All horses are smart, but some breeds are smarter than others.
Horses are inquisitive and intelligent animals – they’re always willing to learn new things, new tricks, and experience new sensations. They’re curious by nature, but they’re also cautious, as they depend on their alertness and speed to survive in the wild. When it comes to domesticated horses, finding the smartest horse breed is no easy thing. Some horse breeds are better at certain activities than others, but that all comes down to their build and their personalities.
How do we define the smartest horse breeds in the world? Are they the ones that learn things the quickest, or the ones that remember their training the longest? I’d say we’ll have to focus on a mixture of the two. While pretty much all horses can be trained to a certain degree, some horse breeds are better known for their intelligence and willingness to adapt. These include the Andalusian, Morgan, Thoroughbred, Clydesdale, and Arabian.
There are three main types of horses in the world, namely cold-blooded, warm-blooded, and hot-blooded. These different types of horses have different personalities, and they each come with their own set of skills. If you would like to learn more about each type, make sure to read up on my extensive guide right here.
Furthermore, horses with high I.Q’s have been reported to shake their heads in approval, play fetch, play hide and seek, show affection to their keepers, and even count to a certain degree. Since I found this subject intriguing, I decided to do a little digging. I’ve come up with a comprehensive list of the world’s smartest horse breeds, a list based on historical data and reports from actual horse owners.
Also known as the Frizian horse, Friesians are graceful, nimble, and intelligent horses. Their history and heritage date all the way back to the Middle Ages. As one of the oldest horse breeds in the world, the Friesian is well-known for its discipline, adaptiveness, and willingness to work. The origins of this horse trace back to the Netherlands.
What makes this horse breed stand out from others in terms of appearance is its beautiful black coat, which is usually accompanied by a long, well-combed mane. In terms of smartness, the Friesian is currently very popular for recreational riders. In the old days, these horses were mounted by knights in battle, and when they weren’t on the battlefield, they would work the fields.
Definitely one of my personal favorite horse breeds, the Andalusian is in a league of its own when it comes to looks and intelligence. A medium-sized horse, the Andalusian has an average height of 15.1 hands, and it impresses with a compact, strong build, and a thick mane and tail.
The Andalusian is best-known for its athletic prowess. These types of horses are often trained for endurance racing, or for obstacle jumping. They’re eager to learn and possess an uncanny curiosity for all things new. They form tight bonds with their trainers, and as such, they are very well-suited for classical dressage.
Needless to say, this is an elegant breed that you’re not likely to see on a farm field, not that there’s anything wrong with a good draft horse.
If you know anything about horses, you know that few breeds are able to compete with the famous Thoroughbred when it comes to pure speed and endurance. After all, some of the world’s most famous racehorses were Thoroughbreds, including Secretariat and Seabiscuit.
To say that thoroughbreds are smart is an understatement. Apart from their intelligence, though, they also possess an unrivaled ambition, as well as the ability to recover from accidents and press on. Thoroughbreds can only be compared with Quarter Horses when it comes to speed and agility. Although Quarter Horses will generally be faster off the starting line, Thoroughbreds have more stamina and are much better suited for endurance racing.
It’s worth noting that these horses are hot-blooded. Therefore, they require experienced trainers, strict routines, and discipline in order to lead fulfilling and happy lives.
The Morgan horse breed is slightly understated if you ask me. It’s an old breed of horse, one of the earliest developed in the United States. What makes the morgan horse stand out is its incredible versatility. These horses were used for the coach, in harness racing, and on the field of battle during the American Civil War.
The Morgan horse is highly adaptable. It can perform in a number of Western and English disciplines (learn more about the differences between the two riding styles here). In my opinion, adaptability is a clear sign of intelligence. You’ll often spot Morgans at driving competitions, but due to their calm demeanor and steady movement, they are also used frequently in therapeutic riding programs.
Whether we’re talking about beauty contests, horse racing, dressage, cutting, eventing, or show jumping, the Arabian horse is always the main attraction. Arguably the most beautiful and most sought-after horses in the world, Arabians are also some of the smartest horses. After all, no horse breed of average intelligence would be able to adapt to so many disciplines.
While they originated in the Arabian Peninsula, Arabian horses are spread worldwide in our modern days. They can be found in the United States and Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, Brazil, and Continental Europe. The genetic strength of this beautiful breed allowed it to influence almost every modern light horse breed, including the Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse, and Appaloosa.
While it can excel in many disciplines, the Arabian is best-known for its prowess in endurance racing.
I had to include a draft horse in this list as well, as these can also be incredibly intelligent and well-mannered. The Clydesdale immediately came to mind – a Scottish horse breed that hails from the Clydesdale or valley of the River Clyde. While originally used as a heavy draft horse for hauling coal, Clydesdales spend most of their time on farms these days, working the fields or pulling logs.
Furthermore, these smart horses take part in parades, and they are often used as carriage horses. They’re often favored in parades due to their unique appearance, namely their white, feathery feet. While not the norm, some Clydesdales are used for riding, and some are even shown under the saddle. They are very easy to train due to their calm demeanor.
Some owners keep Clydesdales purely for pleasure riding. They are delightful to be around, that’s for sure.
Also known as the Irish Cob, the Gypsy Vanner is one of the smartest horse breeds in the world. This time around, this horse breed traces its roots back to the British Isles. The Gypsy Vanner was brought to the United States for the first time in 1996. These horses are mostly used in traditional horse fairs in Europe.
However, in the United States, they participate in numerous equestrian sports, especially for youths and amateurs. In 2004, the United States Dressage Federation accepted the Gypsy Vanner Horse Society as an affiliate member. This meant that these beautiful horses could now compete in dressage and dressage-related events.
As far as looks are concerned, the Gypsy Vanner is more often than not piebald, which means that it has white spots on a pigmented background of hair. The breed standard enforced by the Irish Cob Society does not require any specific coloration. However, you’ll most commonly see Irish Cobs in black and white.
These are the smartest horse breeds in the world as far as I’m aware. If you know of any other particularly intelligent horse breeds that you would like to see included in this list, feel free to get in touch and let me know about them.
As I mentioned before, horse intelligence is usually measured by its ability to adapt, and by how quickly a horse can learn new tricks, how fast it can discern patterns, and how long it can remember its training. Smart horses come from all breeds and from all over the world. However, the oldest and most refined ones seem to yield the most intelligent specimens.