Getting your first horse is a very exciting time. Nevertheless, it can be a very confusing one! No matter what furry, hairy or scaly friend you decide to invite into your life, it’s a huge responsibility.
With horses especially, there’s so much to think about – most of all, which horse is right for you. This article is all about the best horse breeds for beginner riders.
What Makes a Good Starter Horse?
Let’s clear something up straight off the bat — qualities that make up a good starter horse aren’t really dependent upon the breed. Some horse breeds are touted for their intelligence, docile temperaments, and trainability but these are only generalizations.
Breeds aside, every horse is unique and has its own temperament, personality, and quirks. You are not guaranteed to have either a good or bad experience with any horse, no matter what you’ve heard about particular breeds.
This is why it’s so important to get to know the horse, not the breed before you make any decisions. The breed should always be the last thing you take into account when acquiring a horse.
For beginner equestrians, you’ll want to look for a horse that’s calm, friendly, easy-to-train, and has experience being ridden. For these reasons, an older horse is more likely to be suitable for a beginner, as it already “knows the job”, so to speak.
Things to Consider When Buying/Adopting Your First Horse
In addition to the horse’s overall temperament and personality, there are a few other factors to consider.
- Health status – Make sure a vet has done a thorough check of the new horse before you buy/adopt him. The overall health of the horse is a crucial factor to consider.
- Rideability – Ask to take the horse for a ride before you commit to anything. This is the best way to know if you’re a good match for each other.
- Seller – Know who you are buying/adopting from. Try to find out as much as you can about the seller to ensure they’re reputable. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people will varnish the truth or hide issues just to make a sale. Ask for the horse’s registry papers and health records, too.
Am I Ready For My First Horse?
This is one of the biggest questions new horse owners ask themselves. To figure out if horse ownership is a good idea for you right now, ask yourself these questions:
- “Can I afford it?” – Remember that horse care doesn’t come cheap. There’s food, tack, housing, farrier and vet bills to consider.
- “Do I have the time to commit to a horse right now?” – Looking after a horse takes a lot of time, energy and dedication. If you’re not sure you can find the time to commit to a horse, you might want to postpone acquiring one for the time being.
- “Do I have a good support system?” – Being part of a horse community can be invaluable to new horse owners just starting out. More experienced equestrians will be able to support you and help you out with any worries or concerns.
- “Am I doing it for the right reasons?” – If you’re not truly passionate about horses and riding, it’s unlikely to work out. Carefully consider your reasons for getting a horse and make sure it’s truly what you want at this point in your life.
Best Horse Breeds for Beginner Riders
So, you’ve made the decision to buy or adopt your first horse. Congratulations! Now, let’s explore some popular and common choices for beginner riders.
The horse breeds below are generally known for their trainability and good temperaments. Just remember that these are only generalizations and nothing is guaranteed. This is also far from an exhaustive list.
Irish Draught Horse
No prizes for guessing which horse family the Irish Draught comes from! Draught horses have often been used as pullers throughout history. They were used to pull carts, carriages and have on occasion even served as battle horses.
Other draught horse breeds include the Clydesdale, Percheron, Friesian, and the horse world’s gentle giant, the Shire Horse. Due to their history as working horses, draughts, in particular, have developed a reputation for hardiness and endurance. They are also well-liked for their solid work ethic.
Irish Draughts are strong, powerful, have a smooth gait and they stand between 15.1 to 16.3 hands high. They are also noted for being willing, patient, and gentle in temperament. These traits make them a popular choice for beginner riders. Irish Draughts make wonderful, loyal companions to dedicated owners.
Welsh cobs have their place in history as all-rounders. They were used to pull carriages in cities, work on farms and as cavalry horses. Its ancestor is the Welsh Mountain Pony and the Welsh Cob itself has been around since the middle ages.
There are four similar breeds in the ‘Welsh Pony and Cob’ group. They are the Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A), Welsh Pony of Riding Type (Section B), Welsh Pony of Cob Type (Section C) and the Welsh Cob (Section D). Welsh ponies often make great first horses for children due to their smaller size.
To be classified as such, the larger Welsh Cob (Section D) must be a minimum of 13.2 hands high in the U.S. Cob breeds are, in general, small to average in height. Many Welsh Cobs turn out to be a good fit for beginners due to their surefootedness, friendliness and intelligence.
American Quarter Horse
The American Quarter Horse is an incredibly popular breed. They were bred from Thoroughbreds and other horse breeds of Spanish origin. American Quarter Horses come in a variety of colors — there are 17 possible colors recognized by AQHA. Some come with white markings on their legs and faces.
Physically, American Quarter Horses are muscular, robust and sturdy. The head shape is slightly similar to that of the Arabian Horse but much less dished and distinctive. This breed is known for its agility, intelligence and trainability, which makes it a common choice for beginner riders.
American Paint Horse
As well as being strikingly beautiful with their splashy coat patterns and colorings, American Paint Horses make excellent beginner horses. Like the American Quarter Horse, they descend from Spanish conquistadors and share ancestry with Thoroughbreds.
Paint Horses’ coloring consists of white and one other color. Common Paint Horse colors include sorrel, bay and chestnut. The coloring and markings add an extra layer of individuality to Paint Horses because their markings are all different in size and style. If you go for a Paint Horse, you’ll have chosen a truly unique companion.
They are generally considered docile, amicable and trainable, making them another wonderful choice for beginners. Paint Horses are also well-liked by experienced riders and are regularly used in horseracing and showjumping.
The Icelandic Horse’s ancestors were the horses of Norse settlers who came to what is now Iceland between AD 860 and 935. The Icelandic Horse as we know it today has not changed, so it is the ultimate pure breed. It is the size of a pony, standing at 12.2 and 13.2 hands but officially it is a horse.
Similar to the Shetland Pony, the Icelandic Horse is small in size yet steadfast and has retained all of the courage and hardiness of its ancestors. It is more than capable of carrying adult riders. It is also an exceedingly beautiful breed with a long, thick mane and gentle facial features. In winter, its coat grows longer, fluffier and shaggier.
These rugged yet gentle souls are popular with beginners due to their reputation for being patient, stoic and able to confidently navigate all different types of terrain.
Best Horse Breeds for Beginner Riders: Sum-Up
- The breed should be way down the list of priorities when it comes to deciding if you and a horse are going to be a good fit for each other.
- Suitability for beginner riders is not determined by breed. We can make generalizations based on the attributes of different breeds only.
- When picking out a horse, always consider first its temperament, history, health condition and the reputability of the seller.
- If you have a preference for a certain breed, there are plenty to choose from. Popular choices for beginner equestrians include the American Quarter Horse, the American Paint Horse, the Irish Draught, the Welsh Cob and the Icelandic Horse. There are many other breeds that find a forever home with beginners every day!
Best Horse Breeds for Beginner Riders: Final Thoughts
The only one who can judge the best horse or breed for you is — you guessed it — you! As long as you’re willing to do your research into your new equine friend and have a real passion for horses, there’s no reason why you can’t look forward to a wonderful bond and a lifelong of friendship with your horse.
We hope that this post has been helpful and thanks, as always, for stopping by! Here’s wishing lots of great times and wonderful memories made with your new best buddy.