7 Gentle and Calmest Horse Breeds You’ll Adore

Are you interested in knowing more about the calmest horse breeds?

You’ve come to the right place.

I’ll take you through the 7 calmest breeds, their histories, characteristics, and sizes.

In this post, we’ll dig through the seven of the calmest horse breeds, including:

  • AMERICAN QUARTER HORSES
  • TENNESSEE WALKING HORSES
  • APPALOOSA HORSES
  • NORWEGIAN FJORD HORSES
  • GYPSY VANNERS
  • MORGAN HORSES
  • WELSH PONIES AND COBS

Let’s not waste any more time and dive into our first calm horse breed.

Related: MINIATURE HORSE BREED

7 Calmest Horse Breeds You’ll Love

1. American Quarter Horses

American Quarter horse, a calm horse breed

The American Quarter Horse had no problem making our list of calm horses.

After all, these horses are the most popular breed in the entire world for a reason. 

American Quarter Horses are known for their noble, docile, and calm temperaments. It makes them one of the easiest horse breeds for humans to train.

History

Their lineage descends from English and Spanish horses used in the American colonies during the 1600s.

Those horses were crossed with local breeds, such as the Chickasaw horse. These crosses form what we consider the American Quarter Horse.

If you’re wondering where the name comes from, they’re known for winning quarter-mile races. Their speed and sure-footedness also made them a favorite for early settlers.

The Quarter Horse would later play a massive role in America’s westward expansion. The breed’s agility was invaluable to farmers and cowboys who needed reliable transport west. 

It was the only way for these pioneers to travel over the rough terrain safely. 

Characteristics

In most cases, American Quarter Horses have a steady temperament. But owners shouldn’t confuse this steadiness for them being slow learning. 

The quarter horses have an intuitive nature that makes them easy to train. Due to this, they’re a favorite breed for uses, such as racing or ranch work.

American Quarter Horses are also known for their compact, muscular statures. It’s an appearance that exudes a steadiness and confidence in their abilities for various roles. 

These horses come in various solid colors, grays, roans, grullo, duns, buckskins, and palominos. But the most common color “for the Quarter Horse is sorrel (or chestnut)

White markings on legs and faces are another popular trait. Spotted patterns are acceptable if owners can prove the dam and sire were registered Quarter Horses.

Size

Quarter horses range from about 14 hands to 16 hands (56 to 64 inches). Their height has continued to increase as Thoroughbred bloodlines have been introduced.

As for their weight, 950 to 1,200 pounds is typical for this majestic breed. It’s not the largest horse around, but it still has a rather bulky body. 

2. Tennessee Walking Horses

Tennessee walking horse

Tennessee Walking Horses have conquered many arenas with their docile and laid-back temperaments.

It’s not too surprising that they’ve become a popular riding mount.

You’ll also find them in lesson barns, show rings, and even trail riding. It’s one of those horse breeds that everyone seems to love.

History

This horse breed’s story originates in the Tennessee Bluegrass region during the 19th century. Farmers needed a horse that could work in the fields and be ridden under saddle comfortably around the area.

It made them selectively breed together a wide range of horses to create this elusive horse:

  • Thoroughbreds
  • Morgan Horses (more on them later…)
  • Canadian Pacers
  • Saddlebreds
  • American Standardbreds
  • Narragansett Pacers

The result was a gaited horse (Tennessee Walking Horse) with a notable, natural running walk. It allowed this horse to do ranch work and provide a smooth ride. 

Afterward, the breed’s popularity began to rise. It led to the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association being founded in 1935.

Characteristics

As I mentioned earlier, these horses are best known for their running walk. It’s extra-smooth and follows the small pattern as their flat walk, but it’s much faster. 

Tennessee Walking Horses will over-stride significantly as their speed increases. It creates a gliding motion that’s very comfortable for their riders, even those with back issues.

You can find them in various coat colors, as well. The Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ & Exhibits’ Association accepts almost every coat color into the registry.

But the most common variations tend to be black, chestnut, white, grey, dun, roan, bay, and palomino. 

Their coat patterns offer a bit of variation, too, as it can appearing multiple different ones. Sabino, Tobiano, Tovero, and Overo coat patterns are the most common. Honestly, you can find a Tennessee Walking Horse in almost any preferred color or pattern.

Size

People often think of the Tennessee Walking Horse as elegant and mighty. They’ll stand around 14.3 hands to 17 hands tall. You should also expect them to weigh anywhere between 900 and 1,200 pounds, making them rather heavy horses.

3. Appaloosa Horses

appaloosa

Appaloosa Horses have been capturing the hearts of people for centuries.

Their loving, gentle nature and striking appearance make them a horse’s owners dream.

It doesn’t hurt that they’re known for being very eager to please. Honestly, finding breeds of horses with a more calming and friendly temperament isn’t easy. 

History

Appaloosa Horses’ predecessors arrived in North America around the early 1600s with Spanish explores. Eventually, these horses made it up to the Northwest, where Native Americans enjoyed them and began breeding them.

The Native Americans, especially the Nez Perce people, aimed to create an intelligent, colorful, and versatile horse. From these breeding sessions, the Appaloosa was born. 

Many experts assume their name refers to the Palouse River region where the Nez Perce lived. At first, people called them Palouse horses, but this eventually evolved into Appaloosas.

Appaloosas entered a significant decline in the late 19th century. The U.S. Government was trying to take over Native American land, and many of these horses were killed, lost, or stolen.

Thankfully, interest in the breed started growing again in the 1930s. The few surviving horses were used as a foundation for the breed.

The Appaloosa Horse Club was then created in 1938 to oversee its resurgence. Their effort wasn’t in vain as these gentle horses are one of the most popular in the world.

Characteristics

Appaloosa Horses are best known for their striking, eye-catching look. In fact, the combinations of markings and colors on an Appaloosa are utterly limitless. 

This endless variation allows each individual horse to have its distinct appearance. Other notable traits are agility, gentle nature, hardiness, and faithfulness. 

This beautiful horse will also have a unique striping on its hooves. This stripe will run vertically with an alternating pattern of light and dark on each hoof.

More importantly, the Appaloosa’s sclera is visible. It’s an identifiable trait that isn’t seen in other types of different horses.

Size

Appaloosa Horses usually stand between “14 to 16 hands tall” (56 to 64 inches). Their weight will fluctuate between 950 to 1,250 pounds, much like our previous two breeds. 

4. Norwegian Fjord Horses

NORWEGIAN FJORD HORSE

Norwegian Fjord Horses, or Fjord Horses, are a compact, mild-mannered breed with surprising strength.

They’ve got many fans as these horses are well-fitted for hard work and riding purposes.

History

One of the standout things about Fjord Horses is their rich history. It spans thousands of years, making them one of the oldest horse breeds still roaming our planet. 

Many experts assume Fjord Horses are related to the Przewalski Horse, but there isn’t any documented proof. 

However, we know that the earliest Fjord ancestors were domesticated by Norwegians more than 4,000 years ago. These horses went onto work on Norwegian farms and were sometimes used as Viking war horses.

Even though the Norwegian Fjord is an older breed, these horses have been carefully and selectively bred. It’s mainly a pure breed with very little influence from other horses. 

Characteristics 

In most horse community circles, Fjords are known for their excellent temperaments. These horses are cooperative, gentle, and willing to do work. 

Many of these horses are even ideal mounts for children or beginners. But this doesn’t stop them from being favorites of seasoned riders who want a reliable steed. 

Fjords aren’t hard to identify as they’ve got a distinctive appearance. Every Fjord will have a dun coloring with notable horizontal strips across their front legs’ backs and feature dorsal stripes.

But even though all Fjords are dun, there are five different recognized dun shades:

  • Brown dun
  • Red dun
  • White dun
  • Grey dun
  • Yellow dun

These different shades result in a bit of variation in a Fjord’s coat. It’s common to see the shade vary from light chestnut to grey to cream and even brown-reddish shades.

A Fjord’s tail and mane will feature darker brown and black colors. In fact, the mane’s center will be black and contrast against lighter colors on its exterior. Fjords’ manes are short to allow them to stand straight up.

Size

Norwegian Fjords are much smaller and compact than our previous breeds. Their average standing height ranges “from 13.2 to 14.2 hands and weigh between 900 and 1200 pounds.” But a Fjord’s small stature will not stop them from easily carrying adults.

5. Gypsy Vanners

group of gypsy vanner horses

Gypsy Vanners have become more and more popular over these last few decades.

Their beautiful feathering and striking coats make them a majestic sight in the fields. 

Moreover, they pair well with beginner riders because of their calm and patient mindsets. They’re a perfect addition to our list.

History

The Gypsy Vanners’ story starts with the Gypsies of Great Britain. These people wanted a horse with enough strength and a frame capable of pulling caravans. 

In other words, they sought a horse who was not only strong but could be gentle and trained quickly. The Gypsies bred their ideal horse carefully, using the Shire and Clydesdale horses for strength. 

They went on to incorporate Dales Pony and Fell Pony into the bloodlines. Over time, these horses became more refined, and a breed started to build.

But Gypsy Vanners weren’t brought over to the United States until 1996. It’s also the same year that the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society was founded.

Characteristics 

As I mentioned previously, this breed is known for its heavy feathering. It’ll start at their hocks/knees while combining with a long, full mane and tail. This significant hair will require a lot of care and grooming, especially for shows.

Horse owners should know that Gypsy Vanners come in every color. But they’re most commonly found in colored coats with:

  • Blagdon: A splash of white on a Vanner’s belly.
  • Tobiano: White patches on a dark coat colored Vanner.
  • Skewbald: White patches on almost every base coat (not black). 

It’s essential to note that this breed isn’t a color breed. The breed registry will accept any horses regardless of pattern or coat color.

Size

Gypsy Vanners are relatively bulky, strong horses with accommodating frames. This breed stands on average between “14-15.2 hands (56-60.8″).” You can expect them to weigh around 1,400 pounds.

These measurements make them perfect for pulling heavy loads like caravans and carriages. Plus, it allows them to carry heavier riders.

6. Morgan Horses

morgan horse

Morgan Horses are among the most popular breeds due to their versatility.

These horses can adapt to any situation, whether it being a novice rider or a new climate.

As a result, they’re a cooperative breed know for an eagerness to please its owners. It’s the type of horse that we’d all love to have in our backyards. 

History

Morgan Horses happen to be one of the first breeds developed in America. It all started with a founding stallion called Figure, which Justin Morgan owned in the late 18th century.

Nobody quite knows what Figure’s pedigree was. But he’s believed to be an offspring of horses with the following bloodlines:

  • Welsh Cob
  • Friesian
  • Thoroughbred
  • Arabian 

Figure was known to be a compact horse, who stood only 14 hands tall. But he developed a reputation for being overly pleasant and athletic. 

People around New England started to hear about his ability to out-distance and out-pull other horses. Due to this, he soon became a desirable stallion for breeding purposes.

His trait would then pass onto his offspring, and the breed took Morgan’s name. From there, the American Morgan Horse Association was founded in 1909. It serves as the breed registry. 

Characteristics 

The Morgan Horses’ compact/strong body, regal posture, and refined traits are common breed traits. Owners have also reported them to be quite proud and alert.

As a result, Morgan Horses often carry their tails and heads higher than other breeds. But the main distinguishing trait would have to be its temperament, hence why it made our list. 

Morgan Horses are friendly, eager to please, and loyal. They even have a reputation for getting along with strangers and enjoy meeting them. 

These horses will come in all equine colors. But they’re usually dark, solid colors like black, chestnut, or bay. 

But some breeders specialize in producing Morgan Horses in uncommon colors: gray, dun, roan, pinto, and palomino.   

Size

Morgan Horses happen to be smaller than many other full-sized breeds. They stand between 14.1 hands and 15.2 hands (56 to 60 inches) tall. 

Meanwhile, their weight can be anywhere between 900 and 1,100 pounds. These measurements make them one of the smaller breeds on our list. 

7. Welsh Ponies and Cobs

welsh pony

Tough and adaptable is the name of the game with these Welsh Ponies and Cobs.

Everything about their history has made them one of the more versatile horse breeds on our planet. 

History

Welsh Ponies and Cobs originate from Great Britain. Experts believe these horses to have existed in Wales for thousands of years.

These horses lived throughout the mountains and hills of Wales. It’s a rather tricky lifestyle as it’s rugged terrain and a harsh climate. Only sparse moss and grasses were available for them to eat. 

Exposure to this environment helped these ponies and cobs become extraordinarily hardy. They also managed to survive the misguided attempts of King Henry VIII to improve horse breeding.

He decided it was a good idea to destroy all the small horses. 

Welsh Ponies and Cobs stayed in Europe until some arrived in the US during the late 1800s. Their numbers did stay strong until a dip when the Depression hit. But they up-ticked again in the 1950s and have grown ever since. 

Characteristics 

One of the more notable traits about these horses is their extreme hardiness. It’s an ability that comes from their difficult earlier history. 

As a result, Welsh Ponies and Cobs are adaptable to most situations. They can deal with harsh climates, sparse pasture, and other environments where horses struggle. 

Welsh Ponies and Cobs are also known to come in various equine colors. The most common ones happen to be bay, grey, chestnut, and black. 

But you’ll likely come across brown, dun, cream, palominos. It’s not uncommon to see a roan version of these solid colors, either.

Size

Welsh ponies and cobs can weigh anywhere between 400 and 700 pounds. But things get a little complicated regarding their height as they’re separated into four size groups:

  • Section A pony: Horses that are 12 hands or (48 inches) tall
  • Section B ponies: Horses between 12 and 13. 2 hands tall (48 to 52.8 inches).
  • Section C ponies: Known as a cob type, up to 13.2 hands tall (52.8 inches).
  • Section D ponies: Also known as a cob type, over 13.2 hands tall (60 inches).

Calmest Horse Breeds FAQs

What are the characteristics of calm horses?

Calm horses will be known for being gentle, easy to be around, trusting, respectful, and not easily startled. These are the traits to look for when evaluating a horse’s calmness.

Which is the Calmest Horse Breeds for Beginners?

Any of the horses on our list would be ideal for beginners. But the best bet would be an American Quarter Horse or Morgan Horse.

Which breed of horse has the smoothest ride?

Peruvian Horses are considered to offer the smoothest rides. It’s attributed to their “unique, inbom, four-beat lateral gait.” 

Conclusion

I hope our discussions about calm horse breeds answered all your questions. If you have any more, please let me know in our comment section. I’m always ready to discuss these horses and anything about them. Thanks for reading!

References: 

  • “About Our Breed – Welsh Pony & Cob Society of America.” Wpcsa.org, 2016, wpcsa.org/start/about-our-breed/.
  • “About the Breed.” Vanners.org, vanners.org/the-breed/.
  • “American Quarter Horse | Breed of Horse | Britannica.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2019, www.britannica.com/animal/American-Quarter-Horse.
  • “Appaloosa Horse Characteristics | Appaloosa Horses.” Appaloosa Horses, 2017, www.appaloosamuseum.org/appaloosa-horse-characteristics/.
  • “AQHA Home – AQHA.” Aqha.com, 2019, www.aqha.com/.
  • “Tennessee Walking Horse.” International Museum of the Horse, imh.org/exhibits/online/breeds-of-the-world/north-america/tennessee-walking-horse/. Accessed 8 July 2021.
  • “Tennessee Walking Horse Temperament and Personality.” Karina Brez Jewelry, karinabrez.com/blogs/news/tennessee-walking-horse-temperament-and-personality. Accessed 8 July 2021.
gorgeous gypsy vanners, one of the calmest horse breeds

What are your favorite calmest horse breeds? Please share with us below!

Ben R.
Ben R.

My name is Ben Roberts, and I absolutely love animals. So, naturally, I love writing about them too! I have three dogs and one old cat, plus experience with horses. Each one of them provides me with a new adventure every day. And the best part is they’re all best friends. Well, except the cat when he gets a little annoyed. FIND HIM ON: TWITTER.
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