Top 10 Best Gentle Horse Breeds

Angela Vuckovic
by Angela Vuckovic

Those who are new to the world of horses, and looking to take their first steps as proud horse owners, will often have issues finding the right breed to start with. Some horses can be hot-tempered, full of energy, and difficult to handle – not good for first-time owners. The ideal horse should be hardy, calm, loyal, and gentle, embodying all the positive traits that every owner will learn to appreciate and cherish. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 best gentle horse breeds that are fantastic for beginners in every way. If you are looking to lay a good foundation with your very first horse, one of these breeds is bound to be a perfect choice. 


#1 Friesian Horse

The majestic Friesian Horse hails from a seaside region of the Netherlands – Friesland – and is well known across the world for its elegance and beauty. They boast a flowing mane, illustrious tails, and wavy feathering on the legs. But their beauty is not their only positive trait: the Friesian Horse is known as a very gentle and kind animal, capable of great affection and bonding with its owner. Do not be dismayed by their great size – although tall, muscular, and powerful, these are gentle and loving animals that can become true friends. Of course, you will have to match their temperament and provide enough love and care in order to bring forward their very best characteristics. These animals can live between 16 and 30 years, meaning that you will have a loving and kind friend for many long years. 

Dan Baillie/Shutterstock

#2 Clydesdale Horse

These Scottish-bred horses can really inspire awe by their appearance alone: they are large, muscular, powerfully built, and very tall. The Clydesdale horse is a true draft animal, evolved to perform heavy tasks in the woods or in the field. However, they can be best described as “gentle giants”. Many owners will vouch that there isn’t a single “bad bone” in their Clydesdale, and this is often the truth. Clydesdales are calm, temperate, intelligent, and eager to please. Their gentle demeanor will find appreciation by every owner looking for a kind horse to spend their time with or make good first beginnings. Just keep their size and strength in mind!    


#3 American Paint Horse

One of the iconic American horse breeds, the Paint Horse is fast, sleek, energetic, and mild-tempered. But they can also be very kind, quiet, and gentle. These are steady and loyal horses that can be trusted, especially after they establish a strong bond with their owner. They are social animals that often crave human interaction, and make some of the best horses for beginners in the equine world. A refined and elegant breed, they can be a truly affectionate companion for a number of years – as long as you treat them with equal kindness! 

Lisa Kolbenschlag/Shutterstock

#4 Morgan Horse

The Morgan horse is one of the oldest equine breeds in the United States. It is well known for its tall and elegant appearance, its endurance, and its versatility. Described as loyal, calm, and mild-tempered, these horses can make great friends to affectionate owners. When treated right, they will be quick to show you their gentle and kind side, and won’t shy away from loving human interaction. With such an animal you will get a loyal and gentle friend that can complete a variety of roles – be it light work, casual riding, or simple farm life. Treat them well and they will give back all the love. 


#5 Connemara Pony

From the USA we go across the seas and into Ireland, where the Connemara Pony is one of the most iconic traditional horse breeds. Bred across generations as a hardy and hard-working horse, the Connemara Pony is well known for its mild and gentle disposition. It is a wonderful horse around children, always gentle and careful. The horses have a true “can-do” attitude and are eager to please their owners. They also have a somewhat shorter stature than usual, which makes them ideal as family horses to be around kids. What is more, these horses are very athletic and hardy and can be set to complete various tasks. They won’t have any serious health problems in life, a clear nudge to their history as hardy animals bred in harsh landscapes. 

Jaco Wiid/Shutterstock

#6 American Quarter Horse

The Quarter Horse is well known in America and got its name from its lighting speed in quarter-mile races. They are true racing horses, excelling in energetic sports and shows. But their energetic spirit is matched by their calm and obedient disposition, with plenty of gentlenesses thrown in the mix. When treated with affection and care, these animals can be surprisingly kind and loving, with an ability to quickly form lasting bonds with their owners. Employed in various roles during America’s turbulent history, the Quarter Horse evolved into a steady, trustworthy, loyal, and capable horse breed. This is transferred into modern times, and into any role you choose to fit them into. And beneath all those traits hides a gentle soul of an affectionate animal. 

Dirt and Rhinestone/Shutterstock

#7 Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking horse is a truly distinguished horse breed. Originally bred for plantation work, they are known for their elegant and powerful appearance and their smooth gait. They are ideal for casual riding, and their trot is said to be so smooth that you could sip tea on horseback! And on top of all that, the Tennessee horse is very calm and smart, with the ability to learn quickly and eagerly. As such, they are perfect for first-time owners and beginners in the equine world. If you shower them with enough love and patient care, they will undoubtedly display their gentle and loyal side.  

Dan Baillie/Shutterstock

#8 Irish Cob

The Irish Cob, also known as the Gypsy Vanner, is hands down one of the prettiest breeds in the entire horse world. Their piebald coloring, luscious manes, and magnificent bushy leg feathering make them an awe-inspiring sight. They are also very tall, large, and muscular, and have been a popular addition to many movies. And beneath that stunning appearance lies a gentle and kind character. These Irish Vanners were also described by experts as "strong, kind, (very) intelligent partners that work willingly and harmoniously with a handler. The Gypsy Vanner is renowned for its gentle, tractable nature and sensible disposition." That is all the description you need of this fantastic horse breed. Getting your hands on a genuine Irish Cob might not be easy or cheap, but it would be certainly repaid by a gentle and affectionate horse with magnificent beauty.

Annabell Gsoedl/Shutterstock

#9 Norwegian Fjord Horse

Across the world we go again, this time to distant Norway. The traditional horse breed of its enigmatic coastal areas is the Norwegian Fjord Horse, a unique, stocky, and hardy breed. They have a cute and homely appearance that differs from the usual horse breeds and have a reputation for being hardy and enduring animals. Perfect for performing light tasks in a homestead, these animals are smart, eager to please, and very kind. Much like the Irish Connemara Pony, the Fjord horses can be gentle around kids and surprisingly kind. On average though, they are calm and loyal animals, who will be happy to graze all day long – without a care in the world. 

Marie Charouzova/Shutterstock

#10 Appaloosa Horse

There is no mistaking the Appaloosa Horse. Their appearance quickly gives away their identity: they have spots all over their bodies! This unique breed originated with the Nez Perce Native American tribe and is known for its agility and endurance. Its character, however, is marked by gentleness, calmness, and loyalty. It is a popular breed for teaching children riding since the horses are very kind and composed. And not only are they gentle and loving, but they can also be fun and silly! That is ideal if you want to have a calm horse that can occasionally show you a bit of a fun side as well.

Are All Horses Gentle?

The bottom line is simple – no, not all horses are gentle. But many can be gentle if raised properly. It all depends on the owner - you! You should encourage the traits you want to see in your horse. Be kind to them, be gentle and loving, but also commanding and assertive. Think of a horse as a child: you need to teach them the right values, and teaching by example is the ideal way. The traits you show and implement in your relationship with a horse are likely to be repaid in kind.

- When you are gentle with your horse in day-to-day activities, you show them that they are loved and cared for. The animal will thus have the feeling of security and safety and will be quicker to form a lasting bond with you. After all, the place where they feel safe and secure is the place that they will associate with home. Gentleness translates to many forms: one of these is positive reinforcement. During training, reward good results with horse treats, gentle words, rubs, and affectionate petting. It can only serve to continue the good results. If you punish negative results, however, with harsh words, hits, and annoyance, you will reverse the process and instill a sense of fear and dread in your horse. 

- Positive traits come from positive surroundings. You will have to take good care of your horse and provide them with all the necessities in life. That way they can be truly happy and relaxed: and that state is a fertile ground for the development of all the great traits a horse can have. Don’t neglect your horse –provide them with quality and spacious shelter, quality food, exercise, good health care, and all the love you can give. This is bound to be returned in equal measure, and you will find yourself a proud owner of a gentle and calm, loyal horse. 

 - A calm and gentle demeanor comes with good health and a healthy environment. There are a lot of factors that can contribute to the positive attitude of a horse, and many of them are external. If a horse is healthy and has a good quality diet, they are much more likely to be positive and happy. What is more, if they are housed in warm, ventilated, fresh, and clean housing, they are also likely to be calm and friendly. This is why it is crucial to ensure these things for your horse, otherwise, you should not be surprised if they are not as gentle as they should be. A horse in pain is more likely to be aggravated or grumpy. 

- Proper socialization and early training will also contribute to the attitude and personality of a horse. If you want a horse to be gentle with children and friendly around humans, you should start their training and socialization from a very early age. That way they can get accustomed to a variety of faces and situations, and not shy away from human contact. Training is also important for teaching a horse about loyalty, obedience, teamwork, and handling. When they accept all these things, they become much more social and friendly. 

- For male horses, castration can play a major role in their temperament. Stallions (male horses that were not castrated) can be hot-blooded, hot-tempered, restless, and aggressive. But geldings (male horses that were castrated), will be much more docile, friendly, calm, and stable. In the past, stallions were used mostly for warfare and reproduction, while geldings were perfect for a variety of other roles. Today, this practice can largely determine the attitude and character of a male horse.

Angela Vuckovic
Angela Vuckovic

A proud mama to seven dogs and ten cats, Angela spends her days writing for her fellow pet parents and pampering her furballs, all of whom are rescues. When she's not gushing over her adorable cats or playing with her dogs, she can be found curled up with a good fantasy book.

More by Angela Vuckovic