Do different horse breeds have different personality traits?

Each horse breed was created for certain qualities and attributes that make them suitable for specific disciplines.

As a result, their receptivity, intellect, and coping strategies are enhanced.

Variations in personality qualities exist within each breed. For example, you could have a thoroughbred, notorious for being flighty and spooky, that is actually bold and confident (on the spectrum of thoroughbred behaviour).

Understanding how to employ those basic features while working together is essential for avoiding conflict in your relationships. If you’ve ever seen a horse shut down, get irritated, or lash out during training, this is a horse expressing its dissatisfaction with being ignored and experiencing an unwanted emotional reaction – therefore, conflict.

Age, maturity, herd dynamics, and their overall surroundings all have an impact on their emotional capacity to learn and manage with the difficulties that our training unavoidably causes.

  • The younger the horse the more they need a confident leader to show them how to navigate their experiences confidently. This is why, in general, having a young horse and an inexperienced rider is not advised.

  • Environmental exposures and life experience may be difficult for us as owners since we don’t always know our horses’ histories and hence don’t know why they have certain triggers or things that set them off.

If our horse had a poor experience before to coming to us, they may be sensitive to particular things. For example if they had their ears or muzzle twitched to be handled they may now be head shy or have issues being haltered and bridled. If they have had an accident in a float previously they may be really resistant to going on floats. If they haven’t had a positive backing experience, they may have riding concerns that we don’t understand.

The breeds can be broadly categorised into their level of confidence and rsponsiveness, but each individual horses’ experience and personality can then change that. The following is a convenient cheat sheet on common breed qualities, but it should be used in conjunction with what you already know about your horse.


Arabs are bred for endurance and endurance across long distances. They are also very bright, which contributes to their negative reputation. They are very irritated by individuals who do not treat them properly, and they are especially irritated by inexperienced riders. To get the most out of an Arab, you must engage in a two-way dialogue (get some great tools to open the lines of communication in our mini-course here).

They don’t like being told what to do. The more work they get the fitter they get, so lunging them until they are tired doesn’t generally work – in fact, they can sometimes continue to use the adrenaline and run until they drop.


Thoroughbreds, in my experience, are not as bright as Arabs and may easily flip the switch, become foolish, and struggle to interpret inputs.

With the correct conditions, they may soon become uncontrollable. They are bred to travel quickly for short periods of time. Mostly they haven’t been given the time to be trained as safe horses either and need a good re-education after their racing career for them to be safe for beginners.

They make excellent all-rounders because they are so athletic; when properly taught, they excel in most sports. Yet, there is a propensity for individuals to attempt to make a fast buck out of them by putting them through a few weeks or months of training after racing and then sedating them to sell on. They may also get racing injuries that impede their ability. Given time, structure and stability in their training they can make excellent horses for looking after you, but when that doesn’t happen they get a bad wrap for how silly, spooky or agreesive they are.

Stock Horses & Quarter Horses

Stock and Quarter Horses are often clever, attentive, and rapid learners. They are also often extremely dependable and not unduly spooky, since stockmen want dependable horses. The way they have been bred over the years means they have retained the traits that make good work horses with focus, concentration, an eagerness to learn and intelligence. They are also typically sound and sure-footed.

Yet, the conventional cowboy practice of bagging them out might cause these horses to shut down rather than respond. This means we need to spend time getting them to open up and “speak” to us to avoid unexpected explosions of unwanted behaviour.


Warmbloods have all the power and strength of the heavy horses, but can have some of the silliness of Thoroughbreds they can be crossed with, which can make for a handful of a combination for the inexperienced rider. Add to that, if they are pushed too hard too early to thrive in dressage, they might quickly get sour in their training or become lame.

This, in combination with their athleticism, size and strength can sometimes make them quite difficult to handle. They normally have a calmer head than Thoroughbreds and learn at a slower pace.

They may be quite peaceful and not readily scared if hacked out and allowed the chance to mature properly and gently. A lot of them spend their training in the arena though and as such don’t get exposed to lots of different stimuli, so when they eventually do have to go out at competitions they can be overly spooky and sensitive to their environment.

Draught horses

These are our big horses, such Clydesdales and Percherons. They are typically aggressive and confident, and they are not easily frightened. They are, however, more contentious and push handlers about since they are so aggressive and arrogant (and because they tend to be heavier they can be REALLY pushy). They might become nervy and sensitive if the trainer has treated them without knowledge of creating clear limits and has just attempted to intimidate them into compliance.

They learn a lot slower – where an Arab will figure out what you want after a couple of repetitions, for these guys it may take quite a few rides. This implies that the trainers may get irritated and take it out on the horse, causing them to become extremely reactive and sensitive.


Generally speaking, Standardbreds have a fairly calm temperament but as with the Warmbloods, the more Thoroughbred they have in them the more spooky and difficult they can be. How they were treated throughout their racing career and how they were supported afterwards can also influence how calm they are. They, like Thoroughbreds, might have underlying ailments from racing.

When looking to buy or lease your own horse, you want to find a horse that matches your temperament and personality, and that includes understanding the different characteristics and nature of the breeds and then figuring out where on the spectrum of flighty to bold that horse sits for that breed. Some riders want a more energetic horse for the discipline they wish to ride and can handle a more clever horse that rapidly attempts to outthink them, whilst others prefer a slower moving, slower thinking animal for weekend pleasure rides.

Knowing what you need from your horse and matching it with your horse’s emotional, physical, and mental demands in training will offer you the greatest chance of success in your partnership.

Related Questions

  • What horse has the best personality?

    Do you want to know which horse breed has the finest temperament? Get to know the best no-drama, gentle giants.

    1. American Quarter Horse.
    2. Morgan Horse.
    3. Appaloosa Horse.
    4. Norwegian Fjord.
    5. Connemara Pony.
  • What are the personality traits of horse breeds?

    The four most common horse personality types are social, fearful, aloof, and challenging. Although some horses may fall into one of these categories, others will have a combination of two or more.

  • Is temperament genetic in horses?

    What it does: Temperament is a complicated attribute that is impacted by a variety of hereditary and environmental influences.

  • What is a black horse personality?

    a person who keeps their interests and ideas secret, especially someone who has a surprising ability or skill: Anna is such a dark horse; I had no clue she wrote a book.

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