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13 Best Horse Breeds For Beginners

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Getting into horses is an exciting adventure and finding the right breed to start on can seem overwhelming to say the least. The good news is there are several horse breeds that land on the list of best horse breeds for beginners.

With so many great horse breeds to choose from, narrowing them down is the tricky part. The best horse breeds are those that tend to have calm demeanors, high intelligence, and are easy to train.

Here are the 13 best horse breeds for beginners.

1. American Paint Horse

running American Paint Horse

The American Paint horse is an excellent option for beginners because of its friendliness, great disposition, and willingness to learn.

Paint horses can have a variety of magnificent coat color patterns including solid, tobiano, overo, and tovero. American Paint horses are not only visually appealing, they are also extremely intelligent and good-natured.

While there are some bad apples in every bucket, most American Paint horses are calm, hardy, and easy to train. This breed also dominates the arena in several equine sports including cow cutting, barrel racing, and calf roping.

The horses within the American Paint horse breed typically stand between 14 and 16 hands tall.

2. Morgan Horse

Morgan Horse and colt standing on the field

The Morgan horse breed is a perfect beginner breed because the horses tend to be trustworthy, hard-working, and dependable. It is a great option for new riders of all ages from young to old.

Morgan horses are ideal for pleasure riding events including dressage, reining, Western, and English pleasure. It is considered an extremely adaptable horse breed that remains calm and collected during rides.

The Morgan horse breed is considered to be a compact-sized horse but still extremely muscular and stout.

Morgan horses are usually somewhere between 14.1 and about 15.2 hands tall.

3. Thoroughbred

four Thoroughbred racehorses inside the horse farm

The Thoroughbred horse breed is well-known in the sport of horse racing where it dominates the playing field. However, that is not its only claim to fame. Thoroughbred horses also excel outside of the racetrack and are considered an ideal option for beginner riders as well.

Standing between 15 and 17 hands tall, Thoroughbred horses are lively, yet tend to be friendly and easy to train. 

Thoroughbreds are popular in a variety of equine sporting events apart from racing including dressage, polo, barrel racing, and show jumping.

Many retired racing Thoroughbreds find chances at new lives on horse farms across the country as pleasure riding horses.

4. American Quarter Horse

American Quarter Horse

Quarter horses are an ideal choice for any beginner horse rider, especially if they plan on participating in rodeo or cow-related sports.

The American Quarter horse is one of the most popular breeds in the country and for good reason. It is one of the most versatile horse breeds on this list.

Quarters horses compete at high levels in barrel racing, roping, cutting, cattle sorting, reining, and Western pleasure.

Quarter horses also are great for trail riding, a pastime that many beginners participate in while learning how to ride. They are known for being calm, friendly horses that bond easily with their owners.

5. Tennessee Walking Horse

brown Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking horse is a horse breed that is favored by many beginner riders. Tennessee Walking horses have a reputation for being calm and easy to train.

Tennessee Walking horses are gaited, which makes their walk and run extremely smooth and comfortable for riders. This is a great aspect for riders who are new to horse riding.

This breed is ideal for trail riding, endurance rides, and Western pleasure shows. Tennessee Walking horses stand between 14.3 and 17 hands tall. 

6. Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse in pasture

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle horse breed is a solid choice for beginners to start on. They also are gaited, a characteristic that gives them smooth rides.

They are compact, stocky horses that tend to have docile demeanors and are easy to handle.

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle horse breed is used primarily for pleasure and endurance riding, which makes a great option for beginners who are not tied to a specific sport.

Horses within this breed are relatively short, standing between 11 and 14.1 hands tall. Their gentle demeanor, willingness to learn, and small size make them an excellent choice for beginner riders.

7. Missouri Fox Trotter Horse

Missouri Fox Trotter Horse with a New Mexico landscape as background

The Missouri Fox Trotter horse breed is a fan-favorite among beginner riders across the country. Horses of this breed tend to have a gentle nature, calm disposition, and high intelligence.

Missouri Fox Trotter horses are often seen in rodeo events, cutting horse sports, show exhibits, pleasure riding, and even in the entertainment industry!

These horses are extremely versatile and usually stand around 14 to 16 hands tall.

The Missouri Fox Trotter horse breed was tailored to be the perfect complete horse for all aspects of life on the range.

The Missouri Fox Trotter horse is known for its unique fox trot gait that keeps these horse sure-footed with two hooves always on the ground. It allows for a smooth ride for all riders, especially beginners.

8. Arabian Horse

Arabian Horse running on a field with red flowers

The Arabian horse breed is another one of the best horse breeds for beginner riders, even children.

While they are often touted as being hot-blooded, Arabian horses tend to have a calm temperament and, with the right training, they can be superb beginner horses.

Arabians do very well around people and are very intelligent horses, especially when it comes to training. They are relatively short, reaching somewhere between 14.1 hands and 15.1 hands high at adulthood.

Arabian horses are often seen in endurance events, horse races, and show exhibitions. They may be on the shorter side of the spectrum, however, they are stout and far sturdier than they appear.

9. Clydesdale

Clydesdale horse and its colt in pasture

Clydesdales may not be what first comes to mind when discussing beginner horse breeds, however, do not count them out! This large draft horse breed is not as intimidating as it may appear to some.

Clydesdales have an extremely calm disposition despite their large size, making them very easy to train.

Many beginner riders even find that they feel more secure riding a Clydesdale horse as opposed to a smaller horse breed.

Clydesdales can stand anywhere from 17 to about 18 hands high, noticeably higher than many horse breeds on this list. They are often utilized for trail riding, carriage rides, parades, and harness exhibits at fairs and other shows.

10. Norwegian Fjord

Norwegian Fjord horse

The Norwegian Fjord horse is a great beginner horse breed thanks to its docile temperament and good nature.

This breed is known not only for its excellent demeanor but also for its gorgeous pale colors, prominent neck, and standing mane.

Norwegian Fjord horses are ideal for beginners of all ages because they truly seem to enjoy being around people and they want to learn. The Norwegian Fjord horse breed is trustworthy as a whole and is often used in equine therapy.

Norwegian Fjord horses are short, around 13 to just a little over 14 hand tall, however, they are a stocky breed. They are used all over the world for jumping events, farm work, trail riding, and driving wagons. 

11. Gypsy Vanners

Gypsy Vanners galloping on a summer

The Gypsy Vanner horse is a small draft horse breed that is known for its gorgeous piebald color and gentle nature. It is a solid option for beginner riders, especially if Clydesdales seem a little too tall.

This horse breed produces horses that are smart, trainable, and very loyal to riders. Gypsy Vanner horses are very stocky and provide safe, steady rides for beginners.

Gypsy Vanners can reach up to 16.2 hands tall, noticeably shorter than the Clydesdale. This may make the breed slightly more appealing to those who find the latter just a bit too tall, but otherwise agreeable.

Like other draft breeds, Gypsy Vanners are used often for harness events, dressage, and farm work.

12. Haflinger Horse        

Haflinger Horse standing near a cliff

Haflinger horses make excellent beginner horses because they are gentle-natured and have extremely sturdy builds. They are small, yet stocky horses that have more than earned their place on this list of best beginner horses.

Haflinger horses are utilized in many different avenues including draft work, endurance riding, harness work, dressage, and even equine therapy. They are bred specifically to have calm demeanors, solid statues, and to be versatile in usage.

This breed generally produces horses that fall somewhere around 13.2 to 15 hands tall as adults.

A Haflinger horse’s sturdy body composition and innately friendly personality make it ideal for beginners.

13. American Saddlebred

dark brown American Saddlebred galloping outside

The American Saddlebred horse rounds out this list of best horse breeds for beginners thanks to its longstanding notoriety as a trustworthy and loyal equine companion.

American Saddlebred horses are a trotting horse breed that dominates the show ring in a variety of classes including jumping and dressage.

This breed typically stands around 15.1 to 16.3 hands when fully grown. The American Saddlebred horse breed has a penchant for learning and an eagerness to please riders.

Beginner riders often find that the American Saddlebred horse is an absolutely perfect option for entering the exquisite world of horse riding.

Here is a quick look at the best horse breeds for beginners:

BreedHeight
(hands)
Sport Specialties
American Paint Horse14-16Roping, Barrel Racing, Cow Cutting
Morgan Horse14.1-15.2Pleasure Riding, Reining, Dressage, Working
Thoroughbred14-17Dressage, Racing, Polo, Show Jumping
American Quarter Horse14-17Barrel Racing, Roping, Cutting, Western Pleasure
Tennessee Walking Horse14.3-17Pleasure Riding, Pleasure Shows, Endurance Sports
Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse11-14.1Pleasure Riding, Endurance Sports
Missouri Fox Trotter Horse14-16Cutting Events, Rodeo Sports, Pleasure Riding
Arabian Horse14.1-15.1Endurance Riding, Horse Races, Pleasure Ridiing
Clydesdale14-16Trail Riding, Parades, Carriage Pulling
Norwegian Fjord13.1-14.2Jumping Events, Trail Riding, Wagon Driving
Gypsy Vanner13-16Dressage, Harness Events, Draft Work
Haflinger Horse13.2-15Draft Work, Dressage, Harness Shows, Equine Therapy
American Saddlebred15.1-16.3Dressage, Jumping, Show Ring Events

Final Thoughts

There is not a perfect horse breed for beginners just as there are no perfect new equestrians.

Thankfully, there are several best horse breed options for beginner riders.

There is no doubt that each and every beginner rider can find the best horse breed for themselves within this list. 

Resources:

Researching the best beginner horse breeds is a truly educational experience. Here are the sources used to write this post.

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