Training Theory: Cold Blood vs Hot Blood Horses

What is the difference between a Cold Blood Horse and a Hot Blood horse?

In my experience, horses can be loosely divided into three categories according to their temperaments.

Generally speaking, the Coldblood Horses are the draft breeds. This includes such well-known breeds as the Percheron, Belgian, Clydesdale (right), Icelandic and Shires. They were developed for slow and steady agricultural work and selected for their very calm temperaments. They are quiet, slow, heavy-boned, heavy-bodied – usually “loaded” in the front end. They are gentle giants with feathered feet and plodding manners.



Hotblood horses include Arabs and Thoroughbreds, who are more nervous, energetic, and have faster reaction time. The heritage of the Arab horse is that of a “watchdog” and war mount. They were bred to be ever-vigilant to danger on the open desert. That frequently makes them very reactive to unfamiliar circumstances. As war mounts they were fast and had great endurance. They lived closely with humans and developed superior intelligence due to the close association. Their body carriage is usually lighter on its feet with a vigilant demeanor.



Warmbloods are a cross between the two types of temperaments. They were produced for a gentle temperament but with a little more energy and more athleticism for use as carriage horses or for riding. Examples of warmblood horses are the Dutch Warmblood, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, and Trakhener horses. They are particularly popular as dressage, driving and eventing horses. Not all coldblood/hotblood crosses will produce a true warmblood. The breeds mentioned have been bred true for hundreds of years.



That leaves my preferred breed: The Friesian. Although he has feathered feet, a Friesian is neither a coldblood nor a hotblood. It is classified as a Baroque breed. However, its temperament is more like a warmblood or coldblood, but certainly not a “draft” breed in the sense that it was mainly developed to pull a plow. They were originally developed as carriage horses who could also work the field if necessary.

They are becoming much more popular in the dressage ring, as they can be very “sporty” and athletic in build with a wonderful warmblood temperament. The Kristull Ranch specializes in Friesian Crosses, breeding purebred Friesian stallions to beautiful mares of different breeds to obtain the ultimate sport horse.

While we are getting older now and breed very few foals, each is a special gift. And the temperament of these horses suit my “older” body when it comes to training.

What is the importance of classification for training?
Coldblood horses are slow and deliberate. During the training process, they take a little more time to compute. They move more reluctantly. Their training process is a little slower, but they are less likely to run over you or jump on top of you as quickly as a hotblood horse will. While their feet can be as big as platters, and they are more clumsy, their reaction time is slower so you can also compute more easily. They are the salt of the earth. They make an excellent first-training experience if you can handle a horse of their size.

The more your horse resembles a hotblood breed, the more experienced you should be as a trainer and rider. Your timing is always critical, but with a hotblood animal, timing is EVERYTHING ALL OF THE TIME! Your signals must be crystal clear. Your own reaction time must be sharp. You MUST take a leadership role in the partnership to offer confidence to the horse. However, you are rewarded with a horse whose body reacts quickly to your signals and who catches on nearly instantaneously.

It is a double-edged sword. You can get a horse who performs beautifully, is sharp, crisp, and alert. Or you can get a horse who is a fruitcake due to your muddled signals and poor timing. Unfortunately, many, many young people who purchase their first horse are drawn to the beauty of the Arab and make the mistake of trying to train an Arab as their first experience. I never recommend an Arab or thoroughbred as a first-training experience. It’s much more challenging and dangerous for a new trainer.

That leaves the Warmblood. He is more athletic than his coldblood heritage. His feet are not “planted into the ground” like his coldblood ancestors. While he may be as tall as a coldblood, his feet are smaller, his body slimmer, and his movement more graceful. He is the perfect mix of strength, grace, and intelligence. He is the ultimate responsive equine partner: not too reactive, and not too plodding. Athletic but not flighty. Strong but not stuck to the ground. He is smart enough to take your direction and laid back enough to give you a chance to make a mistake. He forgives an error here and there, so I highly recommend a warmblood or Friesian cross (the right Friesian cross) as the ultimate sport horse.

Horse training can be dangerous. Not all methods work on all horses. Instruction presented here is not meant to be prescriptive in nature, and takes no responsibility for the welfare of any animal or person using our methods.

Please note that any advice given on is neither veterinary nor prescriptive in nature but offered only as an introduction to this topic.

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