Buying your first horse is one of the most exciting experiences you’ll have as an equestrian. Some people spend months looking for the perfect mount, while others find their match early on. There are so many factors to consider when horse shopping, from the horse’s height to their previous training. One question you may have as a first-time horse owner is whether it matters what breed you buy.
The short answer is “yes.” Some breeds are better suited to first-time horse owners than others. However, every horse is an individual. There are lots of exceptions to the rules when it comes to breeds. When horse shopping, it is wise to focus on breeds better suited to first-time owners. But also keep an open mind, and don’t assume that every horse of a certain breed is a good fit, either.
Breeds Well-Suited to First-Time Owners
A first-time horse owner typically wants a horse that is quiet, responsive, and well broke. It’s also nice to have a versatile horse so you can try different disciplines and learn new skills as a rider. Here are a few breeds that tend to work well for first-time owners.
The American Quarter Horse was originally bred to run 1/4 mile races, but they have since become a favorite of ranchers and trail riders. Quarter horses tend to be a little quieter, can be easier to teach, and are sure-footed. Most have a very smooth, comfortable gait – another asset to newer riders still perfecting their equitation.
Most quarter horses are around 15 – 15.2 hands and stocky. There are also some taller, more refined quarter horses better suited to English riding.
Draft horses are more typically used for driving, not riding. But draft crosses – horses with one draft parent and one “light” parent – tend to be good choices for first-time horse owners. Draft crosses generally inherit the calm, quiet, demeanor of their draft parent. However, they also inherit some of the athleticism of their light horse parent.
Draft crosses tend to be sturdy and less prone to injury than light horses. They’re also versatile. You’ll see them doing everything from jumping cross-country to competing in Western Pleasure classes.
The Morgan is a classic American breed. Morgan horses have refined faces and compact, but strong bodies. They tend to be around 14.2 – 15.2 hands, which is a great size for most first-time buyers. These versatile horses tend to thrive on the trails, but many excel in the ring, too. They are personable, highly intelligent, and long-lived. Many are ridden saddleseat, but you’ll see some trained in western and huntseat riding, too.
The American Paint Horse is a breed that grew out of the American Quarter Horse. Paints are basically Quarter Horses with more colorful coats. If you like the idea of a Quarter Horse but want something flashier, a paint may be perfect for you.
The Appaloosa is a breed that was created by Native Americans. These horses are known for their spotted and roan coats. Most are between 15 and 16 hands tall with a body type similar to that of a quarter horse. They’re strong, hardy, and versatile with a comfortable gait. Appaloosas are usually used for western riding, trail riding, roping, and gymkhana, although you’ll occasionally see one in the English disciplines.
Breeds Less-Suited to First-Time Owners
First-time horse owners typically want to avoid horses who are high-strunk, spooky, or high-maintenance. Not every horse of the following breeds fits that description. However, horses of the following breeds tend to be less ideal for first-time owners than those of the breeds listed above.
In the United States, most thoroughbreds are bred for racing. When their racing careers are over, they are sold to be re-trained as riding horses. Retraining off-track thoroughbreds is not easy and requires a lot of skill. Even thoroughbreds who were never trained to race tend to be higher-strung. They can make incredible, athletic riding horses, but are usually best suited for experienced owners.
Arabians are beautiful, refined horses with arched necks and dished faces. They excel in the sport of endurance riding. However, their “hot” personalities and tendency to spook make most Arabians a poor choice for a first-time horse owner.
This is not an exhaustive list. There are plenty of other, less popular breeds that suit first-time buyers well. Welsh and Connemara ponies, for instance, can be wonderful choices for smaller adults. Rocky Mountain Horses and Tennessee Walkers are perfect for those who prefer gaited breeds. Overall, it’s wise to consider breed, but remember it’s only one factor to weigh as you horse shop. If you need some guidance in training your new horse, turn to Easy Horse Fix for relatable, helpful videos.