The 12 Types of Horses

As depicted in a set of prints by Thomas Rowlandson in 1799.

A prolific 18th-century artist and caricaturist, Thomas Rowlandson was known for his laugh-out-loud depictions of rural life and NSFW prints that made even the Queen blush. His 12-print series, Horse Accomplishments, showcasing different horse stereotypes, is still pretty accurate even today.

The Astronomer

“This Horse is certainly an Astronomer! He is perpetually star gazing.”

This is your classic upside-down horse with a hollow back and high head. He’s been abused or just very resistant to training. Either way, he’s probably been sold upward of ten times and is definitely ring sour… so he’s listed as a green prospect.

A Paviour

“This is the sort for mending the roads–Never leaves a loose pebble!”

I think we’re talking about a husband horse, a.k.a., a big, quiet draft horse. A horse that will look intimidating enough to star in a Jason Statham movie, but the movie is actually an equestrian sequel to Gnomeo and Juliet.

A Whistler

“This is what I call Travelling to music! one continual wheeze from Hyde Park Corner to Hammersmith!”

If this were a for-sale ad, it would read, “needs a professional program,” i.e., the horse needs a chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist, and a variety of veterinary specialists, for starters.

A Devotee

“This is certainly a very devout Animal–always on his knees! five times in a mile–constantly worshipping something or other!–what is he at now?”

This is the type that can go in any direction, literally, and without warning. This horse is mostly known for his sweet personality, because he has zero talent and is kind of dangerous, to be honest.

A Politician

“What are you poking your nose here about you don’t want to read the News paper do you?”

I have no idea what Rowlandson is describing here. The only thing I can think of is a seasoned schoolmaster who will eat anything within range of their current resting spot. I once had a horse eat a whole sausage-on-a-stick and then a slice of apple pie. Never leave food unattended around a kid’s pony waiting at the in gate.

A Time Keeper

“This is the finest Horse in the World for a calculator–keeps time to a Second! he goes tis true but like the finer wheels of a clock his motion is scarcely perceptible.”

Speaking of schoolmasters, let’s not forget the one who definitely knows more than you. If you’re taking a lesson and find yourself aboard this type, just let them count the strides. Trust me, they know what they’re doing because they’ve already run the same course ten times that week with other students.

A Civilian

“That’s for contempt of court you scoundrel–my Horse is a Doctor of Civil Law!”

Chestnut mare.

An Arithmetician

“This I presume is by way of proving to a certainty that two and two makes four!!”

This is the type that requires a rider that’s experienced, mostly in first aid and CPR. He also occasionally requires a tune-up with a trainer, like when you’re in the hospital.

A Loiterer

“If thee tak’st it into thy head to stand still every five minutes–I should be glad to know at what time I am to get to market?”

Man proposes, stubborn lesson pony disposes. He’ll get to it when he gets to it. He doesn’t care about your schedule.

A Minuet Dancer

“Here’s Grace and elegance–these are the pleasing effects of teaching a Horse to Dance!”

This horse is perfection in and out of the ring. His movements are the stuff dreams are made of. It only took ten years of eight-hour days at the barn to accomplish. Unfortunately, his devoted rider has filed for bankruptcy, recently divorced, and hasn’t bathed in a week. But look at that trot!

A Land Measurer

“Here’s your acres roads and perches!–they wont catch me at this work again in a hurry!”

This type is known for their impressive movement and being super responsive to aids, meaning if you touch them with your leg, they will bolt at lightning speed. They never have time faults because they’re either five minutes under or eliminated before the clock runs out. This horse is most likely an eventing prospect because they’ve failed at every other discipline.

A Vaulter

“If you must be at your Vaulting Vagaries you might at least have pitched a Gentlemen into a cleaner place than a Ditch!!”

This horse was a champion in his first outing as a rodeo bronc. He has a great halt; you just don’t ever know when or where it will occur. He has tons of scope, especially when he’s bucking, and he’s fast out of the gate, so please don’t get in his way.

All images courtesy of The Met:

Etcher Thomas Rowlandson British
After George Murgatroyd Woodward British
Publisher Rudolph Ackermann, London British
August 1, 1799

Go riding.

Amanda Uechi Ronan is an author, equestrian and wannabe race car driver. Follow her on Instagram @amanda_uechi_ronan.