The Best Horse and Pony Breeds for Kids

Children often dream of having a horse or pony. If you're able to make this dream a reality, consider the breeds that typically do best with kids. In general, a small horse or pony works well because its size isn’t as intimidating as its larger counterparts. And if your child falls, smaller horses are closer to the ground. Here are 10 horse and pony breeds suitable for children.

Tip

Although some breeds have more predictable temperaments, it ultimately comes down to the individual horse. Pick one that's docile, attentive, sure-footed, and familiar with riders of varying levels.

  • 01 of 10

    Shetland Pony

    Children feeding a Shetland pony

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    Shetland ponies are popular for children because of their diminutive size, durability, and fun personalities. However, despite their pint-size stature, this breed is very strong. Plus, some Shetlands are notoriously stubborn and might ignore commands from young riders. So a Shetland will still need supervision and training from an adult.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 7 hands (28 inches) to 11.5 hands (46 inches)

    Weight: 400 to 450 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact body; broad head; short legs; lush mane and tail

  • 02 of 10

    Welsh Pony and Cob

    Child riding a Welsh pony

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    Welsh ponies of all sizes can make good mounts for children. One could go from childhood to adulthood riding a small Welsh pony to a slightly larger Welsh cob. They are generally hardy, athletic, smart, and versatile animals. Moreover, you can train them to ride with Western or English saddles.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 11 hands (44 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 400 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small head; short back; high-set tail

  • 03 of 10

    Pony of the Americas

    Pony of the Americas

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    The pony of the Americas has the distinction of being a North American breed developed specifically for young riders. It resulted from a cross between an Arabian-Appaloosa mare and a Shetland stallion, which produced a small colt with a flashy coat pattern. It has the durability and athleticism of all three breeds.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 11 hands (44 inches) to 14 hands (56 inches)

    Weight: 450 to 950 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Wide forehead; muscular build; Appaloosa-like coat pattern

  • 04 of 10

    Miniature Horse

    miniature horse jumping

    Katherine Blocksdorf

    Miniature horses are fun to handle. Due to their small size, they aren't suitable for riding by anyone over 70 pounds. But a mini can be great for children to learn how to ride and take care of a horse. Minis also participate in competitions similar to dog agility courses.

    Breed Overview

    Height: Typically under 8.5 hands (34 inches) to 9.5 hands (38 inches)

    Weight: 150 to 350 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small, muscular build; many have similar proportions to larger horses

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    American Quarter Horse

    American quarter horse in a field

    Pixabay

    Although it's not a pony, the American quarter horse is an extremely popular family horse for its versatility and easygoing temperament. They aren't massive horses, averaging around 5 feet in height, which can work for an older child. And they are generally gentle and highly responsive, even for beginning equestrians.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular body; deep chest; small head with flat profile

  • 06 of 10

    Appaloosa

    Appaloosa horse in a field

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    Appaloosas are another full-size breed that can make a great horse for children. They're often chosen for children's mounts because of their gentle, level-headed temperament. They also are notoriously friendly and loyal horses, which makes for a devoted family companion. Plus, they're fairly easy to maintain, even for beginning equestrians.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Colorful coat patterns with mottled skin; striped hooves

  • 07 of 10

    Paint Horse

    Paint horse and foal grazing

    Mark Newman/Getty Images

    Paint horses are a full-size breed that has a strong mix of American quarter horse in their pedigree. Like the quarter horse, they typically have a calm, gentle temperament. They're also highly social, intelligent horses, which makes them easy to train. Overall, they tend to offer a reliable, well-balanced ride.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; deep chest; distinctive coat patterns

  • 08 of 10

    Morgan

    Morgan horse looking over a fence

     

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    Morgan horses are excellent family horses, especially for beginning riders. They are known for being highly cooperative and eager to please. And they generally love to socialize with their human family members. They also have a relatively small stature compared to other horse breeds, which is manageable for many children.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 950 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact build; short head; thick mane and tail

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    New Forest Pony

    Originating in the U.K., the New Forest pony has mixed with several breeds over the centuries. This has resulted in a hardy, friendly, and docile animal. These ponies tend to be trainable and eager to please. Their bodies are narrow enough even for a small child to ride (with supervision).

    Breed Overview

    Height: 12 hands (48 inches) to 14 hands (56 inches)

    Weight: 700 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact build; short neck and back; long head

  • 10 of 10

    Grade Ponies

    Grade pony being ridden by a child

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    The term "grade" in horse circles means the same as "mutt" in the dog world. A grade equine is a horse or pony without a known pedigree. And because pedigree doesn't guarantee a quality animal, a trustworthy grade pony with a fun personality is always a great option for children.

Breeds to Avoid

Certain high-energy horse breeds—including Arabians, saddlebreds, and thoroughbreds—are often not suitable for children. They have been bred to be active, alert, and sensitive to every little move of the rider. Of course, there are exceptions. However, it's best to choose a horse that's known to have a gentler temperament.