The 12 Best Horse Breeds for Beginners (With Pictures)

Best horse breeds for beginners

For horse beginners looking to get into equestrian sports but unsure where to start. Selecting the proper horse breed is an important first step toward safe, pleasurable horsemanship. However, with over 300 recognized breeds worldwide, each with their own history, skill set, size, and temperament, narrowing down the selections may rapidly become overwhelming. Do not be alarmed, would-be ranchers! 

Fret not, aspiring cowboys and cowgirls! In the hands of responsive owners and trainers. Approachable horses can transform even complete novices into skilled riders capable of achieving their wildest Western dreams. This comprehensive guide breaks down the 12 most beginner-friendly horse breeds to set you up for success in the saddle.

Looking Beyond Breed to Find Your Perfect Partner

Before highlighting specific breeds, remember that individual personality, training, and life experience trump breed affiliations and bloodlines when assessing a horse’s suitability for fledgling riders. The epitome of a best horse for beginners boasts an unflappable temperament marked by patience, forgiveness, and steady nerves.

Additionally, a bombproof horse remains unfazed by loud noises, unfamiliar environments, and sudden movements. Offering new riders ample margin for error as they build confidence. While some breeds tend to produce especially tolerant dispositions, bloodlines alone provide limited insight into a horse’s true nature and training background.

The Importance of Proper Training & Socialization

The human capacity to influence equine behavior through proper training and socialization practices far outweighs any genetic predispositions. Responsible introduction to gear like saddles, bits, and bridles alongside positive reinforcement-based groundwork instills most horses with the willingness to accept riders and respond appropriately to commands.

Consistent exposure to stimuli like loud noises, vehicles, or equipment through a process called “sacking out” transforms even high-strung breeds into steadfast mounts. So whether an American Quarter Horse or Arabian catches your eye. Recognize that breed alone provides just part of the equation when seeking the ideal four-legged partner.

Confirming Compatibility: Horse & Rider Dynamics

Beyond assessing a potential mount’s training and temperament. Ensuring your first horse matches your physical capabilities and long-term riding goals proves paramount—smaller breeds like Welsh Ponies suit pint-sized cowboys and cowgirls embarking on their equine education early on.

Similarly, hardy ponies like Fjords and stocky draft crosses appeal to older or larger adult learners requiring a sturdy. Short-statured partner capable of keeping up with their activities. But regardless of genetic potential, a suitable beginner horse walks patiently, responds willingly to commands, and stands calmly for mounting and dismounting.

And Now, Without Further Ado…The Contenders!

With key considerations covered, let’s meet our 12 beginner-approved breeds! From American classics to European imports, this diverse lineup of equine candidates brings unique offerings.

1. American Quarter Horse

American Quarter Horse

Hailing from the American West with innate cow sense in their blood. The versatile Quarter Horse tops lists as the world’s most popular breed – and for good reason! Their steady disposition, compact and muscular build standing 14 to 16 hands high, and responsiveness to training make them ideal for riders of all skill levels.

2. Shetland Pony

Shetland Pony

Despite often standing shorter than 10 hands high and weighing under 450 pounds. Stalwart Shetlands aren’t deterred by overwhelming odds…or much else! Hailing from Scotland’s rugged Shetland Isles and possessing uncanny strength for their petite frames. These easygoing equines carry small children and novice riders with quiet patience.

3. Welsh Pony

Welsh Pony

Imported from the Welsh valleys and plateaus of Great Britain, spirited yet sweet-tempered Welsh Ponies delight beginners with their intelligent and eager-to-please personalities. Ranging from just taller than Shetlands to 14.2 hand full-sized rides. Welshies excel at both leisurely trail rides and more rigorous disciplines.

4. Arabian


Renowned as the Ferraris of the horse world with boundless stamina and athleticism, high-spirited Arabians throttle back their engines to accommodate unsteady riders through responsiveness and smooth gaits. Gentle dispositions in smaller 14 to 15-hand packages contrast beautifully with flowing tails and manes.

5. Appaloosa


Spotted Appaloosas anchor Native American horsemanship traditions with hardy dispositions bred to withstand harsh landscapes, making them exceptionally forgiving mounts. Known for intelligence and loyalty to their human counterparts. Apps encourage novice riders through a willingness to bond and build trust.

6. American Paint Horse

American Paint Horse

Showcasing color-splashed painted coats from selective Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred breeding. The eye-catching American Paint Horse supplies ample aesthetic appeal to match its steady and willing personality. The versatile Paint succeeds at cattle events as easily as racing and leisurely trail rides at 14 to 16 hands high.

7. Morgan Horse

Morgan Horse

America’s first recognized horse breed, known as “the breed that chose itself,”. The distinctive Morgan traces its lineage in Vermont and New England to the foundation sire Figure in the late 1700s. Renowned for levelheadedness and trust in tandem with strength and agility, Morgans stand between 14 and 15 hands.

8. Fjord Horse

Fjord Horse

Hailing from the dramatic fjords of western Norway and instantly recognized by chocolate brown bodies, white manes, and zebra-striped legs, the hardy Norwegian

Fjord Horse navigates rough terrain and excels in cold climates. Between 13 and 15 hands tall, their steady disposition and surefootedness instill confidence in new riders.

9. Haflinger


Distinguished by flaxen chestnut coats, white manes and tails, and sturdy 14-hand frames, Northern Italy’s Haflinger breed favors novices with quiet cooperation, reliability and goodnatured tolerance of mistakes well-suited to both leisurely and rigorous riding pursuits.

10. Missouri Fox Trotter

Missouri Fox Trotter

Cruising through Ozark foothills and valleys at their signature smooth, four-beat diagonal ambling gait, the Missouri Fox Trotter traverses long distances while eliminating bone-jarring impacts. Between 14 and 16 hands high, Fox Trotters connect with responsive riding partners ready to be friends.

11. Icelandic Horse

Icelandic Horse

As descendants of steeds imported by ninth-century Norse settlers, the robust Icelandic horse withstands harsh landscapes through adaptability and gentle companionship with humans. Smooth and comfortable four-beat lateral ambling gaits between 13 and 14 hands high ease riders’ fatigue.

Final Thoughts

While the final verdict depends on your individual needs and preferences as a budding rider, rest assured that selecting any of these 12 amiable breeds stacks the odds decidedly in your favor by prioritizing trainable temperaments and balanced frames. But don’t forget: Reputable breeders and trainers committed to proper foundations hold the key to converting genetic potential into lifetime equestrian partners.


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