Follow our simple guide to help choose the best horse breeds for beginners and first-time horse owners.
If you’re starting out learning to ride or are looking to purchase your first horse, you might be wondering which breed of horse is the best match for you. There are many types and breeds of horses worldwide, all with very different characteristics.
The choice can be quite daunting, so how do you know which is the right breed for you? The good news is that different breeds all have different personality traits, so there is the right type of horse out there for all types of beginners and first-time owners.
Obviously, each horse is an individual, with its own personality and quirks. However, certain breeds are renowned for being calm and more suitable for beginner horse riders and first-time horse owners.
Best horse breeds beginner riders
American Quarter Horse
Used for: Pleasure riding, trail riding, dressage, ranch work, rodeo events
Versatile and low maintenance, the American Quarter Horse is often the breed of choice for a first-time horse owner:
- Good weight carriers, suitable for adults but also safe for children
- Intelligent and easy to train
- One of the best horse breeds for first-time owners and beginner riders
- Agile, suited to many different equestrian disciplines
This hard-working breed is ideally suited to ranch or farm riding. The American Quarter Horse is strong and solid, built for carrying weight and long days out on the farm. This makes them the ideal choice for adult males looking to purchase their first horse.
They are easy to keep, requiring very little in the way of additional care. Many American Quarter Horses are used for trail riding, camping trips, barrel racing, and rodeo competitions. Although this breed is versatile, it may not be suitable for higher levels of equestrian sports such as eventing or jumping.
American Paint Horse
Used for: Pleasure riding, jumping, eventing, trail riding, ranch work, rodeo events
American Paint Horses have a calm, easygoing temperament, making them perfect for both beginners and new horse owners:
- Medium size with a strong build
- Athletic and agile
- Kind and forgiving
- Low maintenance care needs
Standing from 14 to 16 hands in height, this breed is suitable for both children and adults – making them the true family horse. They bond closely with humans and are intelligent and easy to train.
The striking coat colors of the American Paint Horse are another reason for their popularity – big, bold splashes of color that breed its name.
American Paint Horses are an excellent all-rounder, capable of hard work and not too ‘fizzy’ if not ridden for a few days.
Tennessee Walking Horse
Used for: Pleasure riding, trail riding, saddle seat
This striking horse may not be an obvious choice, but for first-time horse owners, the Tennessee Walking Horse might just fit the bill:
- A tall breed, good for adult riders
- Calm natured and easy to train
- Perfect for trail riding
- Not suitable for children or beginner riders
The Tennessee Walking Horse is a taller breed of horse, often up to 17 hands in height. This makes them more suited to adults rather than children. Although larger in size, the Tennessee Walking Horse has a gentle disposition and forgiving nature, ideal for the first-time horse owner.
The Tennessee Walking Horse gets its name from the unusual ‘running walk’ gait. This smooth movement allows this breed to cover large amounts of ground with minimal effort and discomfort to the rider.
Used for: Pleasure riding, dressage, driving, trail riding
This gentle giant may look intimidating, but they are one of the best horse breeds for beginners:
- Calm and placid, with a tranquil and stoical temperament
- Able to comfortably carry larger adults
- Slow and steady paces, perfect for nervous riders
The Percheron is a large draft breed, suitable for adult novice riders, particularly those of a heavier weight. However, they are so laid back that beginners may find it difficult to get them to move at any pace other than a steady walk!
For a first-time horse owner, a large breed such as the Percheron can be quite a challenge. They require large amounts of feed and can be daunting to handle from the ground. If considering buying a larger draft breed, it is important to have experienced help and support available.
Used for: Trail riding, pleasure riding,
With its sturdy, strong body and placid temperament, the Icelandic horse can be a great choice for a beginner rider:
- Calm and good-natured temperament
- Medium-sized, suited to both adults and children
- One of the best horses for beginners and the novice rider
- Limited athletic ability, more suited to flatwork than jumping
Renowned for its chunky and rugged appearance, the Icelandic horse is a great all-rounder for the family. Standing at just 13 to 14 hands in height, this breed is strong and can carry adult riders and children.
Icelandic horses have a sweet and gentle temperament. They take care of their riders, making them the perfect horse for nervous beginners. This breed is also easy to look after and handle, helping beginners learn about horse care and riding.
A unique characteristic of Icelandic horses is their unusual ‘tolt’ gait – similar to a speedy walk and very comfortable for the rider. The gliding motion of this gait means they can cover many miles with ease, making them perfect for long trail rides.
Interesting fact – there is no word for pony in the Icelandic language, which is why this pony-sized breed is called a horse!
Used for: Pleasure riding, children’s games, driving, jumping, showing
This tiny bundle of cheekiness and character is very popular as a child’s first pony:
- Small and easy to handle
- Low maintenance
- Suitable for smaller children
- Can be feisty and strong-willed
Originating from the Shetland Islands in the far north of Scotland, the Shetland pony is tough, rugged, and strong-willed. Don’t be fooled by the size of this pony, though- they may have the ideal physique for children to ride, they are not always the most suitable mount for a beginner!
Because they are only ever ridden by children, Shetland ponies can become unruly and poorly trained. For this reason, they are often best used as lead-rein ponies for young children. You may need to borrow an older and more experienced rider to train your Shetland pony if any undesirable behaviors develop occasionally.
Shetland ponies are easy to care for. They like company and will quickly bond with their small owners. They are prone to obesity and normally need to be kept on a restricted diet.
Used for: Pleasure riding, driving, dressage, jumping, saddle seat, western events, ranch work, trail riding
Known as ‘America’s first breed,’ Morgans are popular worldwide with riders and horse owners:
- One of the best beginner horse breeds
- Intelligent and easy to train
- Suitable for adults and older children
- Adapts well to many equestrian disciplines
The Morgan horse is a muscular and sturdy breed, normally between 14 and 15 hands in height. For a smaller horse, they can carry a reasonable weight of the rider. This makes it ideal for older children and adults – perfect as a family horse to share.
Morgans are easy to train and eager to please, making them suitable for beginners and first-time owners. They have a laid-back and relaxed temperament but are by no means boring- this breed is a fun and athletic horse to ride!
Morgan horses are versatile and adaptable to many different equestrian disciplines. They will adapt well to side-saddle riding, trotting races, driving, dressage, and jumping. This breed really is the perfect all-rounder!
Used for: Pleasure riding, endurance, eventing, driving, jumping, trail riding
This cold-blooded breed, native to the hills of Wales, is one of the best horse breeds for beginners and new horse owners:
- Medium-sized, suitable for both adults and children
- Calm temperament but fun to ride
- Easy to care for and low maintenance
Horse lovers around the world know the qualities of the Welsh cob! This horse breed is rugged and easy to care for, requiring little in the way of additional feed and shelter.
The Welsh Cob is an intelligent horse breed, easy to train, and capable of participating in a wide range of equestrian disciplines. They can be pushy and inquisitive, so they require confident handling and training. They make a great family horse, suitable for both adults and children.
Used for: Pleasure riding, trail riding, driving, dressage, jumping, agility
This sturdy little Austrian horse breed is striking to look at and can make an ideal first horse:
- Calm and easy to train
- Stocky and able to carry adults as well as children
- Can be stubborn!
The Haflinger is a good little all-rounder and makes a great family horse. They are willing to work and make wonderful trail riding horses. However, they can be stubborn, which younger riders may find frustrating at times.
Haflingers are tough and easy to care for, preferring to live outside and requiring little in the way of additional feed. Their sure-footed and athletic ability makes them well suited to activities such as horse agility and obstacle courses.
What type of horse is best for a beginner rider?
When learning to ride, it is important to choose a suitable horse for a beginner rider. Riding instructors will normally select breeds known as ‘cold-blooded’ horses for novice horse riding lessons.
Cold-blooded horses are types of horses such as draft breeds, cobs, and native ponies. These are the perfect horses for beginners as they tend to have a calm and placid nature and are not too lively. They are also more forgiving of rider errors and mistakes than other types of horse.
Warm and hot-blooded horse breeds, such as Arabians and Thoroughbreds, can sometimes be suitable horse breeds for beginners. However, generally, these breeds have characteristics that are not suitable for beginner riders. They can be erratic, lively and may react unpredictably if a novice rider makes a mistake.
What type of horse is best for a first-time horse owner?
Whether you’ve been riding for years or just a beginner, leaping into owning a horse is a big step. It is important to select a breed of horses with the right characteristics for you, both when riding and caring for your horse.
Your riding instructor can be a good source of information here, as they will know your ability levels and guide you towards a suitable breed. Think about what you may want to do with your horse in the future as well. Does your favorite horse breed have the ability to participate in the equestrian sports you’ve been dreaming about?
Cold-blooded horse breeds tend to be easier to care for and will often thrive in situations where other breeds would struggle. Warm and hot-blooded horse breeds may require additional stabling, rugs, and feed in cold weather.
Another advantage to cold-blooded horse breeds is that they don’t get too lively if they are not exercised. As a new horse owner, it can be difficult to get into a routine and find time to ride regularly. Warm and hot-blooded horse breeds may quickly become bored and overexcited if not exercised frequently.
There is no single horse breed suitable for all new horse owners and riders. We hope that this guide has given you an insight into the most popular beginner horses – the difficult part now is choosing which one is right for you!