There are more than 350 breeds of horses and ponies, but a few stand out as popular favorites. Five particular breeds and five general horse categories capture the hearts of horse lovers everywhere.
From working and racing to casual riding and equestrian competition, each horse has its special qualities. These horses typically have versatile abilities and good demeanors. They can be used for pleasure riding and competition, and many of them are suitable for first-time horse owners.
American Paint Horse.
The American Paint Horse is closely related to the American Quarter Horse, and a simplified version of its history is that some owners continued to breed these attractive animals when their distinctive patterns were declared as making them ineligible for registration as Quarter Horses.
This means they share many of the characteristics of American Quarters – as well as Thoroughbreds – but also have a coloring that is, to some people at least, highly attractive.
Like Quarters, they are popular as rodeo horses and are regularly used for western riding disciplines. Their bodies and temperament are similar to the Quarter Horse, and they are also commonly used as stock horses on ranches.
As a result of its physical prowess, its usefulness and its attractive appearance, it is unsurprising that this breed has gone on to become one of the most popular in North America.
The Friesian is officially a draft horse from the Netherlands, although for a working horse of this type, it has a relatively slight frame. It is an elegant and agile horse with a docile temperament, making it a versatile beast that has many uses, both in harness and under saddle.
Friesians are commonly found pulling carriages, both competitively and recreationally, but they also excel in competition, particularly dressage. Due to their handsome, charismatic appearance combined with their calm nature, they are also commonly used in TV and cinema. They have a suitably impressive look for the camera but are usually unflustered by the commotion commonly found on set.
For these reasons, they are a popular breed the world over – especially in the Netherlands, where they account for around seven percent of the country’s horses.
American Quarter Horse.
Embraced by beginners and professional equestrians all around the world, the American quarter horse is famous for its agility, docility, and athleticism. Originally bred during the 1600s from English and Spanish thoroughbreds crossed with local breeds such as the Native American Chickasaw horse, it has the largest breed registry in the world. These horses are shining stars on the trail and in the show ring.
Appaloosas are among the most popular of North America’s horse breeds, and they are also one of the most distinctive. This is because they are one of the few breeds that can show leopard complex patterns, and many of these horses display attractive and unique combinations of spots.
This breed is descended from the horses brought over to the Americas by the Spanish. Those animals were then selectively bred by the Native American Nez Perce tribe to become a type of horse that was particularly well suited to hunting.
Nowadays, they are known for their strength, speed and stamina, and they are most commonly used for western riding disciplines as well as for trail riding.
Draft horses are cold-blooded, heavy horses known for doing work pulling heavy loads. Historically, they were also used in battle to carry the weight of heavily armored soldiers. These horses have thick coats and manes that enable them to endure cold weather, and they’re not easily spooked. The Clydesdale, Percheron, Shire, and Belgian are some popular examples of these gentle giants. In addition, draft horse crossbreeds can be ideal first horses, as they’re often docile and loving.
The Tennessee Walker is best known for its unique four-beat running walk, which has the same footfall pattern as a regular walk but that allows the horse to move much faster.
The breed is a popular show horse, appearing in a wide range of events, and it is also commonly used for trail riding.
Aside from its success as a show horse, it is appreciated for its calm disposition, its smooth gait and its sure-footedness, all of which make it useful on a range of terrains as well as being a suitable horse for relative beginners.
This breed has its origins in the southern United States, hence the name, and was originally used on plantations and for farm work.
The Andalusian Horse, also known as the Pure Spanish Horse or the PRE, standing for pura raza española in Spanish, takes its name from the region of Andalusia in the south of Spain. It’s another ancient breed and is descended from the Spanish warhorses of the 15th century – and the modern horse is thought to have changed little in the intervening years.
It is an elegant, handsome breed with a long mane and tail, and they are docile and intelligent, making them relatively easy to keep and look after.
They are prized for their agility and responsiveness and are commonly encountered in disciplines such as dressage, showjumping and driving, in which they excel. Earlier uses for this breed include working as stock horses and as mounts for picadores in bullfighting.
Despite their many desirable traits and their attractive appearance, there are thought to be fewer than 200,000 Andalusians in the world, so while they are undoubtedly a popular horse, they are not counted among the most numerous.
Thoroughbreds are the most popular racing horse in North America. This breed is considered a “hot-blooded” horse, which means it’s known for its agility, speed, and spirit. It’s a fine multipurpose horse that often has a career in other equestrian competitions besides racing, such as dressage and jumping. Or it simply lives its life as a companion animal kept for pleasure riding.
The Arabian Horse is one of the oldest breeds in the world and is descended from the horses bred in the harsh climate of the Arabian Peninsula hundreds of years ago.
Back then, Bedouin tribesmen would take their horses into their tents at night to keep them safe. This meant a cooperative temperament, an ability to form close bonds with humans and a willingness to live in close proximity with people were essential traits – and these characteristics also make them a popular choice today.
At the same time, these horses were bred for intertribal warfare and raids, so they are also intelligent and spirited animals, which means they are less recommended for inexperienced owners.