Best Horse Breeds for Beginners

Best Horse Breeds for Beginners. The Best Horses for First-Time Owners and Riders. Expert Recommendations.

If you are looking for your own horse and are wondering what the best horse breeds for beginners are, this article is going to break down which horses are best.

The actual breed of the horse is not the most important factor when looking for a beginner-friendly horse. The most important aspect is how well the horse has been trained and its temperament.

tips for first time horse owners

We will also cover some of the important things you should consider when you go to purchase a horse. Don’t just rush and buy a horse as there are many factors to consider.

Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Horse

Ask yourself some questions to help you get steered on the path toward finding the best horse breeds for beginner riders.

  • What is your experience level? 
  • How many years of experience do you have working with horses, riding, etc.? 
  • What is the quality of this experience? 
  • What are your goals and plans with your horse?
  • Do you have an emergency and care plan in place for your horse?

The reason you need to be honest with yourself about these questions is that most people if asked will tell you they “have horse experience” when they really don’t.

things to know before you buy a horse

How Much Do You Know About Owning a Horse? 

Many people say they feel comfortable taking care of a horse until you learn they only went to summer camp at a horse barn once as a child 25 years ago. 

There is nothing inherently wrong with this other than you could be setting yourself up for disaster if you have no real horse experience.

Educate Yourself Before You Buy a Horse

You need to educate yourself or find additional help and guidance before you buy a horse! Reading this article will get you off to a good start!

Don’t worry about wherever you are starting. Everyone starts somewhere, but finding good education and resources are important first steps! 

If you don’t have a horse trainer you can work with there are many horse educational sources available on the internet. Some have a fee but many are free.

Find a Horse Trainer to Work With

If you plan on working with a trainer, have them guide you through the purchase process. 

how to find a horse trainer

Each individual horse is going to be different along with the variety of disciplines you can ride and show in.

Seek out local horse clubs to join or visit local horse boarding facilities. This is a great way to learn. Many of these organizations look for volunteers to help tend the horses.

Make sure you have a qualified horse professional who is knowledgeable and reputable in the discipline or breed you are interested in. 

Things to Look For in a Beginner-Friendly Horse

Finding a beginner-friendly horse can be a real challenge because they are always in demand! 

Many people refer to fantastic children’s horses as “worth their weight in gold,” or even “unicorns” because of how rare it can be to find.

A truly excellent, well-trained horse for a beginner will be in high demand and expensive.

What to Look For in a Horse

The first thing to look for in an ideal choice for a beginner is a gentle disposition and even temperament. 

When you are dealing with a beginner equestrian you want a horse that is not going to be bothered by really, anything. 

Finding an Older Horse is Smart 

They have “life experience” as all of my previous trainers used to say. These horses give the ability for novice riders to gain experience without worrying too much about their horse.

are older horses better for beginners

Having a versatile horse is another plus, but not necessary for a beginner.

Another aspect of a great beginner’s horse is a horse with an extremely smooth gait. This gives you the ability to learn how to sit on a horse and maintain and gain balance and feel. 

Both of which are essential to growing as an equestrian. 

Best Horse Breeds for Beginners

Beginner riders need to understand that every horse is an individual and different and each horse also has a different level of training. 

worst horse breeds for beginners

The best horses for a first horse or horse for a beginner are included in this list, but disposition and training are generally much more important than the breed.  

American Quarter Horse

The AQHA quarter horse is one of my all-time most favored breeds. 

I grew up showing Quarter horses my entire youth career. 

They have proven to me to be some of the calmest demeanor, gentlest, fastest learning, and most versatile breeds imaginable. 

They are typically average-smaller size than a lot of other breeds, but this depends on the breeding and lineage of the horse, and the same goes for the “style” of quarter horse you see. 

They are beautiful horses and are used in everything from barrel racing to dressage and even driving. All in all, the quarter horse makes excellent beginner horses.

American Paint Horse

Paint horses are a close second in my mind to a quarter horse. They have practically the same temperament but tend to have slightly different mindsets. 

Paints are stunning and exhibit wild color patterns across their coats. They are a great choice for just about any rider no matter what your goals are.

Gypsy Vanner Horse

The Gypsy Vanner is a beautiful, small-sized horse that is used by many for dressage, jumping, saddle seat, eventing, trail riding, and driving. 

They generally have a very calm temperament and love being handled and worked on. 

They do require a lot more grooming and maintenance than other breeds, but their beauty and grace make up for it. 

They are very similar in body style to a light draft or draught style horse and have the beautiful, thick mane, tail, and feathering of a Friesian with the coat coloration of a pinto. 

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse

The Kentucky saddle horse is a beautiful horse breed that is closely related to the Tennessee walker. Both of which are gaited horses. 

They are an ideal choice for anyone with back problems as they are very smooth for the rider. 

The Kentucky saddle horse has a friendly and happy disposition, and they were originally bred for not only horseback riding but also farm work. 

They have a gentle nature and make an excellent choice for a trail-riding horse.

Morgan Horse

The Morgan horse is a beautiful breed that is used for both English and Western disciplines. 

They have higher levels of energy than quarter horses or paint horses, so they are considered mid-tempered horses. 

Many Morgans may need more experienced riders, but there are a plethora that have been used as young children’s horses and have been exceptional at taking care of their kids. 

This is another situation of “it depends on the horse.” Morgans are also well known for being a really smooth ride even though they are not gaited horses.

Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking horse also called a “walker” is a breed developed in the United States as a southern plantation riding horse and other ranch work.

They are known for their kindness, calm demeanor, and fancy-gaited movements. 

They are an ideal choice for an older beginner due to how smooth they are, along with coming in all sizes and colors imaginable. 

Arabian Horse

The Arabian is an exquisite horse that is considered an “exotic” breed of horse.

They are well-known for being one of the most popular breeds of horses of all time. 

They are even a foundation breed! This means that many of the breeds we see today are descended directly from the three main Arabian-bred stallions from hundreds of years ago.

They were the Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian, and Godolphin Arabians. In the Middle Ages, these studs were imported to England. 

Arabians are known to have lots of energy and can be unpredictable at times. 

I have worked and shown in the Arabian industry for years and can tell you that while this is not factual, there are many Arabians that are as calm (if not calmer) as many of the other breeds. 

The good news is that you can find a very gentle-natured and well-trained Arabian for new riders. 

Icelandic Horse

Traditionally used for sheep herding in Iceland, these small and extremely hardy horses are great for farm work, trail riding, or pleasure riding. 

They are very sure-footed and athletic but are easygoing for beginners. 

The Icelandic is also well known to be a fairly forgiving horse when it comes to beginning riders.

They are often used for beach rides and tours where many beginners use them.

Welsh Cob

Originally bred in Wales in the UK, there are actually four different sections to the Welsh Cob/ Pony breeds. The sections within the breed are determined by the pony’s height and type. 

Section A – The smallest

Section B – Slightly taller than Section A, along with being refined enough for children’s riding and showing but not as common as the Section C pony for children.

Section C- The stockier Cob-style pony used for children’s riding and showing. 

Section D- The tallest and used for both riding and driving by both adults and children. 

All Welsh Cobs and ponies are known to have lovely temperaments and are extremely hardy horses with beautiful movement. 

Draft Horses

Draft horse breeds, despite their immense size, make great beginner horses. There are over 30 types/ breeds of draft horses.

They tend to be calm and quiet and are not bothered by too much. 

They can reach upwards of 19+ hands, so make sure you have the room and feed bill budget for one of these gentle giants. 

Many people duly ride and drive their draft horses. They are commonly also seen at fairs and parades. 

Drafts originally were used in farm work (check out the amazing Suffolk Punch) and still are used on many farms today around the world.

Missouri Fox Trotter

The Missouri Fox Trotter is a well-loved breed because it is known for being gentle, kind, and extremely easygoing. 

They are one of the best options for pleasure riding with their smooth gaits and easy-to-get-along-with attitude. 

They were originally bred for extreme farm work and various difficult tasks. 


Mustangs are great horses who are extremely versatile. 

Whether a Mustang horse is a good choice for a beginner is going to depend on what’s been done with the Mustang since its roundup and adoption. 

Mustangs are wild horses that need to be gentled and trained by an extremely confident and knowledgeable handler or trainer.

They are not a good choice for a beginner in my opinion. I only list them here because some people seem to think they could be good beginner horses because they come up for ‘adoption’.

After this process, Mustangs have gone on to do some of the most amazing things. Check out the Extreme Mustang Makeover that happens every year.

Thoroughbred Horses

Thoroughbreds are best known for being found at the race track. They are excellent running horses, but did you know that they are also good for many other things?

After a racehorse retires, they come off the track and are retrained and sold as riding horses. They are referred to as OTTB at this point. (Off the track thoroughbred.

For first-time owners, they can be an excellent choice if you are either working closely with a trainer or finding an older off-the-track thoroughbred that has been entirely retrained. 

what Horse Breed is not a good starter horse

They are extremely good horses and are very smart. Keep in mind they MUST be trained very well though BEFORE you should ever consider a Thoroughbred.

Thoroughbreds are athletic yet great for pleasure riding and perform well in almost every type of equestrian sport.

Shetland Pony

The Shetland pony is one of the few pony breeds that would be a good idea for a small-sized beginner or child’s horse. 

Ponies tend to have slightly sharp attitudes, but the Shetland has been loved by many for ages due to their sweet personalities, lovely movement, trainability, and small size. 

If your child is looking into beginning horse riding, the Shetland may be the right breed for you.

Unfortunately, they cannot accommodate larger riders, so make sure that you or your child is the right size and weight for the pony before purchasing any breed of pony.

Connemara Pony

The Connemara is another breed of pony that has a great temperament. 

The Connemara is also one of the largest pony breeds out there, with some growing beyond the allotted pony size. 

They are very versatile and love to be worked. 

American Saddlebred

The American Saddlebred is most known for saddle seat, driving, halter, and gaited classes.

They are a mix of a few different breeds in their lineage such as the Morgan, the Canadian Pacer, and even the Thoroughbred. 

They can be hotter-tempered horses and may need a more experienced rider or a beginner who is riding and training with a trainer. 

If you have absolutely no experience this breed may not be the best choice, but there are many Saddlebreds that are ridden, handled, and shown by children.

Appaloosa Horses

The Appaloosa or “Appy” for short is a gorgeous, spotted, and patterned horse similar to the Quarter horse or Paint. 

The Appaloosa’s ancestors arrived in North America with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1600s. The Nez Pierce people took a great love for these horses.

They cultivated a strict breeding process to create horses that were beautiful, colorful, blended into the countryside, and that was extremely intelligent along with easy to train. 

They are a great choice for beginners and come in a variety of body styles from the horses you see at the Appaloosa breed shows.

These horses resemble quarter horses all the way to stocky baroque-styled horses.

Dutch Warmblood

The Dutch Warmblood is a large, beautiful horse well-known for its grace and free movement.

They are commonly used for dressage, jumping, and driving, but were originally bred for farm work. These horses are generally used for high-level competition but also enjoy a trail ride. 

Each warmblood has a different temperament and will require a different level of rider. 

If you are looking to get into dressage or jumping a warmblood of any type would be one of your best options. 

If you are a beginner it is advisable to look for a trainer to work with and help you shop for your warmblood. 

The Best Beginner Horse Breed is Subjective

The question of the best horse breed for a beginner should actually be the question, of what is the best horse for me and my experience level. The breed is not the most important factor, training is.

Thank you for joining me to discuss some of the best horse breeds for beginners. I hope this article was helpful and aided you in finding the perfect horse for you! 

Sometimes, it takes time to find the right horse. With a knowledgeable trainer, educating yourself, and knowing what you want to find in a horse will expedite the process.

It is key to take your time thus ensuring you are going to get a horse that works well with and for you.

What are the Best Horse Breeds for Beginners

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