Horses and ponies come in many, many breeds. It is estimated there are over 400 breeds of these worldwide. As many as there are breeds, equally diverse are the ways they are used by humans. Each breed is defined by specific characteristics that determine the manner in which they are used.
Build, temperament, and energy are the qualities that definitively define which role a particular horse would be used. Some might be suited to carrying small children or new riders, others might be more suited for showjumping or other equestrian sport.
- 1 What is the most popular horse breed?
- 2 Things to look for when buying a horse the first time
What is the most popular horse breed?
Below is a list of the 10 most popular horse breeds worldwide. They are in no particular order and each person would have a different take on how to rank these breeds.
1. Arabian horse
This breed is one of the most popular in the world. It is strong enough to survive in harsh deserts. The amazing thing about this breed of horse is that it is born dark. As it grows into full-grown size, its color lightens and it is considered ready for the travails of the desert.
The sheer beauty and strength of this breed are astounding. These horses are supremely athletic and are also known for their affectionate nature.
They form an immediate bonding with their rider and this relationship continues lifelong. There is an intense synergy between rider and mount when it is about Arabian horses. Very intelligent creatures, they bring a certain versatility about use. From carrying people to objects as well as other uses, there is no equal.
This breed comes in bay, chestnut, gray, black, and roan. Black is the least common of its coat colors. It stands at 16 hands and is a handsome breed. They are generally used in endurance riding, show jumping, and as trail and ranch horses. One may see them in movies and parades as well.
Another stellar horse breed that is popular among horse lovers worldwide is the warmblood. The name is indicative of the kind of horse one may expect. They are bred from crossbreeding between large draft breeds with small hot breeds.
Known for their supreme intelligence and calm demeanor, these make for great sport animals. Bred primarily in European countries, they are ideal for dressage and other equestrian sports demanding agility and precision. They are middle-weight horses that are known for their elegant movements.
Hanoverian horses are the most popular among warmblood breeds. They are highly prized the world over.
This breed comes in coat colors of brown, gray, chestnut, and black. Some of these can come with markings too. They stand at between 15 and 17 hands. They are exceptional sport horses and are known to keep their cool in competitive arenas. They are widely used in dressage sport.
This breed is native to Austria, in a departure from breed horses that are usually European or American in descent. They are found all over the world. They are known as among the most tolerant breeds. Their willingness to learn coupled with their friendliness has made them so popular.
They are intelligent creatures who are fast on the uptake. They can understand and follow instructions very well. They are quiet and gentle in nature which makes them popular with every kind of rider, from beginners to experienced hands.
This breed of horses is used for a variety of purposes. They are good for the light draft as well as harness work. Equestrian events like dressage, vaulting, and endurance riding suit this breed very well. Such is the flexibility of this breed that these horses are still utilized by German and Austrian armies for work in rough terrain.
They come in chestnut colors in various shades and often with white prominent markings. They are characterized by flaxen mane and tail. This makes them very distinctive to look at and easily identifiable in the equine world. They stand at 13.2 to 15 hands.
4. Kathiawari horse
Originating in western India in the region of Kathiawar, this is one of the very rare breeds that finds worldwide recognition. Normally the breed horses in global use trace their origins back to European and American breeders.
This breed of horses is characterized by its distinct ear morphology. The inwardly curving ears found of this breed marks them out among the rest. They have a handsome head with broad foreheads. They are of stocky build and very muscular in conformation.
They are known for their supreme endurance and lasting loyalty. Their ability to follow commands and their intelligence couple together to present a very intelligent breed. They were initially planned for cavalry and warhorse; they have since moved into sports as well as for police horse roles.
These come in colors of chestnut most commonly but also in other horse colors. However, Kathiawari horses do not come in black. They stand at 15 hands in size. Because of their disposition, they are well suited for beginners as well as long-time riding hands.
5. Andalusian horse
This is one of the most beautiful and majestic horse breeds the world over. The sheer impact of its beauty has people falling head over heels in love with these. Add to it their intelligence and loyalty, and there is a winner for you.
Andalusian horses are known to go out of their way to please their owners and have the biggest hearts. They are not only beautiful but also good at equestrian sports of different kinds. With their gentle temperaments, these horses are good for beginners as well as experienced riders.
Andalusian horses have made their place in precision sports like showjumping and dressage. This shows how receptive they are to instruction and guidance.
These horses come in colors of gray or bay in spotted patterns. There are very few black, chestnut, palomino, or dun Andalusians. They stand at 15 to 17 hands. They are robust and versatile to be used in as varied roles are dressage to driving.
Like it is said, ‘name is enough’. Thoroughbred horses are a class apart when we are talking top breeds. The Irish Thoroughbred is one of the stellar examples of what this breed is all about. It is pertinent to add here that this breed has been worked upon and designed for years. The anticipation is that they will produce a winner in every sense.
Known for agility, elegance, and strength, they are valued for their high endurance levels. Their intelligence and ability to achieve the perfect vibe with their owners make them one of a kind.
Thoroughbreds are bred with a purpose – to excel in racing and other equestrian sports. Find your pleasure with this breed in whatever sport you wish to.
Thoroughbred horses come in five prominent colors, black, white, gray, bay, and chestnut. They stand at 15.2 to 17 hands. Their breeding is specifically aimed at racing. However, they are often used in other riding sports like show jumping, polo, or even fox hunting.
Horses of this breed are often known as ‘the horse that chooses you’. This is somewhat akin to what Harry Potter fans would instantly recall – ‘The wand chooses the wizard’. These horses are very versatile and extremely cooperative.
Their high degree of adaptability makes them very easy to keep and maintain. Because of their congenial temperament, they are equally at ease with kids as with experienced riders. Bred in the USA, it is a relatively smaller-sized horse and stands at 15 hands.
Known as an all-purpose horse, they have been used in cavalry and rides alike for ages. They are good for most equestrian sports. Its friendly temperament makes it an ideal horse to own. Easy to keep and own, this breed is a winner at all times.
Morgan horse breed comes in colors of the usual black, bay, chestnut. Roan, palomino, gray, and dun are less commonly found. They are good for many events of equestrian sports. They are also good for endurance riding as well as stock horses.
8. American quarter horse
This is an American breed as the name suggests. It is also known as the Quarter Horse because it specializes in quarter-mile races. These are stocky and short with muscular conformation. They are characterized by broad chests and wide heads.
These horses are very agile and intelligent. They are easy to handle and therefore popular. Mostly used for cutting cattle, their typical pluses are speed, great take-off and easy stopping and turning. This helps them round off cattle most efficiently.
Their coat colors come in black, bay, palomino, dun, white, and some other common horse colors. At 14 hands, they are relatively short horses. Their ability to rein and cut well makes them great rodeo and ranch horses.
9. Grade horses
One may call them the mutts of the horse world. They are not the result of any particular breeding whatsoever. Their lack of pedigree might be looked down upon by some people. However, that does not make these horses any less than pedigreed ones in some traits.
Their loyalty to their owners is legendary. In this respect too, they are similar to the mutts in the canine world. It is not always pedigree that assures loyalty and grade horses show just that. Their so-called lack of pedigree also protects them from many diseases that befall some pedigreed breeds.
Grade horses are highly intelligent and eager to learn. They can be trusted with children and adults alike. They reinforce the notion that it is intelligence and loyalty that matters in the end.
Since grade horses do not have any pedigree to boast of, their color palette is wide and varied too. However, they cover all standard horse coat colors like black, brown, gray, white, and chestnut, often with markings. They stand at around 14 hands but as stated, there is no uniformity in their colors or heights. Because of their robust build and nature, they have a wide variety of uses. They adapt to any kind of use their owner puts them to, which is the beauty of these horses.
Last and definitely not least is the Appaloosa breed. These horses are spotted and colorful. They are thought to have been bred and developed by Native Americans. The purpose behind their breeding was to help in hunting.
They are descended from breeding wild horses with thoroughbreds. That has given this breed the best traits of both. They are very versatile and can be used for a variety of purposes. They are hardy and tough too, which means they are equally suited to casual riding as well as for trail riding.
Their mottled skin and striped hooves give them a distinctive look that sets them apart from other breeds. This breed is very loyal to its owner and forms lifelong attachments.
Appaloosa horses stand at 14.2 to 16 hands and are light but sturdy in conformation. They were initially used for hunting and transport. From their rather rustic beginnings, these have evolved into creatures of grace and beauty. They serve as pleasure riding, trail riding, rodeo events as well as various equine sports.
There can be no better journey for a horse lover than to search for a breed that suits them best. Launch into your journey with this guide. It will be exciting to reach the end and trot off on your dream horse!
Things to look for when buying a horse the first time
There are first-timers and there are experts when it comes to horses. Professionals make it their business to know everything about horses. A person venturing into horse buying for the first time might fall for the looks immediately. Imagine a pair of brown soulful eyes, a solid build, a friendly appearance, and a lush mane. Who would not fall for such a thing of beauty?
However, there is more to a horse than purely its looks. And then there are aspects to keep in mind when deciding upon a horse. Some of these are listed below:
Look for training credentials.
An untrained horse will give you more problems than pleasure. The first many months will be gone in training this creature. Many newcomers think they are getting a good deal because the untrained horse is coming cheap. They do not keep in mind the amount of time, money, and perseverance they need to invest in it. It is essential to look for a degree of training in the horse one chooses.
Old horse does not mean compromise.
Another tendency among inexperienced buyers is to think that an older horse will not be a good idea. This is a completely wrong notion and one that has led many a buyer to lose out on really solid deals. Older horses are more experienced and steadier in their demeanor. Not to mention they are already trained. Depending upon what kind of use it is intended for, older horses might just be right.
Auction purchase is not a good idea.
Auctions are places that are not always right to pick up a horse of choice. In the vast numbers around it might be easier to fool new prospective buyers. Of course, this does not happen with experienced buyers. However, it needs a sharp eye to spot a good horse and to tell it apart from some better appearing one that might actually have been drugged to make it appear docile.
Keep a trial period in mind.
Horse buying is a long-term commitment. One cannot just go into it blindly. It is actually quite okay to ask for a trial period in order to gauge the suitability. Not all horses are what they appear to be when being bought. It is a good idea to agree to a trial period where the buyer can definitively judge a particular horse. Not all dealers might agree to this clause though.
Match the horse to your requirements.
It is not a good idea to get all impulsive when purchasing a new horse. There might be a gorgeous creature up for sale that you fall for. However, it might be completely unsuited for your particular requirement. Whether you want the horse for a particular sport or for gentle riding or for rough and sturdy output, choose accordingly. Only then will you get the best results out of the horse.
Mind the expenses involved.
Another point to be kept in mind is the expense involved. Horse keeping is an ongoing process and is not cheap at all. Apart from the buying itself, which is a one-time thing, what is more important is the daily and recurring expenditure. Not only does the horse have to be kept and fed well, but it will also need grooming and training. It will also need to be registered for various events if that is the purpose. Keeping these in mind will help bring in a better perspective.
Check out your infrastructure.
You go to a fair or auction, select a horse and come home. That is not the end of the story, just the beginning. A horse needs a place to stay, harnesses and riding equipment, grooming and training facilities, constant attention and care. Keeping your infrastructure in place will help you get a good start to this enduring relationship.
Ask yourself, are you ready?
Loving horses is all very well but always ask yourself how ready you are. This is a long-term commitment that you are making for a very intelligent animal. Remember you will be responsible for a creature that has a whole lot to give back. This decision cannot and should not be impulsive. Careful planning and groundwork preparation will pave the way for a great investment that will give pleasure for years to come.