The Best Horse Breeds for Novice Riders

01 July 2020

We take a look at some of the best breeds for riders who have less experience...

Whether you’re a beginning rider who is seeking a horse to lease or you’ve decided to jump in and buy your own mount, you might be wondering if some breeds are a better match than others for someone with less experience.


While of course every horse is an individual, generally speaking, it’s best to stay away from those breeds that have a reputation as being “hot” or difficult to train. 


New to intermediate riders need calmness, forgiveness, and horses that are easy to train with good memories for learning.

Here are seven horse breeds that are often touted as ideal for novice riders... 

 Morgan Horse 



The Morgan horse nearly always tops the list of recommended breeds for newer riders.


Considered America’s first breed in the 18th century, the Morgan is known for being kind and courageous.


They are particularly eager to please and will work hard to try to figure out what their rider is asking of them. 


This muscular and sturdy breed is not considered to have a lot of health issues. Most often seen in bay, black, and chestnut coloring, with a luxurious and lustrous mane and tail, the Morgan is particularly well suited for Saddle Seat riding because of its high-stepping trot. This breed also makes a great Driving horse.


 Friesian Horse 



The playful Friesian is often said to have a personality like a Labrador retriever dog and is equally at home rolling around in the mud or prancing through water.


Originally from the northern part of the Netherlands, this breed is instantly recognized by its heavy mane and tail, as well as the thick feathering around its feet. Friesian owners must have time for grooming and braiding, but the attention can be worth it


Friesians are smart and well rounded and can be seen in a variety of equestrian disciplines, especially Dressage and Driving.


They tend not to spook easily and they are very loyal to their owners. This breed is perfect for the owner who wants a devoted partnership with their horse. 


 Icelandic Horse 



Many novice riders are nervous about riding horses that are too big, so the Icelandic horse, related to the Shetland pony, is a nice compromise.


This small breed typically stands about 13 to 14 hands, so they are a good choice for anxious or shorter riders. They may also work well for riders who like going out on hacks, as their height makes it easier to get in and out of the saddle without a mounting block. 


Because of the climate and terrain where they originate, Icelandic horses do well in harsh weather, and they are sure footed as well. One of the best features of the Icelandic breed is its “tolt” gait, which is a super smooth version of a very fast walk. 


 American Quarter Horse 



Few breeds can compete with the American Quarter Horse when it comes to ranch or farm riding.


This harder worker is always willing to go the extra mile and is not a fussy keeper.


With solid feet and a frame meant for long days under saddle, American Quarter Horses typically don’t require a lot of extra vet care, according to their owners, and are a favourite among recreational male riders. 


They generally do fine as solo horses but are amiable when placed in a herd. This breed is favored for trail riding, camping, and other outdoor adventures. This versatile horse is also often found doing film work because it’s so clever and reliable. 


 Tennessee Walking Horse 



This breed was originally developed to work on American plantations, so like the American Quarter Horse, the Tennessee Walking Horse is ideal for the practical horse owner.


A gaited horse, the breed’s running walk is so smooth that you could sip a cup of tea in the saddle. If other horses have made you saddle sore, this one might be the solution you’re looking for. 


Whilst wonderful for trail rides, the Tennessee Walker does stand on the taller side, so they favour a rider who is also larger or who can get a leg up when needed when out on a hack.


As well as hacking, Saddle Seat is another common pursuit with this breed. 


 Connemara Pony 



This horse breed native to western Ireland was originally a farm helper. Containing both Spanish and Scandivian blood, the Connemara pony averages about 14 hands in height, so it’s another breed that accommodates shorter equestrians. 


Connemara ponies are gentle and patient with children, so they are also a top pick for young riders.


They crave human interaction, so this is a breed that needs daily visits to the stables for the best relationship.


For a smaller breed, this pony can really jump, but it is very athletic and game for nearly any kind of riding sport. 


 Welsh Cob 



Native to Great Britain, the Welsh Cob evolved from crossing the Welsh Mountain Pony with larger breeds, including the Thoroughbred and the Arabian.


Standing just over 13 hands high on average, the Welsh Cob is often a young rider’s pick, but don’t let its size fool you.


This horse was used in war and holds its own as a sturdy farm animal. 


Known for being both smart and friendly, the Welsh Cob is adaptable to a variety of disciplines, and it’s often seen in European riding schools.


This horse also loves pulling a cart. Welsh Cobs are hardy and walk well on uneven terrain, but care must be taken not to overfeed this one, as it was bred to subsist on minimal food. 

A Few Final Thoughts...

Novice riders should usually stay away from very young horses, as older horses will be more placid and have some training already.


Learn how to read between the lines when scanning “horse for sale” advertisements.


Look for a horse that has a track record of working with new riders, and avoid those that come with labels like “green broke,” as you’ll spend more time nursing a sore hind end than you will actually riding!


Keep engaged with the equestrian community by following the FEI's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter... 


Words by Patricia Salem


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