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Keep Calm & Ride On: Meet the 5 Calmest Horse Breeds

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Written by Stephanie S.

Wondering what breed of horse has the best temperament? Get to know the best no-drama, gentle giants.

Whether looking to purchase a horse, researching lease options, or choosing a lesson horse, many people wonder what the calmest horse breeds are.

In this article, we’ll discuss five of the calmest horse breeds, including:

Remember, there are no “guarantees” when it comes to temperament. Within every breed there are general traits, but every horse is an individual.

For each recommendation, we discuss what is typical of the breed—not individual horses. 

Click to see an illustrated guide to 100 horse breeds at Amazon.

You may also find a wonderfully calm horse within a breed of typically “hot” horses—like an Off The Track Thoroughbred (OTTB) or Arabian that’s super mellow.

On the other hand, a horse that’s theoretically bred for an even temperament may be hot.

Love learning about different breeds? Check out our 4 Best Horse Breeds for Beginners and 11 Best Breeds for First Time Horse Owners.

5 Gentle Horse Breeds You’ll Love

American Quarter Horse

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American Quarter Horse

The Quarter Horse has certainly earned its place on our list of calmest horse breeds. They are the most popular breed in the world, with millions of Quarter Horses around the globe.

They are iconic in the American West, where cowboys depended on them during long days on the range.

Quarter Horses are known for their versatility and can be found competing in any discipline a rider wishes to pursue. They have notoriously calm temperaments that make them a natural choice for rookie riders and horse owners, as they quickly win hearts and build riders’ skills and confidence.

Learn why Quarter Horses made our list of the 11 Best Breeds for First Time Horse Owners.

You might like riding a Quarter Horse if you:

  • Are new to horses: Quarter Horses take care of their riders, while allowing you to enjoy the ride. They know their job, and perform it with the utmost diligence.
  • Want it all: The versatility of the Quarter Horse lets you have it all. Ride all day, switch from Western to English at the same horse show, or change disciplines completely. Look no further than the class list at a local Quarter Horse show for proof of their versatility.
  • Want to show: Quarter Horse shows are particularly popular throughout the United States and Canada. The pinnacle is the Quarter Horse Congress each fall. It’s quite an honor to qualify, and showing at the Congress is an experience not soon forgotten.
  • Like to share: With a Quarter Horse, you can worry less about letting a friend, neighbor, or complete novice hop on your horse for a ride. Your Quarter Horse will take care of whoever is on their back.
  • Are looking for community: The Quarter Horse is the most popular breed of horses in the world. If you’re looking to join an equestrian community, you’ll find lots of other Quarter Horse owners near you, for a built in community of horse-loving friends.

Hold Your Horses

Quarter Horses were bred to race, and as with any breed, there are some hot Quarter Horses out there.

When you’re looking at horses to purchase, it’s important to evaluate temperament, and make sure the horse is the right fit for you.

Chief Rookie Aside: Check out our list of 60 Questions to Ask When Buying a Horse.

Horses that came from the track, and even some Appendix Quarter Horses (crossed with Thoroughbreds) may not have the calm temperament you’re seeking.

Eager to Learn More? Visit The American Quarter Horse Association.

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Calm breeds are especially wonderful to work with for clicker training. Check out our 6 Easy Clicker Training Exercises for Horses to get started.

Morgan Horse

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Morgan Horse

Figure is the founding sire of the Morgan breed. He was born in 1789 in Springfield, Massachusetts, and the entire breed can trace its roots to this single stallion.

Figure, later referred to by his owner Justin Morgan’s name, was a versatile horse that could compete in a race, work in the fields, and be ridden under saddle.

Learn why Morgan Horses made our list of the 11 Best Breeds for First Time Horse Owners.

Morgan horses are “America’s first breed” and helped form many other breeds we love today, including the Quarter Horse, Standardbred, and Tennessee Walking Horse.

They are a beautiful breed, with slightly dished faces, arched necks, and flowing manes and tales. Morgan horses can be found throughout the United States and Canada, as well as abroad.

You might like riding a Morgan if you:

  • Want it all: Morgan horses are versatile. In fact, the versatility class at Morgan horse shows proves it. In this class, horses are required to ride, drive, and jump over two fences. Morgan horses can be found on the trail, in competitive driving events, working cattle, and on and on.
  • Your horse is your best friend: Morgan horses have incredible personalities, and are eager to bond with and please people. If you want a “heart” horse who will become your best friend, look no further than a Morgan horse.
  • Looks matter: Morgan horses are beautiful. Someone once said that it costs the same amount to feed an ugly horse as a pretty one, so you might as well have a pretty horse. Function meets beauty with the Morgan.
  • It’s a family thing: If horses are a family affair, a Morgan might be the breed for you. They make fantastic babysitters, let one or more kids scramble all over their back, or serve as your favorite lounge chair while you read a book.
  • Seek adventure: While the Morgan is a calm breed, their natural high head carriage and keen interest in anything new have them eager to set out on the trail. Even in the show ring, they are calm while majestic.

Hold Your Horses

Some Morgan horses are bred for the show ring and are hotter than others in the breed. Similar to the Quarter Horse, you need to evaluate all horses as individuals, and find one with the quiet temperament you desire.

Eager to Learn More? Visit American Morgan Horse Association.

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Having a calm horse is key, but you might be wondering Do Horses Actually Like Being Ridden?

Appaloosa

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Appaloosa

The Appaloosa was bred by the Nez Perce Indian tribe in the Northwest. The Nez Perce raised many horses, and were known as excellent horseman. Their tribe used the horses for hunting buffalo and to move around the plains.

Learn why Appaloosas made our list of the 11 Best Breeds for First Time Horse Owners.

Approximately 10% of the Appaloosas bred by the Nez Perce were spotted, and their colorful coat patterns had many fans. People referred to them as the Palouse horses, after the Palouse River in Northern Idaho. The name became Appaloosa over time.

The Appaloosa Horse Club was formed in 1938 to protect and improve the breed.

You might like riding an Appaloosa if you:

  • Are colorful: The blanket of spots or leopard coat pattern are distinct, and will help you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Not all Appaloosas are as colorful, and while only one spot is required to become a registered Appaloosa, most have the distinctive coat pattern we know and love.
  • Want to connect to history: The Appaloosa was bred and raised on the plains of the west, and has a unique history. The club honors that history every year with the Chief Joseph Trail Ride in July, a four-day ride from Grangeville, Idaho to Musselshell Meadows, Idaho. They also offer regional trail rides throughout the country.
  • Want it all: Similar to our Quarter Horses and Morgan horses, the Appaloosa is known for their versatility. The same horse can easily help you with your English, Western, or trail goals.
  • Need a kid-friendly horse: Appaloosas are also known for their ability to teach youth to ride and love horses. Their kind temperament and calm personality make them a favorite among children and young adults.
  • Love a horse with personality: Appaloosas are fun! They have a lot of personality and character. Find one that matches your personality, and it’s a match made in heaven.

Hold Your Horses

Appaloosas were also bred for speed, and there remains a vibrant community that races these horses. When seeking out an Appaloosa, be careful that you choose one bred for temperament and versatility, rather than the race track.

Eager to Learn More? Visit The Appaloosa Horse Club.

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Norwegian Fjord

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Norwegian Fjord

Stout and sweet, this “light draft” breed is beloved for its dorsal stripe and roached black and tan mane as it is for its endearing personality.

These pint-sized horses are as sturdy enough to carry kids and adults and calm enough to put even the most anxious riders at ease. You’ll also see this breed pulling carts, enjoying trail rides, doing dressage, and much more.

You might like riding a Norwegian Fjord if you:

  • Want to take things slowly: Fjord horses are known for their calm and willing demeanor, but they will hustle when the job demands a little extra energy.
  • Love being on display: Be ready to stop for passersby who want to take selfies with your steed — people are drawn to this breed’s kind manner and cute appearance.
  • Value steadiness over sass: Because they were bred to pull carriages, hot-tempered and spooky genes have been bred out not into the modern Fjord.
  • Like to give back: This breed is popular with therapeutic riding programs, where calmness is key. Whether you want to officially work with a riding program or simply help other anxious friends conquer their fears in your backyard, look no further.
  • Don’t do heights: If you’re worried about falling and prefer to stick closer to the ground, you’ll love the feel of riding a full-size horse — without risking a full-size fall.

Hold Your Horses:

Though this breed is wonderful for pleasure riders, drivers, and kids, they aren’t designed to rise up the show jumping levels or smoke the competition at high-energy events like reining.

Eager to Learn More? Visit the Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry

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Connemara Pony

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Connemara Pony

Beginner adult riders often ignore an entire category of wonderful equine partners–ponies! Adults and children, alike, can enjoy many breeds of ponies.

The Connemara Pony is notoriously athletic, sweet, and willing — not to mention utterly adorable. 

You might like riding a Connemara Pony if you:

  • Believe great things come in small packages: This breed stands 12.2 to 14.2 hands, which makes it suitable for average adults and children of all ages.
  • Want a “horse” that holds up: Connemaras are built to last with strong backs and hind quarters, deep rib cages, and crested necks. With proper care and love, they’ll stay on the job for many years.
  • Value willingness: Not all ponies have a “pony attitude.” Instead of sass and sourness, you’ll enjoy a partner who is dignified, willing, and aims to please.
  • Love an all-star athlete: Want to jump? Go for it. Love trail riding? Have at it. Eager to try a little cow work? No problem. This breed is athletic enough to try anything.

Hold Your Horses:

This breed is prone to Hoof Wall Separation Disease (HWSD), so make sure your farrier and vet keep a close eye on your pony’s hoof health.

Eager to Learn More? Visit the American Connemara Pony Society

Calm Horse Breeds Infographic

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Calmest Horse Breeds

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What horse breeds are best for beginners?

Quarter Horses will help you gain confidence in the saddle and working on the ground as they have calm temperaments, will quickly put your mind at ease, and allow your skills to develop.

They are dependable and steady, two traits that any beginner should seek.

Learn more about the 11 best breeds for first time horse owners.

Q: What breed of horse has the smoothest ride?

The Morgan horse is known for their rocking horse canter. Morgans have short backs, which makes their gaits incredibly smooth. Riding a Morgan will give you confidence and hours of enjoyment.

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Q: What is the best horse breed for a kid?

Find the right Appaloosa for your kid, and you’ll watch them bond and grow together. Appaloosa’s have a lot of character, and are known for their wonderful personalities when working with youth.

Q: Where can I find a horse temperament scale?

There are a lot of resources with horse temperament scales on the Internet, from mom blogs, to Pat Parelli Horsemanship.

We recommend this Assessment of Equine Behaviour as it explains the theory, questions to ask, and other resources available (including Parelli).

Q: What are the best riding horse breeds?

Quarter Horses are known as wonderful riding horses, and the hours spent in the saddle on the range by cowboys is a testament for their ride-ability.

Learn more about the 11 best breeds for first time horse owners.

Q: What is the friendliest horse breed?

Morgan horses are known for their endearing personalities. They would probably come in the house if allowed.

Morgan horses will follow you around, and bond with you in a way few other breeds do.

Q: What is the best breed of horse for first time owners?

We have an in-depth article about this topic! Learn more about the 11 best breeds for first time horse owners.

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Q: What is the most docile horse breed?

Every horse is different, so don’t rely on the breed alone to dictate what type of personality your horse will have. 

That said, Norwegian Fjords are widely beloved for their docile, sweet, and tolerant temperaments. It’s why they tend to make such good therapy horses!

Q: Are Irish Sport Horses calm?

Irish Sport Horses are a cross-breed of Thoroughbreds and Irish Draught Horses. They’re known for their hardiness, stamina, and jumping ability. 

Their athleticism and intelligence are thanks (in part) to the Thoroughbred breed, but their calm and sensible minds are thanks to the Irish Draught breed. 

They can be stouter athletes, so be sure you have the skills to handle a bit larger horse — especially over fences, if you choose to jump. 

If you’re looking for a willing-yet-scopey mount, consider the Irish Sport Horse.

Q: Are Rocky Mountain Horses calm?

This breed is known for it’s good natured personality and love for their humans. Bred fans praise the horses’ lack of spookiness, especially while trail riding, and trust in their riders. 

They’re also bred to have incredible stamina, hardiness and curiosity.

If you’re looking for an even-tempered trail companion with comfortable gaits, a Rocky Mountain Horse may be for you.

Q: Are Arabian horses calm?

There’s plenty to love about this breed, but they are not broadly known for calm temperaments. 

Arabians are designed for stamina, surefootedness, and intelligence. Their energy and “hot blooded” nature may not make this the breed for you if calmness is top of your wish-list. 

That said, there are exceptions within every breed. We’ve plenty plenty of Arabians who are sweet, docile, and patient mounts.

Q: What is the best horse breed in the world?

If you’re playing a numbers game, the clear winner is the American Quarter Horse. The volume of Quarter Horses in the world speaks to their long lasting popularity.

However, the best horse breed in the world may be the one that’s in your backyard. It’s a very personal question.

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Riding Should Be Fun

The world is full of wonderful horses, and the Quarter Horse, Morgan, and Appaloosa are just three examples of traditionally calm breeds that let you focus on why you started riding in the first place—for fun!

Many of our honorable mentions are featured in the 11 best breeds for first time horse owners.

Horses share their beauty, power, and strength with us, giving us wings and teaching us to fly. So, whether you choose one of these breeds, or something different, head out and find your dream horse.

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About the author

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Stephanie S.

When I'm not writing how-to guides for equestrians or researching new blog topics, I'm working my day job at a university or riding my Morgan Horse Remi. My work has also been featured in Equus, Holistic Horse, Equine Journal, and Equitrekking.