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Horse Temperament: What Is The Best For a Beginner Rider?

Last updated: November 13, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

The ideal horse for a beginner rider combines a calm demeanor with an eagerness to learn and follow directions. Such a horse should be low on the temperament scale, which rates horses from docile to spirited.

Beginners should look for a horse that rates lower than five, as higher ratings may indicate a level of energy or assertiveness that could be challenging for a novice. It’s about finding a gentle horse that remains composed during training and forgives a beginner’s learning curve, ensuring a safe and enjoyable riding experience.

Are you ready to discover the horses best suited for beginning your riding journey? Keep reading to find out how to choose your ideal equine companion that promises a blend of safety and enjoyment from the very first ride.

Picture of a beginner rider with a horse.

Horse Temperament

If you own horses, you know that not all portray the same characteristics or personalities. Some are friendlier than others, while others need more time and bonding experiences to trust you fully.

Horses typically show social, fearful, or challenging traits depending on the breed and whether or not they are used to being with humans. Temperament traits are essential factors to keep in mind when buying a horse.

Horse temperament is the general behavior of horses determined by the type of breed, age, and environment. The temperament scale measures their demeanor from 1 to 10, 1 being a very serene horse and 10 being a very hostile one.

What Horse Breed Has the Best Temperament?

While every horse comes with their personalities, some are calmer than others, no matter their breed. You also have to remember that depending on the treatment of their previous owners will also play an essential role in how they act.

The American Quarterback horse gained popularity by having the best temperament among the breeds. What makes them so popular amongst horse owners and riders is their submissive temperament and disposition to please their riders.

These breeds are an excellent choice for first-time riders as these horses are calm and docile, making them great to train. They are not easily frightened and are a perfect choice for children and adults.

What Horse Breeds Have the Best Temperament for Beginner Riders?

Horse breeds typically have similar characteristics and personalities; however, not all are the same. For example, quarter horses are known to be relatively calm and level-headed, but I’ve owned some very high-strung ones that only the most experienced riders could handle.

On the opposite end, Thoroughbreds are thought to be “hot-headed,” which many are, but we’ve owned some that were as gentle as a pet, and we often used it as a starter horse for first-time riders.

When shopping for a horse, it’s important to consider its breed, but it’s also essential to remember that horses are individuals.

In general, the Morgan breed is the best horse for beginners to ride. They are sweet and willing to please the rider in achieving their goals.

They are typically excellent horses for beginners because they are patient and try to comprehend the rider’s questions. They are hard-working and intelligent, making them an excellent option for children to ride.

Morgan horses have spirited but manageable personalities and are known for their versatility. So even if you’re not great at communicating with them, they are people pleasers, making the experience of riding them all the more pleasant.

Many horse breeds are excellent for beginner riders, such as Tennessee Walkers, Fjord horses, Paso Finos, and Quarter horses. I wrote an article all about quarter horses for beginner riders you should read if you’re considering one.

How Can You Tell If a Horse Has a Good Temperament?

When first starting, you probably won’t know the difference between a hotheaded horse and a calm one. Luckily, many highly skilled equestrians have made it a little easier by using the equine scale to measure all breeds’ temperaments; more about this below.

However, relying on a subjective scale is not the only way to tell how a horse’s temperament can be. What I like to do when I’m checking a horse is to take my jacket off and swing it near the horse while I’m moving around.

I don’t do this to spook the horse but to observe its reaction. Most horses ignore my jacket, but sometimes one will have a fit. This could be a sign the horse has issues, maybe it was mistreated, or it’s “hot.”

I have heard old-timers and some horse enthusiasts swear you can tell a horse’s temperament by the shape of its head. I don’t believe this is accurate, but I thought I would share the theory.

Supposedly, the shape of a horse’s head, eyes, ears, chin, and jowl can indicate its fundamental personality. You can also tell by checking its facial swirls and seeing their relationship to positive and negative characteristics.

By analyzing its eyes, you can study them to see if they have a trusting temperament. If the eyes look big, soft, and kind, then you’ll know that the trust is there, and the horse will not be spooked or distrust you.

If you notice tightening around their eyes, these are signs that the horse does not trust the situation and is feeling stressed or fearful.

Picture of a group of girls standing on their horses back.

Horse temperament scale

The horse temperament scale has been in use for a long time. It is based on observations, but some researchers believe they can now accurately rate horses’ temperaments by testing them and recording their reactions to various stimuli.

The five traits measured in a formal temperament test are fear, sociability with other horses, sensory sensitivity, reactivity to human stimuli, and locomotor activity.

They are assigned a number on the scale based on how the horse reacts in each test category. A typical horse temperament scale ranges from 1 to 10.

A rating of one indicates a highly calm demeanor; ten would be the opposite, a “hot horse.” On this spectrum, four is relatively calm, while six or higher can indicate excitability in the animal.

Horses on the low end of the temperament scale.

Horses bred for pulling wagons and carts generally rate on the lower end of a scale simply because owners often used them to haul valuable cargo through busy streets and needed to ensure they remained calm.

However, some of these large draft breeds are stubborn, which means they take a lot of encouragement to move. But they are good, solid horses to have around crowds and children.

Some quarter horses and warm-blood breeds bear these personality traits. On the other hand, horses on the higher end of the scale are impatient and anxious and are usually eager to go faster than the rest.

Horses on the high end of the temperament scale.

Horses on the higher end of the temperament scale are more fidgety and restless, making them more unpredictable and easily startled by noises and objects.

Unlike the lower-end scale horses, these don’t need much leg pressure as they quickly bolt and require more effort to stop them. Thoroughbreds and Arabian horses are on this end of the scale as many refer to them as hot-tempered horses.

Your horse’s temperament should match your riding ability and your personality. If you are new and just learning how to ride, you should pick one on the lower end of the temperament scale to avoid severe injuries to you and the horse.

While you may want to start with an energized horse, you should remember that you must choose one that will not show signs of anxiety, especially if you’re a beginner.

You can always change horses and move up the scale as you gain experience and knowledge while also fitting the personality that goes with your own.

This way, you won’t have to worry about the horse bolting from under you with any sudden movement or noise that they hear, saving you a few injuries along the way.

Picture of horses

What Horse Has the Friendliest Temperament?

Aside from the American quarterback horses we discussed, the Norwegian Fjord breed is widely known to be kind, gentle, and eager to learn.

They are known as one of the most easygoing breeds, and they help aid in therapeutic sessions with children and
adults with developmental and behavioral issues.

The Norwegian Fjord Breeders Association recognizes temperament as a valuable breed trait, and they emphasize it. They have done studies on temperaments to ensure that this feature remains positive for their animals,

While the Shetland Pony has gained a grumpy reputation, this is far from their actual traits. They are super intelligent, friendly, loving, and affectionate, making a great first pony for any child!

The Morgan horses are known for their kindness, courage, strength, and endurance. Now, many will argue against my next choice, the Arabian; even though they’re high-strung, once you spend time with them, there’s a warmness in these animals.

Next on our list is the Connemara Pony, which has an incredibly kind and gentle temperament and is also known for its courage that makes up for its small size.

Other horses, such as the Icelandic horse, the Friesian, the Clydesdale, and the Akhal Teke breeds, are also known for their gentle and kind characteristics, making them great companions.

Check out the YouTube video below to learn how to determine your horse’s temperament.

YouTube video

Are Horses Loyal?

Horses are loyal and protective of their human owners as they build a strong bond over time with them. Even in cases where the horse is overworked or sadly mistreated, they still stay by their owner’s side.

Horses are very protective of the members of their herd. The more time spent with your horse, the more defensive they will grow to be with you and trust you.

Our horses are a loyal and obedient part of the family. If you make it a point to groom them, ride them regularly, and give them ample love and affection, they will develop an unbreakable bond with their owner that can last for years or even decades.

Remember to always treat your cherished horses with love and kindness, and they will gladly reciprocate that gentle kindness your way.