black horse and two brown horses on a field

What Is the Best Horse Breed for Trail Riding?

Horseback trail rides are next-level fun – or are they? It depends. On what exactly? The steed you use for your ride!

Trails are uncertain territory for man and horse alike. Anything at all could happen. One minute, you’re peacefully cruising your way through a stream.

Another minute, the movement of a deer from behind the bushes is scaring the crap out of you.

Your horse will face challenges he hasn’t on the farm or in an arena. So, what’s the best horse breed for trail riding? There isn’t just one horse breed that fits the bill. Still, the best horse breed for trail riding will be calm, sure-footed, and have lots of endurance.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Horse Breed for Trail Riding

man kissing white horse

Trail horses come in all manner of shapes, sizes, and colors. So, you should know what you’re looking for when making a selection.

Here are some of the deciding factors when choosing the best horse breed for trail riding.


You want a horse that’s quiet and gentle. A tolerant horse will not easily snap or react aggressively to the least of distractions.

On the other hand, an aggressive horse or one that easily scares will probably give you a hard time on the trails.


Pretty looks count for little when choosing a horse for trail riding. 

You want a horse with short pasterns, lean muscle, good bone, and strong feet.

Again, the horse’s shoulders should slope well. He should be well muscled on the upper legs too.

A wither height averaging 14.3 and 16 hands is most desirable in trail-riding horses. That way, saddles fit well and stay in position.yAlso, if your horse is too tall, mounting and dismounting from it may come with challenges. eas


Geldings are very composed. So, they usually make excellent trail mounts.

A mare’s heat cycle, on the other hand, can make her difficult to handle.

However, it’s a matter of preference. What’s more important is the animal’s personality.

Whether mare or gelding, an easy-going and composed nature scores huge points when trail riding. Stallions on the other hand usually require expert management. They may not always make the best trail mounts.

Age and experience

A younger horse isn’t automatically better than an older one. For your trail rides, a horse that’s been there, done that is the best.

If you want to enjoy the trails from day one, then a seasoned trail horse is what you need.

Older doesn’t always mean experienced, though. A horse could be only 5 years old. Under his belt, he may have had a lot of trail miles. Go along with him rather than a 16-year-old one that has lived virtually all his life in the barn lot.

What Is the Best Horse Breed for Trail Riding?

Trail-riding abilities are not unique to any one breed of horse. A horse isn’t necessarily born a trail horse. 

Still, some horse breeds are born with conformational and personality traits that make them suitable for the trails.

These horses don’t scare easily, are gentle, courageous, and can get along well with other horses. They’re also agile and have smooth movements.

woman trail riding on a brown horse

Here are 7 horses that fit the mold of exceptional trail mounts.

1. Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse originated from America. The breed was developed somewhere in the late 18th century. 

It’s a composite breed derived from diverse breeds including the Canadian Pacer, Narragansett Pacer, Standardbred, Thoroughbred, and Morgan horse.

The horse generally weighs anywhere between 900 and 1200 pounds. Its height also ranges between 14.3 and 17 hands.

The Tennessee Walking Horse is naturally gaited. Therefore, if you’re thinking of very long-distance rides, you’ve got your breed.

The breed’s flat-foot walk and running walk are all four-beat gaits that’ll allow for a smooth and comfortable ride. This is especially important if you’re going to be riding over rough landscapes.

More importantly, the horse is strong, athletic, and has impressive endurance. The breed is calm and very easy to handle. For inexperienced or timid riders, the horse’s kind temperament will be refreshing on the trails.

2. Appaloosa

The Appaloosa traces its ancestry to wild mustangs that arrived with Spanish explorers in North America during the 1600s

The breed averages a weight ranging from 950 to 1200 pounds. Horses usually measure about 14 to 16 hands at the withers. The breed’s most distinctive feature is its spotted coat patterns across the body.

While not all Appaloosa’s gait, a gaited Appaloosa does a lateral gait. Here, the horse’s hind and front feet on the same side move together. It’s a four-beat gait that should contribute greatly to making your rides easier and enjoyable.

What’s more, the Appaloosa is agile, hardy, and sure-footed. The horse is also intelligent and full of courage.

Because the breed is generally gentle and obedient, it’ll make a reliable mount for your adventures.

3. Paso Fino

The Paso Fino is naturally gaited and remains one of the finest horses for trail riding.

The breed is native to Latin America, specifically Colombia and Puerto Rico. It is a composite breed evolving from the Spanish Jennet, Barb, and Andalusian horse.

The breed has an average weight of about 700 to 1000 pounds. It is also as tall as 13.3 to 14.2 hands.

The Paso Fino is widely considered “the smoothest riding horse in the world.” 

The horse features a special gait that’s rhythmic, calculated, and smooth. This unique four-beat, lateral ambling gait lets the horse soak up most of the motion in its back rather than the shoulders. The result is a pleasant riding experience you’ll enjoy.

What’s more, the Paso Fino is loyal and has a docile temperament. It is graceful, athletic, sure-footed, and has an amazing physical balance.

For your long trail rides, the Paso Fino will hardly disappoint.

4. Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic horse hails from Iceland. The horse was introduced into Iceland by the Vikings somewhere in the 9th century.

The horse stands at a height averaging between 13 and 14 hands. At an average weight of 730 to 840 pounds, the Icelandic horse looks much like a pony.

Because no other horse breeds are allowed into Iceland, the breed remains one of the purest in the world. This has been so for more than 1,000 years.

Plus, over this period, Icelandic horses have survived some of the harshest weather conditions and environments.

You’ll therefore find the breed exceptionally hardy as a result. And what better mount to use for trail rides than one that won’t be intimidated by strong winds, snowstorms, and rough terrains?

Icelandic horses have five gaits. Tölt and flying space are the two additions to the more popular gaits of walk, trot, and canter.

The tölt is a four-beat lateral ambling gait that allows for an exceptionally smooth and almost bounce-free ride at both low and fast speeds.

The horse has a relaxed disposition, lots of stamina, and is eager to please.

5. American Saddlebred   

man in black outfit preparing to take horse out for trail riding

The American Saddlebred was developed somewhere in the 1700s. The breed is a composite breed comprising the Thoroughbred, Narrangansett Pacer, and Morgan horse.

The horse averages a weight ranging from 900 to 1000 pounds. It also grows to a height of about 15 to 16 hands.

The American Saddlebred has an athletic build and is versatile. The horse will thrive in multiple equestrian disciplines. But it also makes an excellent mount for trail riding. 

It is agile, athletic, and has lots of stamina to navigate the longest and most difficult trails.

You’ll find riding on the American Saddlebred thoroughly enjoyable because it’s naturally gaited.

While some Saddlebreds can do only three gaits, others can do five! In addition to doing the animated walk, trot, and canter, five-gaited horses can perform the slow gait and rack. Both the slow gait and rack are four-beat ambling gaits that make rides on the horse slick!

A combination of intelligence, elegance, power, and friendly nature makes the horse ideal for trail rides.

6. Missouri Fox Trotter

The Missouri Fox Trotter was developed somewhere in the 19th century by settlers in the Ozark Mountains.

The horse is naturally gaited and will make an ideal mount for your trail rides. The horse generally stands at 14 to 16 hands and usually weighs between 900 and 1200 pounds.

The breed was built for strength and is solid. After all, this horse was developed by settlers to handle the challenges associated with working and living in the mountains.

You’re surely going to benefit from the horse’s amazing stamina levels when trail riding.

More importantly, the horse’s sure-footed movements make it a good option for trail riding.

Plus, the Missouri Fox Trotter has a distinctive four-beat ambling gait called the foxtrot. With the foxtrot, the front foot of a diagonal pair touches the ground shortly before the rear foot. 

Because the rear feet glide into or beyond the tracks created by the front feet, your riding experiences are bound to be smooth – even on rough terrain.

7. Morgan

As one of the very first breeds developed in the United States, the Morgan horse has played a key role in the development of some excellent trail-riding horses. These include the Tennessee Walking Horse and the American Saddlebred.

It isn’t therefore surprising that this horse is itself a tough competitor on the trails.

The horse stands at an average height of 14.1 to 15.2 hands. Also, it generally weighs between 900 and 1000 pounds.

What makes the Morgan an excellent trail horse is its strength. The horse sports a compact build with strong legs and a back that can carry the heaviest of loads.

Not all Morgan horses are naturally gaited. Still, the horse is footsure and reliable on the trails.

Because of the horse’s intelligent and endearing nature, they’re suitable for both experienced and inexperienced trail riders.

Final Thoughts

The best horse breed for trail riding will ensure your maximum comfort throughout your adventure. And because trail rides come with all sorts of challenges, you need a trustworthy horse breed.

You want a horse that’s relaxed, intelligent, fearless, strong, and full of stamina. The best horse breed for trail riding possesses all of these. And these qualities are what’ll determine whether or not you have fun on your trail rides.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and you have fun on the trails.