Hot or Cold: Which Temperament is Best for You?


Hot HorseWhen purchasing a horse or choosing one to ride, we tend to be smitten by a horse’s appearance and abilities. Unfortunately, we often neglect to consider the horse’s basic temperament. If that doesn’t complement our own riding capabilities and comfort levels, riding may become a chore. Here’s how to decide which type of horse is best for you.

A hot horse is one that is keenly aware of his environment, making him a little spooky out on the trails or tense amongst a group of other horses. If you’re a rider looking for a leisurely ride, a hot horse is probably not for you. Ditto if you’re a novice rider. Since a hot horse is very responsive to his rider, if your heel accidentally bumps against his side, you’re likely to get a response. Hence, a hot horse quickly becomes frustrated with a rider who asks for one thing but actually wants something else. Conversely, an experienced rider who wants a ready-set-go type of performer yearns for a horse that’s alert and responsive. Barrel racers, jumpers and endurance horses all have a tendency to be on the hot side.

At the other extreme of the temperament spectrum is the cold horse. Sure, they’re a little lazy at times, but there’s something to be said for a horse that enjoys life at a slower pace. Colder horses are perfect for equestrians who view riding as a hobby. Novices enjoy colder horses because, since they’re less in a hurry to respond, they’re more forgiving of miscalculated cues. If a cold-blooded horse is frisky at a show, it’s easy to settle them down with a few minutes on the longe line or under saddle. They tend to reconsider whether it’s worth the effort to break a sweat. Moreover, if you’re nervous during competition, the cold horse is less likely to react to your emotions.

Riding should be a rewarding, pleasant experience. Choose the horse whose temperament thermostat is set just for you.

The author is a longtime hunt-seat competitor.


  1. My name is Taylor and i have a mare who is 23 but acts like she is 9. She is very alert but i can show on her yet in a barrel or pole run i can’t hold her back or she rears! now i am looking for a slower 2D barrel horse for High school rodeo and don’t know what i should be i can handle a three year old crazy horse or a horse that should be push to go to a 1D barrel run i don’t know what to do.

  2. I agreed with this article i think it is good to know what type of horse you are looking for but there are horses with in between temperments and they should not be forgetton..My horse for instance can be the lazziest thing at a show but at home he is ready to run his heart out

  3. Good article.
    Sounds like I’d need a pretty ‘cool’ horse as a beginner rider.
    I need a sturdy mount who will put up with me while I learn.

  4. I thought the article was very helpful since I am currently looking for a horse, and i’m obviousley no t the best rider in the world.

  5. I prefer a horse that is laid back and not too hot.I just purchased a spotted saddle horse mare a week ago , her temperment so far seems calm.I have not ridden her since i brought her home….the weather has been cold and snow!I think spotted saddle horses tend to be in the colder temperment.

  6. My horse is a really wild, high spirted mare. My riding instructor says that a hot blooded horse is better for me, because I’m an expeirenced rider. So I really like hot blooded horses better.

  7. I think temperment is a very important thing to look for when buying a horse. My pony came up with a bowed tendon two years ago in the middle of show season and I didn’t have a horse to show and finish the season. So my trainer, being the nice lady that she is, let me show her GORGOUS westphalian mare and I loved her!! But she kept coming up lame so my trainer said, no more! She then put me on her other horse, Abe. Does Abe sound like a ‘hot horse’ to you? Nope, he was dead to the world and I absolutly hated to ride him. I just couldn’t get him to put any effort into anything and smacking him with a crop before every jump will not earn you any ribbons. We didn’t do so hot in those classes. So now I have a very hot horse (he’s a OTTB) andI love it. Ya, he’s a pain in the butt sometimes but aren’t all horses? So ya, I guess I like hot horses (my pony is also very hot!)

  8. Ok, lets all be honest here. Most riders would say, “oh, I want a horse as young and fast as they come”, but when you’re actually out there in and open jump feild, would you rather be using your crop a few times, or having the reins torn out of your hands knowing you will soon eat dirt. Hot horses are wonderful if you need that extra athletisism, but really, I’m an eventer (that’s an athletic sport…) and I would certainly choose (and suggest for others) a “colder” horse who is reliable and trustworthy.

  9. i personally would rather ride a hot horse…i love a horse with a “go get em” mindset but i have to say im a sucker for those big gentle work horses

  10. Would the warmbloods make a good in-between horse? For some one who wants a horse that responds well, has energy, and isn’t lazy, and a good eventing horse, would a warmblood be a good choice?

  11. My Abrab mare in a mix between both. She is responsive. If you kick her she be a runway. And she is hard to control if you don’t stay relaxed. But she dosen’t spook on the trail, and she loves to be alone or be with others. I do endurance so she is the best you can get. She can go 18 miles with out stopping. But she is more on the hot side. I mean it she can get hot.

  12. I like hot horses even though they are hard to handle. I like them because I know they will always have a lot of energy. Plus, I love going fast !!

  13. my pony is usually calm on the flat, but gets quite goey after a while, and then gets very hot with the jumping! the crazy little guy just won’t stop… but i still prefer riding a hot horse, and put me on a cold horse, it make take a few minutes before we get anywhere! it can be hard to adjust, so i’ll stick with “crazy” for now.

  14. All of my horses would be considered “hot” but I also have some “cold” horses that I work well with too. But I perfer “hot” horses. They are a little more of a challenge and are a lot of fun when it comes to eventing.

  15. Good article – it is amazing how many novices don’t get this concept. I have been around many that buy a “hot” horse because he’s “sweet” or “talented”. They seem to think that the horse’s attitude will override his overall character, but unfortunately, that’s not the way it works – and they end up broken-hearted that the horse isn’t the right one for them.

  16. Lazy ones fusterate me, and also I like it when horses can teach me something. For instance- 800 lbs one a foot?- actualy not that painful.
    But since I am a beginer, everybody keeps telling me I need an old horse that’s really calm, and less then 5 years from the grave… grrrrrr

  17. Well I Like Both.I’m expirienced enuf to ride a hot horse or Like train in but I don’t mind Cold either.Either ore.My mare Dixie is both.She has her days where she will refuse a jump(but that normal)or rear up.But she will NEVER bite,kick,buck,or spook on trails.Well…sometimes she’ll spook on trails but i mean she’s really good for obedience.I do english(hunter jumper) with her and western(trail,pleasure)
    I love how she’ll kinda tell me what’s up.I mean my cousin’s gelding Lucas (REALLY REALLY hot horse)got an absess in his frog and coronet band.So we had him and Dixie up in a paddock and one day i went out to the barn to feed,I called Dixie(Dixie…come here girl*whistle*) and she whinnied and thenkinda looked back at lucas and told him to come on.Then Lucas came out cantering right up to me!!!He never comes neer people tho.Then Dixie reared up!!I loved that.But yeah Lucas wouldn’t even go near his owner(and still won’t) but I (11 year old) secretly rides him!!Well my dad knows but my cousins don’t!!They treat him really badly.His sis died last year.. and she wuz kinda his roll model>
    Great article


  18. My Baby Piccolo Is Definatly A Hot Horse, Hes Not Mean, No Bucking, Rearing, Biting, And So On He Just Knows Exactly When To Go And Let Loose, Expecially At The Shows. Hes A Mad Man! But I Love His Run And I Feel Comfortable Riding Him :] Great Article!

  19. this makes a lot of sense. i’m new to the horse-lingo, so when i read about breeds having a tendency to be hot, i had no idea what was meant.

  20. I’m will emember even though I want a show horse I should take one thats not cold hot just over medium to give him umff for me anovice.

  21. my mare isn’t jumpy,but isn’t lazy…lol i guess she is warm….jus where i like..i can get her excited, but she’ll calm down after a few minutes and i like it that way

  22. I like the way the hot-cold temprement was explained. I have Arabs (naughty horses) and my riding buddies have Quarter horses (good horses).
    I am a high energy person and I think we are a good match.
    I really appriciate my calm riding buddies they keep my horses and I balanced.

  23. Thanks. I don’t have a horse and I’m not looking for one (i wish i was though) but this is very helpful.

  24. Hi Joe and thanks for your comment.
    As the writer of this piece and a regular contributor here at Horse Channel I wanted to respond to your comment. The date I wrote this online article is a matter of record: 2003. It looks like the Show Circuit piece you’re referencing (on the same topic) was written in 2009. So if we’re to use the chicken and egg scenario, I guess you can surmise who wrote which article first.
    That would be me.
    And it is interesting that some of the same descriptive language and terminology in the Show Circuit article mirrors mine. Odd, I thought I was the only equestrian journalist who had successfully integrated the quaint words “smitten” and “keen” into my daily vernacular. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider that.
    But instead of getting snitty about the possibility that someone in desperate need of inspiration or word count borrowed from one of my online articles, I’d rather just chalk this up to a topic that’s frequently covered by all horse publications. After all, there are only so many topics to cover in the horse world and we’re bound to cross bridle paths once in a while.
    Best Regards,
    Cindy Hale


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