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10 Best Horse Breeds for Beginners & First Time Owners

The best horse breeds for beginner riders are calm, gentle, safe, and reliable with a hard-working attitude.

Learning to ride takes time. A novice rider needs to gain proper balance, requiring a horse that gives them confidence in the saddle and forgives their mistakes.

The horse is preferably neither too forward going or too slow and not easily spooked.

Although there is no perfect horse breed for first-time owners, some are more suitable than others because of specific characteristics.

The United Kingdom and Ireland might be small countries, but they have an incredible diversity of native horse and pony breeds, many of which are perfect for novices.

Here is our list of the best horse breeds for novice riders and aspiring owners:

10 Best Horse Breeds for Beginners & First-Time Owners:

Morgan Horse

Morgan horse breed running. An ideal horse breed for first time owners

The Morgan horse has a rich history, being one of America’s earliest horse breeds and now highly favored around the world.

Originally from New England, every single Morgan can trace their ancestry back to the stallion, Figure, owned by a schoolteacher called Justin Morgan.

Morgans stand an average of between 14.1 and 15.2 hands high and easily recognized by their small stature, graceful, upright necks, and well-muscled bodies.

Morgan horses are ideal for beginners because of their sweet, gentle natures and strong desire to please. They are also extremely forgiving as well as intelligent and easy to train.

The Morgan horse can do it all being favored in both English and western disciplines, trail riding, and carriage driving.

This breed adapts to just about any situation and is exceptionally healthy suffering from very few soundness issues.

As we mentioned in our horse lifespan guide, they’re also a breed which has a high average age.

Gypsy Vanner

Piebald Gypsy Vanner horse
nigel baker photography / Shutterstock.com

The Gypsy Vanner originated in Great Britain and Ireland, developed through selective breeding by the Romany Gypsies.

They required a horse that was strong enough to pull their caravans while being gentle when ridden and handled by children. Gypsy Vanner horses resemble a draft type animal with an average height ranging between 14 to 15.2 hands high.

Considered one of the most beautiful horse breeds, they can be seen in a variety of other coat colors and patterns.

Initially, the Gypsy Vanner lived as a member of the family, coping with the hazards of everyday life on the road. They are one of the kindest and patient horse breeds around who love the company of humans and rarely spook.

The incredible characteristics of the Gypsy Vanner make them perfect for riders and owners of all levels.

Known for their funny horse moustache, they are highly intelligent horses and versatile in a wide range of disciplines.

Perhaps the main reason why Gypsy Vanners are ideal for first-time horse owners if the fact they are a very hardy breed. Gypsy Vanners have a strong build and less likely to get injured or seriously hurt.

Combined with their quiet nature, they should cause their owners much less drama in comparison to other breeds.

American Paint Horse

American Paint horse breed
Lenkadan / Shutterstock.com

Known for their striking painted coat, the American Paint horse can be found at most Western and English horse shows, they.

Due to their lovely temperament and versatility, they are considered one of the best all-round horse breeds.

Although the American Paint horse isn’t particularly the best for beginner riders, they are wonderful horses for first time owners who can ride competently.

Connemara Pony

Connemara pony

The Connemara pony is native to an area in western Ireland where they were the backbone to many Irish farming families. Their exact origins remain uncertain but mainly influenced by Spanish and Scandinavian blood.

They are among the larger pony breeds with a height ranging from 12.2 to 15.2 hands high although the average height is 14 to 14.2 hands.

The Connemara pony has a gentle disposition and loves human interaction, making them easy to handle and train. Safe, sensible, intelligent, and patient, this hardy breed is a superb mount for both beginner adult and children horse riders alike.

Connemara ponies are incredibly athletic and versatile with a natural jumping ability and seen competing in all disciplines as well as trekking and hacking.

Welsh Cob

Welsh cob

The Welsh Cob is native to Great Britain, existing in Wales for many centuries. They evolved from the Section A Welsh Mountain pony, crossbred with larger breeds like Arabians, Hackneys and Thoroughbreds to create a sturdy animal.

The minimum height of the welsh Cob is 13.2 hands high, but there is no maximum height although they rarely exceed 15 hands.

The Welsh Cob is known for its carry capacity and initially used for farming, transportation and as a warhorse.

This hardy breed is intelligent and friendly that is gentle enough for children and beginner adults to ride, but with the ability to compete in different disciplines with a more experienced rider.

Because of their varied size range and calm nature, the Welsh Cob is found in many riding schools, being useful for different types of clients.

Shire Horse

Shire horse

The Shire horse, named after the British shires, where they originated, is the tallest horse breed in the world.

Being one of the tallest horse breeds, Shire horses range from 16 – 18 hands in height, although some reach 19 hands.

Bred for its strength and size, these gentle giants performed in battle, as farm horses and for pulling carts. The Shire horse is renowned for their kind, easy-going nature and is not easily spooked and rarely buck or rear.

The Shire is keen to please and perfect for use in riding schools as a weight carrier for larger horse riders over 250 lbs.

Irish Draught

Irish Draught horse

The Irish Draught originated around the 18th century and is the national horse breed of Ireland. However, its exact origins are uncertain but thought that the bloodlines include European draft and warmblood breeds crossed with lighter framed Spanish horses like Andalusians.

They became all-around horses carrying out farm work, pulling the cart to take the family to Sunday Mass as well as the owner’s mount in the hunting field.

Compared to other draft breeds, the Irish Draught is smaller standing between 15.1 and 16.3 hands with a lighter frame.

This Irish breed has incredible strength while possessing a kind, gentle and docile nature.

However, they are incredibly versatile with an impressive jumping ability and compete in all equestrian disciplines as well as for use in the mounted police.

Fjord Horse

Fjord horse breed

Strong and sturdy, Norwegian farmers used Fjord horse to pull heavy loads on their hilly farms. They are excellent weight carriers despite their small size. Fjord horses are friendly, gentle, and hard-working.

They are especially suitable for beginner riders as they forgiving to rider mistakes and have smooth paces making them comfortable to ride.

The Fjord is exceptionally versatile in many disciplines and range in height from between 13.2 and 15 hands high. Most around 14 – 14.2hh.

The Fjord horse is possibly the oldest and purest breed in the world, originating from Norway more than 4000 years ago.

90% of Fjord horses are brown dun with primitive markings that include the distinctive dorsal stripe across the back and zebra stripes on their legs.

Haflinger

Haflinger horse breed. A great horse breed for beginners

The Haflinger horse originated in Italy and Austria during the late 19th century, developed for transportation and farm work.

These beautiful horses have a chestnut coat color with a white or flaxen mane and tail. Their height ranges between 13.2 to 15 hands high.

Temperament is a significant part of the Haflinger breeding programs, and horses should have a kind and quiet nature. The Haflinger Registry accepts no aggressive or unkind horses.

Haflingers are very people orientated and do anything you ask. Calm, sensible, and steady they are ideal for first time owners, doing well in most disciplines at the lower levels.

American Quarter Horse

American Quarter Horse

The Quarter horse is the oldest horse breed in the United States, initially bred for sprinting short distances, and later as a working cow horse.

Today, they excel in just about every discipline imaginable with almost 3 million registered worldwide.

America’s favorite horse breed comes in three categories of Bulldog, Thoroughbred and Progressive, standing between 14 and 16 hands high.

Quarter horses are renowned for their laid-back personalities, being intelligent, safe and reliable. They are willing to take on any new task being extremely adaptable to changing situations.

Being one of the calmest horse breeds with a gentle disposition, they’re the most popular horse breed in America.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of horse is best for a beginner rider?

Cold-blooded horse breeds such as draft horses and cobs tend to be very calm and sensible, thus making them ideal for new owners.

Hot breeds such as Arabians and Thoroughbreds are generally too highly strung for an inexperienced rider to handle although there are exceptions.

What age horse is best for a first-time owner?

The best option is an older horse, preferably between the ages of ten and fifteen, although there are many horses in their twenties still going strong.

An older horse has more experience and training, being predictable in their behavior so they are more comfortable to ride for beginners.

A young horse is unbalanced, lacks experience and is unpredictable. They have less muscle and are still developing joints and bones so will be hindered if ridden by an inexperienced rider.

Should I buy a Stallion, Mare, or Gelding?

Stallions are most unsuitable for beginner riders as they can be temperamental and aggressive and are unpredictable. They can show undesirable actions like rearing, biting and mounting.

Mares can be moody during their heat cycles, although some are worse than others. There are though many sweet-natured mares that are perfect for the beginner rider.

Geldings make the best beginner riding horses as they are far calmer and reliable than a stallion or mare.

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Share your thoughts, or ask a question:
Comments 3

Comments

Maggie

Thursday 25th of February 2021

A good list! But I wish you added the Tennessee Walking horse. They have a smooth gait that can be good for people who haven't learned to balance on a horse yet, and they are extremely docile, gentle, and sweet. And can be a good therapy start for people who might be scared of horses. They're just amazing horses. But they're also one of the most mistreated horses in history. Unfortunately. :(

Mary

Monday 14th of December 2020

Are friesian horses good for beginners?

Lauren Wallace

Friday 27th of November 2020

yup! Fjords are a horse breed! not a pony one even though there Hight is small, that doesn't mean there a pony breed

John Guilbert

Friday 20th of November 2020

Glad to see that you did not have Arabians in this group as they are a hand full! Very spirited. We own an equestrian center (Nevis Equestrian Centre) in the Caribbean. Most of our horses are retired race horses (thoroughbreds from Puerto Rico) and once you get racing out of their heads they are a very reliable safe ride even for beginner riders.

Livia

Saturday 3rd of October 2020

Great recommendations!!! The only thing that confused me was, why a Fyord pony...I've seen a video of a little boy around 7, riding one and the pony slamming the boy into an eletric fence. Also, Pony's can be mean and have attitude. I would not recommend ponys for beginers, unless their old.

Betsy

Tuesday 17th of November 2020

Fjords are not ponies. They are horses, regardless of height. They are generally a calm ride. I don't think it's the least bit fair to judge an entire breed of horse based on a single video.

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