Horse Breeds And Types

The 7 Best Horse Breeds For Beginners

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Ever wondered what horse breed is best for a new rider? From the Quarter Horse to the Connemara, join us as we navigate the equestrian world to find your perfect four-legged partner.

As a rider just getting started you may be wondering what the best horse breeds for beginners are. Maybe you want to lease a horse or someday buy a horse of your own, or maybe your just plain curious.

If I had to choose the best breeds for beginners based on stereotypes I would say Quarter Horse, Paint, Missouri Fox Trotter, Norwegian Fjord, Irish Draught, Gypsy Vanner and Connemara.

What Is The Best Horse For A Beginner?

The best horse for beginners is a well trained, well mannered schoolmaster who gaits are not too bouncy or choppy. Yes that is not a breed. But it’s more important that the horse is experienced, easy to ride and has a calm enough temperament, than the horses actual breed.

Related post: 19 Capable Horse Breeds For Plus-Size Riders

The Best Horse Breeds For Beginners?

Quarter Horse

File:Roan.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

The Quarter Horse is claimed to be “The most popular horse in the world”. Over 3 million Quarter Horses are registered with the American Quarter Horse Association.

Quarter horses got their name for racing on a quarter mile and being the fasted horse to run that quarter mile.

Origin: USA

Height: Stands around 14.3-16 Hands

Color: Comes in almost any color.

Temperament: Quarter horses typically have excellent temperaments and are very intelligent. They tend to be calm and reliable.

Type of Riding: They are all around horses but ideal for western riding, trail and hunters.

Movement: Quarter horses are fast, maneuverable and well balanced. They have muscular hind quarters that allow them to sprint, stop and turn quick. They tend to have shorter strides.

Looks: Quarter horses have large expressive eyes, a wide forehead and jaw smallish heads. There hind legs are especially muscular looking and there withers tend to be hardly noticeable. Muscular thighs and gaskins. Hocks tend to be set low and cannon bones short.


File:Overo2.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Paint and Pinto are different. Paint is a breed, while Pinto is a color. The American Paint Association registers horses with Paint, Quarter horse and Thoroughbred registration papers. The word Pinto came from the Spanish word pintado meaning “painted.”

Originally paints were unwanted horses in the equine industry. In 1960 a group of Cowboys officially names the breed the Paint Horse. Paints are the second most popular breed after the Quarter Horse.

Origin: USA

Height: Stands around 14-17 Hands

Color: Two types of coloring Ovaro and Tobiano. Ovaro is colored base coat with white splashed on it. Tobiano is white base coat with color splashed onto it.

Temperament: The Paints temperament tends to be similar to Quarter horses from which most are related to. Generally they are intelligent and have great temperaments.

Type of Riding: They are also all-around horses but work most often in western riding.

Movement: Paints often have a smooth gait and quick acceleration like there quarter horse brothers and sisters.

Looks: Other than the striking pinto color. There is a lack in consistency in type and size. But characteristic looks can be similar to either quarter horse or thoroughbred or a mix of both.

Video About Quarter Horses:

Missouri Fox Trotter

File:Missouri Fox Trotter walach.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

The Missouri Fox Trotter was developed in the Missouri Ozark Mountains of the United States. These horses were surefooted and easily navigated the rugged mountain terrain. They were used to haul logs, work cattle, plow and bring people here and there. They got there name for there smooth 4 beat gait.

Origin: USA

Height: Stands around 14-16 Hands

Color: Comes in all colors.

Temperament: Missouri Fox trotters are known to be gentle and good for beginners.

Type of Riding: They are commonly worked as family and pleasure horses. But they have been known to be shown jumping, western, gymkhana and trail riding.

Movement: They can do the fox trot and the flat footed walk as well as the canter. The fox trot gait is when the horse walks in front and trots behind. The flat footed walk is a 4 beat gait with a steady equal cadence front and back.

Looks: Missouri Fox Trotters tend to have plain but intelligent looking heads. Hind legs are well under body and tend to be muscular. Body is usually wide with strong shoulders. Breed is known for excellent hooves.

Video About Missouri Fox Trotters:

Norwegian Fjord

Horse Norwegian Fjord - Free photo on Pixabay

The Fjord goes back to Viking times. They were taken in long boats to Scotland’s western isles and Iceland. These horses were bred throughout Scandinavia, but mostly Norway. They have been imported to Germany, central Europe. There endurance and hardiness is highly valued.

Origin: Norway

Height: Stands around 13.2-14.2 Hands

Color: The most common color is brown dun: a pale yellow-brown coat. But Fjords also come in white dun, yellow dun, red dun and gray dun. They are known for the black or brown dorsal stripe that goes throughout there top line as well.

Temperament: They generally have good temperaments. It has been said they can have a will of their own but hearing from owners of Fjords and knowing of a riding school that uses exclusively fjords. I have heard they are reliable and very kind.

Type of Riding: They are actually very good driving horses as well as riding horses. Great for children due to mild temperament and smaller size. But they are strong and can be used for plowing fields, pulling timber and heavy work. They are able to carry adults as well.

Movement: There gaits are elegant and collected, straight, natural 4 gaits. Fjord’s tend to be well-balanced at the walk, trot, and canter.

Looks: Fjords are small but mighty. They are thick and sturdy and look like a small version of a draft horse, but are quick and agile. They have a thick arched neck and a muscular build. They are also known to have good feet.

Video About Norwegian Fjords:

Irish Draught

Datei:Bridon Belfrey, RID, Irish Draught Stallion.jpg – Wikipedia

The Irish Draught is an easy keeper. They survived poverty and famine that had struck in Ireland.

However many were sent to slaughter because people couldn’t afford there horses during that time. Irish Draughts almost went extinct. But breed lovers worked with the Irish Horse Board to save the breed and bring them back.

They are now known for there docile nature, jumping ability, soundness and stamina.

Origin: Ireland

Height: Stands 15.2h and higher.

Color: Common color is grey but they come in bay, black, brown and chestnut as well.

Temperament: The Irish Draught is a willing worker, that is athletic and very reliable.

Type of Riding: Foxhunting, hunter/jumper, jumpers, eventing, dressage, and plowing, driving.

Movement: They have longer strides and are great jumpers.

Looks: Irish Drafts have enormous legs and and solid hooves. They have a large kind eye and carry there large proud looking heads with a graceful strong neck. They have a powerful forehand and an overall strong structure.

Video About Irish Draights:

Gypsy Vanner

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Gypsy Vanner Horse, Gypsy Vanner Cob and the Gypsy Drum Horse are some names the Gypsy Vanner is called by.

The Gypsy Vanner is a smaller draft type horse, and was created mixing Shires and Clydesdale with Dales and Fells ponies.

Gypsy Vanners do require more grooming than the average horse. As they have lots of hair that needs to be kept up with, to keep from mites or skin problems.

Origin: United Kingdom

Height: Stands around 14-15.2 Hands

Color: Gypsy Vanners can have any colors or Markings. And some come in pinto patterns.

Temperament: Gypsy Vanners have a docile quiet temperament. As far as horses go Vanners are pretty unflappable.

Type of Riding: They are great low level horses. Like low level dressage and jumping. A good family or trail horse. They are also used for driving of course as they would pull the Gypsy wagons.

Movement: There gaits are elegant and collected, straight, natural 4 gaits. Fjord’s tend to be well-balanced at the walk, trot, and canter.

Looks: Gypsy Vanners are muscular and compact. They have a lush mane and tail and beautiful feathered legs. But keep in mind the feathered legs make the Vanner prone to dermatitis and scratches. So it’s important to keep their legs clean.

Video About Gypsy Vanners:


File:Connemara mare02.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Connemaras are an old breed that lived in the rocky rugged wilds of the Irish mountains for centuries. They are known for there jumping ability and easy going attitudes. Some people think they became good jumpers by living on the rocky mountain slopes.

While the Irish Connemara tends to be pony size. After they were imported to America many Connemaras exceed 15h.

Origin: Ireland and the United Kingdom

Height: Stands around 13.2-15.1 Hands

Color: Grey, Dun, Brown, Bay, Black, and variations.

Temperament: They tend to have an exceptional good nature, especially for a pony. They are willing to work and easy to train.

Type of Riding: Connemaras are brilliant jumpers, tend to be english riding horse but are all arounders and make great mounts for children.

Movement: There gaits are elegant and collected, straight, natural 4 gaits. Fjord’s tend to be well-balanced at the walk, trot, and canter.

Looks: Connemara have a noble looking head with a fine long arched neck. They have big bones and there build is usually compact with short sturdy legs. They are known for having hard feet and being sure-footed.

Video About Connemaras:

Which Kind Of Horses Have The Best Temperament?

The breeds I mentioned all typically have excellent temperaments. Quarter horses tend to be calm but responsive. Connemara’s are level head and not as stubborn as other ponies.

Irish Draughts are easy-going love bugs but can be great sport horses and police horses because of there temperaments. Missouri Fox Trotters are comfortable to ride and great family horses.

Norwegian Fjords are known to have good temperaments. Paints are much like quarter horses calm, responsive forgiving. Gypsy Vanners are laid back and easy going.

What Horses Should You Avoid As A Beginner Rider?

You want to avoid untrained or green horses. Young horses without enough experience. Horses that have unbalanced or bouncy gaits. Horses that are spirited or high energy. Horses that are nervous or spooky. Horses that don’t do well in new situations. Horses that are barn or buddy sour.

Looking at breed stereotypes. I like to say stereotypes because I think any breed is fine as long as the horse meets all the checks for what makes a good beginner horse.

So stereotypes alone I would avoid Akhal-Teke, Arabians, and Thoroughbreds who tend to be very sensitive to signals, riders balance, contact with bit and riders emotions, as well as having an engine and lots of energy.

Haflingers, as cute as they are, and as good as some are, I have noticed a trend of bolting and spooking within the breed. I noticed Standardbreds have good temperaments for the most part, but they tend to be very bouncy and not easy to balance on especially at the trot.

Appaloosas are so so on this list. Some are great for beginners but Appaloosas can sometimes have a real attitude. I have found they seem to choose their people.

Are Warmbloods Good For Beginners?

I would not recommend a Warmblood to a beginner rider. Where Warmbloods often can be laid back and lazy, they also have a lot of athleticism, spring in there gaits that could unbalance a beginner and sometimes a good amount of spunk. I find Thoroughbreds are more energetic wanting to run, while Warmbloods are more up and down with their excitement.

What Breed Of Horse Has The Smoothest Gaits?

There are the gaited horses who tend to be pretty smooth. They move differently than a non-gaited horse, and they are very smooth even at faster speeds. These breeds include the Missouri Fox Trotter, the Spotted Saddle Horse, the Icelandic Horse, the American Saddlebred, and the Tennessee Walking Horse.

As far as horses with the normal 4 gaits, walk, trot, canter, gallop. Personally I have found Morgans tend to be smooth as a breed. I have ridden several smooth Paints, Appaloosas and Quarter Horses. I have also ridden a few smooth Thoroughbreds. That being said I have ridden choppy and bouncy Quarter Horses, Appaloosas, Paints and Thoroughbreds.

A lot of times it has more to do with the confirmation of the horse more than the breed. Conformation is the way the horse is structured and put together. A horse can have good or poor conformation overall and good or bad confirmation for different parts of the body.

What Is The Best Horse For A Child

Along with a good temperament, training and a forgiving attitude. I think it is important to make sure a horse isn’t too big for the child.

Especially because the child has potential to fall off. From the list of good horse breeds for beginners the Irish Draught would be too big.

The Norwegian Fjord, Gypsy Vanner and Connemara may be more on par for size, but the other breeds could work if they were on the smaller spectrum of the breeds.

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Cheers, Kacey

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Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
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4 thoughts on “The 7 Best Horse Breeds For Beginners”

  1. Interesting article. It’s good to know what might be best to get my girls started with riding…although at the stable I am sure we don’t really get to pick which horse we want for lessons. Any suggestions for that? Or go with what staff suggests? Thanks!

    • If you are taking lessons in a riding program you most likely won’t get to choose which horse you are going to ride. A good instructor will pair up the rider to a certain horse or pony based on the rider’s experience, size and what the rider is going to be practicing and learning. Breed is not the most important factor. For a beginner, you want a calm horse that is not easily startled, well trained, knows the rider’s signals, the right size for the rider and forgiving when the rider makes mistakes. Sometimes it helps to go watch some lessons at different barns and get a feel for how the instructor teaches, whether horse and riders seem to be matched well, how well the horses are cared for etc. Hope this helps!

  2. Hey I really liked this article. I am planning on doing riding lessons and I am 14 and I would like to do western horseback riding. What would I need to buy? And I am think about getting horse when I am older what would you recommend. I was thinking American paint or a a quarter horse what do you think?

    • Hi Lizzie,
      For western riding, I would recommend an ASTM/SEI approved helmet, Jeans that are comfortable and not too tight, cowboy boots meant for riding. Either paint or a quarter horse would be a good choice for western riding. When you are ready for a horse someday. The 3 main keys to finding a good horse are personality, soundness, and training. Training is more important when you are a less experienced rider. The less experienced you are the more experienced and well trained you want the horse to be. Soundness will affect what the horse is capable of doing. And personality for a beginner horse should be easy going, forgiving of mistakes and friendly.


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