10 Best Horse and Pony Breeds for Kids

White Shetland Pony Grazing
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Children often dream of having a horse or pony. If you're planning to make this dream a reality for your child, certain breeds are a better fit for 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. Especially if a fall occurs from a miniature horse, it may not be as physically or mentally traumatic from two and a half feet off the ground.

Breed Characteristics

Ponies, cobs, and miniature horses are less than 14.2 hands or 58 inches from the ground to the withers or shoulder. Smaller-sized horses can also be the right fit for their shorter stature and trainability. They should be gentle, easy-going, and responsive to commands. Steer clear of breeds that spook easy or require experienced riders.

Tip

Although some breeds have more predictable temperaments, even more important than breed is evaluating the individual horse's behavior. Pick one that's docile, attentive, sure-footed, and familiar with riders of varying levels.

Here are 10 horse and pony breeds suitable for children.

  • 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 powerful. Some Shetlands are notoriously stubborn and might ignore commands from young riders. 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 suitable mounts for children. A child could advance from childhood to adulthood riding a small Welsh pony to a slightly larger Welsh cob. They are generally hardy, athletic, intelligent, and versatile animals. You can also 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

    The Spruce Pets / Katherine Blocksdorf

    Miniature horses are fun to handle. Due to their small size, they aren't suitable for bigger children. Generally, children over age 8 or more than 70 pounds can injure these horses. Minis are great for younger children learning 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

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    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. This breed works as a child's mount for their gentle, level-headed temperament. They also are friendly and loyal horses, a good choice for a devoted family companion. They're relatively 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

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    Paint horses are a full-size breed that has a potent 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, making them easier 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 blending has resulted in a hardy, friendly, and docile animal. These ponies tend to be trainable and eager to please. Their bodies are narrow enough for a younger child to ride.

    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. Since pedigree can'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 unsuitable for children. They are active, alert, and sensitive to every little move of the rider. Of course, there are always exceptions. However, it's best to choose a horse that's known to have a calm temperament. Draft horses are some of the gentlest horse breeds around; however, due to their massive size and specialty as driving and carting horses, they are not a wise option.