Horses are routinely described as majestic and noble animals. But they can hurt people, even those not riding them. They can kick and bite, sometimes hard enough to break a bone. While most deaths occur due to horse riding accidents, people on the ground can be killed if a horse spooks badly enough. So what are the most dangerous horse breeds?
The most dangerous horses are wild or feral breeds. While they are not predators, they will defend themselves if threatened, or some unintelligent person tries to ride them. However, some domestic horse breeds, such as Thoroughbreds and Arabians, can be poor matches for new riders.
Horses, like dogs and cats, each have their own personality. Some, regardless of breed, just have a nicer temperament than others. However, any horse that has been abused or poorly trained can be dangerous. But when it comes to new riders, some breeds are best to avoid as they are “hot” – meaning they are bred to go fast with little encouragement.
Why Are Wild And Feral Horses Dangerous?
If you have a chance to see a horse out in the wild, it is an extraordinary experience. Horses that are free have this sense of movement and poise that leaves people in awe. But they are wild animals and will react to threats. Even those used to having humans around will not take kindly to some drunken fool trying to corner or ride one.
Wild and feral horses are also territorial. Thus, you could be at risk if you are a horseback rider entering a wild or feral herd’s territory. Stallions will sometimes want to steal a mare into their herd, even if you are sat on the mare. Wild and feral stallions will also sometimes view a domesticated stallion or gelding as a threat to their leadership.
But for those on the ground, never corner a wild or feral horse or approach it. Even the more friendly ones that might take food from your hand should not be approached. Trying to pet or feed an untamed horse endangers both the horse and other people.
What Is The Difference Between Wild And Feral Horses?
A wild horse is just that, a horse breed that has never been domesticated. Feral breeds are horses whose bloodline originates in a domestic breed(s) but has long run free. Feral herds were usually formed by colonizers, either through shipwrecks or a battle that resulted in domesticated horses being released into the wild, never to be reclaimed.
Wild Horse Breeds
Around 10 million years ago, horses began roaming the planet. Some of these ancient and wild horses had three-toes rather than a single hoof. It is thought that these horses came about from dog-sized creatures that originated 55 million years ago.
Much has changed over the millions of years since, and today most horses are domesticated. But there remains wild horses, but their existence is threatened.
Przewalski’s Horse (Equus ferus przewalskii) is the only remaining wild horse breed on the planet. They look a lot like a dun-colored donkey bred with a zebra. Once upon a time, they roamed throughout Europe and Asia but now are only found in some regions of Mongolia, China, and Kazakhstan.
The Przewalski’s Horse has a second common name, Takhi. There are those in Mongolia that view it as a holy animal. But they are not the same as the common domesticated Mongolian horse.
2 Feral Horse Breeds
Feral horses are herds that roam freely in the wild with bloodlines that trace back to domesticated breeds. These horses have adapted to the land they now roam, but they are not native.
One of the most famous feral horses is mustangs. Most mustangs originated from Spain. They are not a singular breed, but a mixture of horses that got loose way back when, including draft horses, Thoroughbreds, and many Spanish breeds.
However, mustangs in some parts of the United States have developed their own traits within their part of the country. These horse herds have specific names to acknowledge their features that are different from your standard mustang. For example, the Kiger mustangs in Oregon seem to have bloodlines that only trace back to Spain.
The Australian Brumbies is the other well know feral horse breed. Brumbies came to the continent in the late 18th century from English ships. Due to poor fencing and shipwrecks, some horses got free and interbred.
Today there is a massive debate over the Brumbies. Some claim them as valuable to Australian heritage. Others classify them as an invasive species that must be culled. Their bloodlines are a mix, with roots in Thoroughbred, Arabian, Clydesdale, and other draft horses. New blood was introduced after World War I when old warhorses were released into the wild.
Is Riding A Tamed Feral Horse Dangerous?
Mustangs are sometimes rounded up and sold to people to be trained as domesticated horses. There have been some remarkable transformations in the hands of good and patient trainers. However, this isn’t something that inexperienced people should do. Also, an impatient and harsh trainer will sour a mustang.
It is generally not recommended for a beginner to ride a previously feral mustang. However, if a mustang was born and raised in a domestic setting, it will behave much like any other domesticated horse. These horses have no memory or experience of being out in the wild. Thus, their suitability as a riding horse depends on how it was raised and trained.
Dangerous Domesticated Horse Breeds
Domesticated horses are not “dangerous” as a breed. However, there are horse breeds that are generally unwise for a beginner to ride. This isn’t because the horse breed is naturally mean, but their personality and traits, such as speed, might make a new rider unable to handle the horse. Most mean and aggressive horses have had poor training or been ill-treated, or both.
Yes, just like dogs, cats, and other domesticated animals, some horses are naturally sweeter and have more of a wiliness to please than others. Some horses are more intelligent, which can be both a blessing or a curse, depending on your riding skill. Some breeds are more inclined to only bond with a single person rather than embrace humans as a whole.
3 Horse Breeds Not Suited For Beginners
Some horse breeds are a bit like a German Shepard, Aidi, or Kangal Shephard – they are excellent animals but need an experienced owner that knows what they are doing. It isn’t about being mean; they just have strength, speed, intelligence, and other traits that require someone that knows what they are doing.
The danger of putting an inexperienced rider on an unsuitable horse goes beyond the rider’s safety. Yes, when a new rider can’t handle the horse, the person is likely to be injured or worse. But also, new riders tend to try to use inappropriate techniques in desperation to gain control, such as yanking on the bit. This can hurt the horse and sour them against all people.
That said, never say never. Sometimes the perfect horse is found in the most unlikely situations. Better to ride an older, well-trained Thoroughbred with a heart of gold than a sour Morgan who has been badly treated and poorly trained.
Nonetheless, when buying horses, sometimes all people have to go off are videos on the internet and a quick meet and greet. As a result, there isn’t an opportunity to learn the true personality of the horse. Thus, some horse breeds might be best to shy away from if you are new to riding.
Akhal-Tekes are the guard dog of the horse world. These animals are loyal to their person, and that’s it. They will even lash out at a perceived threat to their person. Owning one can be an amazing experience if you are their person, but not so much if you are not.
Nor do these animals suffer fools. They are intelligent, graceful, and energetic horses that will only work with a human they respect. People that don’t have enough experience will not only have a bad experience with Akhal-Tekes but can just sour the horse beyond saving.
Arabian and Anglo-Arabian horses are a joy to ride. They have a “floating trot,” tons of stamina, and are fast. Arabians are also one of the most intelligent horse breeds, making working with them an absolute pleasure. For an experienced rider, these features are what make Arabians so desirable.
But new riders are going to struggle. An Arabian horse will generally figure out very quickly if the person on their back can’t ride and take advantage of it. This doesn’t mean the horse will start bucking, rearing, and biting. But an Arab might have no qualms of taking the beginner rider wherever the horse wants to go at the speed of the horse’s choosing. Which isn’t an ideal situation.
Thoroughbreds are bred to race. Breaking out into speed is what they were born to do. This doesn’t make them mean or short-tempered. They can be incredibly sweet and tend to be very agreeable around lots of different people, rather than bonding to one person.
But their energy is massive, especially in their first ten to fifteen years of life. Which can be a blast to ride if you have a good seat and little fear. A beginner, however, is probably going to see their life flash before them after they’ve applied a little too much leg, or the horse just gets excited because it, say, loves jumping and spots a jump and takes it as an invitation. Eek.
Warning Signs A Horse Is Angry
Horses randomly lashing out or attacking someone isn’t really a thing. Horses give visible signs they are not in a good mood, are losing their patience, or are scared. It is ignoring the signs where people run into trouble.
Horses typically become aggressive out of fear or desperation. Even the sweetest and most gentle horse often has something that makes them lose their minds, such as the sight of a vet’s needle or being introduced to a trailer for the first time. But horses in pain, or lacking food or water, will also be prone to aggression.
Yes, horses can spook without warning. A loud sound, a sudden rustle of a bush, a sheep jumping out from behind the barn can cause a horse to spook. But that’s just a shock. An aggressive horse gives warning signals that it is upset before it acts. Thus, the following are signs to watch when a horse is unhappy.
Watch A Horse’s Ears
A horse’s ears will tell you when they are upset by turning them backward. If they’re really angry, they’ll pin them. Pinning the ears makes sense, and even cats and dogs do it. The ears can easily be torn in a fight, so having them flat against the head makes them less vulnerable.
Like dogs and cats, horses move their ears about to hear a sound better. So yes, a horse might swivel their ears back to listen to their rider better, even when they are not angry. But flattened ears are a sign the horse is annoyed. If the ears are pinned, the horse is preparing to fight.
Watch A Horse’s Tail
Horses swish their tails at flies. Mares lift their tail and put it to the side as an invitation to a lucky horse lad. Horses, in general, lift their tails when excited or working. But a lashing tail, swishing in annoyance, is a sign somebody is about to be bitten or kicked.
Horses also lash their tail at each other. Typically, it is an over-eager youngster driving an older horse bonkers. The older horse will swish their tail to warn the youngster that they are being obnoxious. If the youngest doesn’t take heed, then comes the kick. However, horses will swish their tail at both their riders and people on the ground, too.
But the worst is when a horse clamps its tail between its legs. That means all warnings are over; it is ready to take off with its rider or set up to deliver a kick. That’s a fight action, like pinning the ears.
Watch A Horse’s Body
Body angling is when a horse keeps a person or something (a yappy dog) in the kick zone. While being at the tail end is an obvious danger, horses can easily kick to the side with their back legs. Generally, if they are getting ready to nail a person or that yappy dog, they will do it from the side to keep an eye on their target.
Body angling is not simply having a horse show its side. For example, they might have moved to munch grass, or you moved to check its girth. Instead, body angling is when you move, and rather than allow you to stand at the head, the horse keeps moving, angling its body, so you remain in its strike zone.
The horse is agitated and is warning you to back away, or it will strike. Don’t ignore the behavior.
Watch A Horse’s Eyes
Horses, when calm, have round sweet eyes. Any sign of tension, often starting at the muzzle, rapid darting, or rolling the eyes to expose the whites, is a sign of stress, fear, or anger. The latter two are a sign a horse is worked up and lost the plot. The tension is often a sign of anger.
No horse breed is classified as dangerous. However, it is unwise to go near a wild or feral horse. Also, horses that have been mistreated and poorly trained can be dangerous. But when it comes to horse breeds, it is about the rider’s capabilities. If you are new to the sport, pick a calm older horse and stay away from the excited ones that like to zoom.