The terms hot blood, warm blood, and cold blood are used to describe a type of horse according to his origin and temperament. The terms have nothing to do with the temperature of a type of horse’s blood; however, the terms do often correspond to the climates the horses evolved in or were adapted for.
A hot-blooded horse is one whose ancestry can be traced back to the Arabian, Barb, Turk, or thoroughbred. This heritage disposes a horse toward speed, endurance, and a spirited, competitive nature. Hot bloods were developed in southern regions of the world and tend to be thin skinned, light coated, tall, and slight in build.
They are considered by most experts to be the most intelligent of the three distinctions, the most athletic, versatile, and perhaps the most trainable.
However, these horses tend to be hot-tempered and physically more delicate than other types of horses. For these reasons, among others, they are not easy keepers.
Some thoroughbred experts say that there is no reason to own any other kind of horse, no matter what your riding discipline.
This is an exaggeration, but nonetheless a powerful testament to the respect and dedication the thoroughbred has acquired in its 250 years of existence.
The thoroughbred was originally developed in eighteenth-century England, exclusively for racing, from the three original hot bloods mentioned above. To the western world, they best embody what you think of when a horse is referred to as hot-blooded. More than any other horse, the thoroughbred has been used to develop and improve breeds throughout the world.
Cold-blooded horses evolved in the northern regions of the world and are thought to be the oldest kind of horse. They are heavy boned, slower moving, thicker skinned and coated, and generally equipped to handle harsher climates.
Horses in this category include many of the pony breeds, such as Halflingers, Connemara, and Icelandics, as well as what is more commonly thought of as the draft horse.
A horse is measured from the top of his withers to the ground.
The standard measurement for a horse is “hands.” A hand is equivalent to four inches. The first riding horses were thought to be about 12 hands high. Today’s horse stands at least 14.3 hands. Any horse smaller than this is considered a pony.
Among the most popular draft horses are Clydesdales, Percherons, and Shires.
Draft horses were probably first used as war mounts, and later were adapted because of their easygoing nature, endurance, and power for agriculture. They can measure over 20 hands and can weigh in excess of 2,000 pounds, yet have a slower metabolism than do hot bloods. More often than not, their modern use is as carriage horses, since they are built for pulling and are less competitive among each other, and so work well as a team.
Warm-blooded horses are a cross between cold-blooded, typically draft horses, and hot-blooded, typically light, thoroughbred horses. They were bred to embody the favorable aesthetic and utilitarian characteristics of both. An ideal warm blood has the ruggedness, size, and calm temperament of a draft horse, while maintaining the presence, intelligence, heart, and athletic ability of a thoroughbred.
The modern warm blood has been increasingly bred to develop finer thoroughbred tendencies, thus producing the most commonly used horses for dressage and show jumping throughout the world.
In America, Ireland, and Canada, these horses are usually referred to as sport horses or draft crosses, and they make excellent field mounts. However, more often than not, they lack the refinement, presence, and careful breeding of the European breeds, like Dutch, Swedish, French, and the many German breeds, including Holsteiner, Hanovarian, Oldenburg, and Trekkenier, for which the term “warm blood” is truly reserved.