What Are the Best Breeds for First Time Horse Owners?

The best horse breeds for new riders
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Many people wonder if there is one best breed of horse for the beginner rider. While there is no one breed that is absolutely perfect for beginners, some are more suitable than others. Some breeds are more popular because they tend to have a quieter nature, and are less likely to out-think a beginner rider. But that doesn't mean that all horses of a particular breed are suitable. Here is a look at some of the most popular breeds and what does and does not make them ideal horses for beginners. While some breeds may be more suitable than others for a beginner rider, there are always exceptions to the rule.

American Quarter Horses

The American Quarter Horse is very popular with both English and Western riders. They are very versatile. Quarter Horses often make great beginner horses because of their even temperament. But even some Quarter Horses can be quite "hot" or energetic for a beginner. But, overall an American Quarter Horse is a good choice for a new rider. There is, after all, a reason why this breed is America’s favorite.

Horse on a Ranch
RichLegg / Getty Images

Arabians and Thoroughbreds

Arabians are reputedly hot. However, many are quiet and trustworthy. Likewise, Thoroughbreds, that are largely bred to be racehorses, aren’t always the best choice for a beginner. But of course, there are some that are quiet and steady and make great first horses. So even though these breeds are known to be more than most beginners can handle, there is always the exception. The individual temperament of the horse and its training are more important than its pedigree

Brown Arabian mare with colt galloping
Brown Arabian mare with colt galloping. Julia Moll / Getty Images

Draft Breeds and Draft Crosses

Many new owners like draft crosses and draft breeds. These horses often have a quiet demeanor that beginners and some older riders enjoy. These horses tend to be less spooky, more forgiving of a beginner’s mistakes and are generally quiet and steady. The downside of drafts and draft crosses is their size. Sometimes saddle fit and tack sizing can be difficult. For a rider with shorter legs or decreased flexibility, just getting on and sitting on a very large horse can be a challenge. The larger the horse the larger the feed bill as well.

Large horses, whether they be draft crosses or something like a leggy Thoroughbred may not be the best horse for youngsters who might be intimidated by their size or have trouble handling, grooming and tacking up a horse much taller than themselves. 

Clydesdale horse team on Churchill Isl, VIC
Clydesdale horse team. Australian Scenics / Getty Images

Gaited Horses

Many new owners and riders are attracted to gaited breeds like Kentucky Mountain Horses, Missouri Fox Trotter Horses, and Icelandic Horses. These horses are bred for good temperaments and hardiness. But, again, much depends on individual temperament and training. Some people think because you don't have to learn to post the trot, that they are easier to the rider. This isn't really the case. They may be better for those riders who have back pain and knee trouble. 

Running Icelandic Horse, galloping gelding, Germany
Icelandic Horse. Justus de Cuveland / Getty Images

A beginner rider is wise to choose a horse by its temperament and training, rather than focusing on breeding. Older horses of any breed tend to be more predictable than younger horses, and no matter what the breeding, a un-broke or 'project' horse is always unsuitable. Spend time with the horse, try it out and learn as much as you can about its manners, both on the ground and while you ride. This will give you a better idea of whether the horse is right for you, rather than basing your choice on a particular breed.

If you have your heart set on owning a horse of a particular breed, you may have to search harder for the right individual. Suitable beginner horses of almost any breed exist, you may just have to look a bit further and try out more horses before you find just the right horse for you.