hundreds of years for different functions, and it is well known as an easy keeper as well as for its calm temperament, and its suitability as a family horse.
This American breed is best known for its spotted coat – but also for its docile, calm and biddable character. The Appaloosa was initially known as the Nez Perce horse, as the color pattern was first noticed and actively bred for by these Native Americans.
Because it was kept in such close quarters with its original breeders, a good temperament was necessary, and these qualities have continued down the lines of breeding over the centuries. It’s one of the calmest horse breeds you can find.
The Irish Cob is well known for its quiet nature. Originally bred to pull the live-in wagons of the Irish gypsies, the Vanner was part of the family, living on the road with its human companions it had to have a good temperament due to children running around, and the heavy loads they had to pull – it would be no good to have a big, heavy horse spooking and bolting whilst pulling your entire house and family behind him!
The Irish Vanner small yet solidly built, standing between 13 and 16 hands, with the smaller sizes being more prized as they would cost less to keep. This breed is nearly always piebald or skewbald, and these days is used for showing, trading, dressage and general riding.
Cobs in general are a straightforward, uncomplicated breed of horse that tend to have mild temperaments. This is more of a body type than a specific breed, which generally has strong bones, large joints and strong hooves.
Cobs are generally larger than ponies but remain small and compact, with a refined head – a less than refined saying is that a cob should have the “head of a lady and the backside of a cook”!
Cobs vary between 14.2 and 15.1 hands, and all share the same strong, compact stature. Cobs generally have a calm temperament, making them ideally suited to nervous riders or beginners.
The Fell pony, although small, is a great weight bearer and has been known to be able to carry full grown men. The Fell originated in Cumberland and Westmorland, and was used as a riding and driving pony.
The Fell is very similar to the Dales, and they share an ancestor in the now-extinct Galloway pony which was believed to have come from the border between England and Scotland.
Primarily a working pony, the Fell is sturdy and strong, and has great stamina, along with their equable dispositions. They have notably calm, pleasant temperaments, making them ideal for nervous riders or those who are just starting out.
Frequently Asked Questions
Your own demeanor has an incredible effect on your horse. In many ways, your horse’s state of mind is a reflection of yours. Take some time to get centered before working with your horse. While you are with him or her, breathe deeply and evenly, avoid shouting and don’t wave your arms around or make sudden moves. If you are calm, your horse will be calm.
When you first get your horse, it’s a good idea to do ground work for several weeks before you begin riding. Walk with your horse. Show him or her the area where you will be riding. Talk with him or her. Establish a special song that you use when grooming or riding that will help calm your horse if something unexpected happens.
Horses are creatures of habit. Maintain a regular schedule and establish “rituals”. When you work with your horse, follow a set series of events. For example, it’s a good idea to catch your horse, feed, groom and then ride. If you switch it up, your horse may feel anxious.
Horses seem to like lively, upbeat music. If you’ve ever gone to a horse show, you may have noticed that horses will move in time to the beat of any music that is played. Singing a cheerful song when riding is a good way to keep your horse connected and listening. Singing a quiet song while grooming is calming and can be a very good tool to turn to during stressful activities such as veterinary or farrier visits.
In general, you will find that cold-blooded horses such as draft horses and those descended from ancient European breeds are more calm and even than hot blooded horses (such as Thoroughbred and Arabian types).
That being said, it is worth remembering that every horse is an individual, and you can’t generalize and think that every cold blooded individual you meet will be calm and kind, and every hot blood will be wild.
Variations are always occurring, and a more important thing than looking for the calmest horse breeds is to have a good bond with a trusted horse.