Help With My Horse

Adapting Training for Different Horse Breeds

As a horse trainer, one of the most fascinating aspects of our profession is the diversity of horse breeds we encounter. Each breed comes with its unique traits, strengths, and challenges. There are even drastic differences within some breeds. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into adapting training for different horse breeds, including stock horses like Quarter Horses, Paints, and Appaloosas, running breeds such as Thoroughbreds and Appendix Quarter Horses, and others like Arabians, Warmbloods, Drafts, and Walking Horses. We’ll explore their general breed traits and how these characteristics influence training approaches.

Stock Horse Breeds

1. Quarter Horses

Taits: Stock Type Quarter Horses are known for their versatility, intelligence, and calm demeanor. They excel in short-distance sprinting, stops, and quick turns. Mentally their minds tend to be more active than usual, their bodies react to this active mind, but they tend to conserve their energy. Generally smart about how they expel their energy.

Training Considerations: Their agility and quick learning ability make them ideal for a variety of disciplines. Training should focus on taking control of when and how they expel energy.

Summary: Versatile, good-natured, and easy to train. Most of the training demonstrations and techniques commonly known are with stock type quarter horses. The videos of Hank, covers his training and the techniques I used for him.

2. Paints

Traits: Paint Horses are essentially Quarter Horses with a splash of color. They share many traits with Quarter Horses, including their build and temperament.

Training Considerations: Paints generally fall into 2 categories, old blood paints or quarter horse with color. The old blood paints are generally quarter horses but with a little bit of Mustang qualities mixed in. The quarter horses with color are basically the same as training a quarter horse.

Summary: Skill and experience is required in assessing the paint you are working with and applying that assessment correctly.

3. Appaloosas

Traits: Known for their distinctive spotted coat, Appaloosas are hardy, versatile, and have good stamina. Foundation Appaloosas tend to be less athletic, more resistant, and have a slightly “drafty” feel.

Training Considerations: Appaloosas with a lot of quarter horse blood will train much like a quarter horse. Those with a lot of foundation blood will require additional time to teach becoming soft and how to handle their feet.

Summary: A trainer can create many problems if they can not adapt to the type of Appaloosa they are riding. With the right mix and understanding of what you have, an Appaloosa can be very easy to ride, but misunderstood and mishandled they can be very frustrating.

Running Breeds

1. Thoroughbreds

Traits: Thoroughbreds are best known for their speed and spirit. They are commonly associated with horse racing but are also used in other equestrian sports. Physically, they are built for going forward, not stopping or turning quickly.

Training Considerations: Training should focus on managing their high energy and sensitivity. Often trainer get in trouble with thoroughbreds by trying to pull back to control their speed and energy. That only creates a horse that runs through the bit and is heavy on their front end. Typically with a thoroughbred, it’s best to control speed and energy with steering exercises.

Summary: Training thoroughbreds is usually simple and black and white. Trainers get in trouble when they add irrelevant variables. Keep it simple with thoroughbreds. The video, Speed Control for a Hot Horse, demonstrates how to work with a forward thoroughbred.

2. Appendix Quarter Horses

Traits: A mix of Thoroughbred and American Quarter Horse, these horses combine speed with agility. They are often taller and leaner than stock Quarter Horses.

Training Considerations: An appendix Quarter Horse’s mind does not always match the body. Often they look like a pure thoroughbred and have the mind of a stock horse. This adds challenges that the trainer must adapt to on an individual basis.

Summary: Often the horse you are training does not match what the horse physically looks like. It might look like a thoroughbred but needs to be ridden like a quarter horse. In addition, the horse will often have much more stamina than a stock quarter horse.

Arabian Horses

Traits: Arabians are one of the oldest horse breeds, known for their endurance, intelligence, and distinctive head shape. They are highly spirited and have limitless energy. In addition, many have an off-the-chart ADHD brain. Did someone say squirrel! The video, Teaching a distracted busy minded horse to focus, demonstrates how to work with an easily distracted horse.

Training Considerations: Never try to train an Arabian by expelling its energy. The key to training an Arabian is engaging their brain. This is often best done with smart tactile stimulation. Experience will help with knowing the right amount of stimulation at the right time.

Summary: Arabians are reactive, smart, and have never-ending endurance. To be successful, you have to be smarter than them, however, that is not as easy as it sounds. The playlist of Sabre’s videos shows how I trained this Arabian and in the videos, I talk about how I adapted training to suit him.


Traits: Warmbloods are a group of middle-weight horse breeds, known for their athleticism and temperament. They excel in dressage, show jumping, and eventing. This broad range of, not quite a draft, to not quite a thoroughbred, covers a huge array of horse traits.

Training Considerations: One warmblood breed can be drastically different than another. Some breeds are more like stock horses and some are more like thoroughbreds with most somewhere between.

Summary: A warmblood trainer must be able to read the horse they are riding and adapt accordingly. On the positive side, they are typically consistent and predictable.

Draft Horses

Traits: Draft horses are large, heavy breeds known for their strength and calm demeanor. Typically used for driving, as riding horses, they are usually heavy on the rider’s hands and legs.

Training Considerations: When training draft horses for riding, much of the training time will be spent working on softness and willingness. Draft horses are not particularly athletic or agile but are usually sure-footed.

Summary: Draft horses often are not very athletic but usually are safe riding horses. Expectations of an individual horse’s ability must be scrutinized. Expect to spend a lot of time working on softness and still you are rarely able to get them as soft as other riding breeds.

Walking Horses

Traits: Tennessee Walking Horses are known for their smooth gait and gentle temperament. They are popular for trail riding and show. Quick stops and turns are not traits that walking horses perform naturally. The mechanics of their footfall make those movements particularly difficult. Their mind usually matches that forward direction.

Training Considerations: Be realistic with what you are asking your Walking Horse to do. Much of the training time will be spent on physical movement.

Summary: Be sure that what you are asking your Walking Horse to do matches its ability. They are good-minded horses but everything about their mind and body is bred for forward in a straight line.

BLM Mustangs

Traits: BLM Mustangs, or Bureau of Land Management Mustangs, are feral horses primarily found in the Western United States. They are descendants of previously domesticated horses and have reverted to a wild state over generations. Known for their hardiness, independence, and varied conformation, these horses often exhibit a range of colors and sizes. Their life in the wild has endowed them with strong survival instincts, adaptability, and a robust constitution.

Training Considerations: These horses have not been bred for specific traits like many domestic breeds; instead, they have adapted to survive in the wild. This means their training must be adapted to work with their strong sense of survival and intelligence.

Summary: These are probably the most rational-thinking horses that a trainer can work with. Trainers must work with Mustang traits and not try to combat them. This is the breed I most often see trainers trying to untrain breed characteristics instead of working with them. The videos of Trigger show his typical Mustang traits and how I worked with them. Establishing a trusting leadership with a Mustang is vitally important.

Adapting Training to Breed Traits

When training different horse breeds, it’s crucial to consider their inherent traits. For instance, the high energy and sensitivity of Thoroughbreds require a different approach than the calm and steady nature of Draft horses. Understanding each breed’s mental and physical characteristics helps in developing a training program that enhances their natural abilities while ensuring their well-being. If you struggle with reading a horse and accessing those behaviors, you should read the article, Understanding Horse Behavior: A Comprehensive Guide. 


Each horse breed brings something unique to the equestrian world. As trainers, our job is to understand these differences in training different breeds and tailor our training methods accordingly. A trainer can not train something into a horse that is not already there. All a trainer can do is bring out desired behaviors and suppress undesired behaviors.  Whether working with a speedy Thoroughbred, a versatile Quarter Horse, or a gentle Draft, a trainer must work with the horse they have, not the horse they wish they had. Training is based on respect, understanding, and patience, a good trainer also adapts to the horse’s natural abilities and weaknesses. By understanding and respecting the unique qualities of each breed, we can develop effective training strategies that bring out their best, ensuring a rewarding experience for both the horse and the rider.

If you need professional help with your horse, you might consider an Equestrian Virtual Lesson. This is a great way to get a private lesson from Tim Anderson. My horse training journey has brought me from winning world titles to now trying to make every horse the best they can be and to help you improve your equestrian knowledge.

3 thoughts on “Adapting Training for Different Horse Breeds”

  1. Thank you for this article! Helps me to put the horse first & his needs rather than what I want . Very enlightening and valuable article! A must read for all horsewomen & horsemen!

  2. I ride a Rocky Mountain mare. I assume your tips about Tennessee Walking horses apply to Rockys?

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top