There are many breeds of horse, and for centuries on end horse breeders have selectively chosen the best specimens to fulfill a variety of important human needs. From the endurance of Arabian horses to the speed of the thoroughbred to the sturdiness of the pony, horses have been serving mankind for nearly as long as humans have existed.
The Major Horse Breeds:
- American Saddlebred
- Morgan Horses
- Andalusian Horses
- Appaloosa Horses
- Palomino Horses
- Arabian Horses
- Friesian Horses
- Passo Fino
- Gypsy Vanner Horses
- Quarter Horses
- Miniature Horses
- Shire Horses
- Missouri Fox Trotter
- Thoroughbred Horses
A list of other horse breeds: American Cream, American Paint Horse, Anglo Arabian, Appendix, Arappaloosa, Ardennes, Azteca, Belgian, Boulonnais, Brandenburg, Camargue, Canadian, Carthusian, Cleveland Bay, Colonial Spanish, Colorado Ranger, Russian Don, Dutch Warmblood, Finnish, Fleuve, Fjord, Furioso, Groningen, Hackney, Icelandic, Irish Draught, Konik, Latvian, Lippizaner, Marwari, Messara, Morab, Murgese, Nez Perce horse, Oldenburg, percheron, Rocky Mountain, Salemo, Selle Francais, Tennessee walker, Tinker, Waler, Walkaloosa, Westphalian, Yili, …
The height of horses is measured in hands:
1 hand = 4 inches = 10,16 cm
For nearly as long as humans have existed, all breeds of horses have been there by our side, pulling our plows and wagons, serving as brave mounts during time of war, or just providing companionship for all members of the family.
Whether your idea of the perfect horse is a black horse, a white horse, a brown horse or a spotted horse, there are horse breeds available for your taste. In addition, there are types of horses that are perfect for dressage, great at show jumping, or just perfect for hacking around on the trails. No matter which horse breeds you look at, there will be something at which they excel.
Part of the reason for the versatility of various breeds of horse is the result of genetics. For example, the strong hindquarters and compact nature of the Andalusian horse make it perfect for the world of dressage, and for many years the Portuguese have used the power of this strong white horse in their training and breeding programs.
Other types of horse, like the Friesian, are perfectly suited to pulling carriages, and in ages past they also served as the sturdy warhorses of knights as they rode into battle. These are just but two examples of the versatility of the many breeds of horse.
And then there is the Dala horse… a very special kind of breed.
There is no doubt that all breeds of horses have their own unique place in history, and that they have played an important role in virtually every kind of human progress. Many modern advances, from taming the earth through farming, to conquering the west, would have been impossible for humans without their equine companions.
From the mustangs and appaloosas favored by the Indians, to the speedy and strong quarter horses ridden by the earliest cowboys, all these breeds of horse have helped make the human race what it is today.
Common Uses of Horses
The equestrian activity the horse is commonly bred or used for. If you want to do a specific type of riding, it can be beneficial to choose a horse breed that excels in that particular discipline.
Dressage – While many breeds are suitable for dressage, some are better for it than others. Consider Thoroughbreds, Hanoverians, and any warm-blooded horse.
Endurance Riding – Most breeds can be used in endurance rides and races, but Arabians tend to dominate this style of riding due to their stamina and agility. Rocky Mountain horses and Trakehners are also known for their endurance capabilities.
General Riding – Any breed can be used for pleasure, but if you are an inexperienced rider, you may want a Pinto, Mustang, Tennessee Walking horse, or any cold-blooded horse.
Hunting – Hunting horses need to be well-trained and capable of handling loud noises and varying terrain. Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds are the most popular breeds used for hunting.
Jumping – Though many breeds would be appropriate for this equestrian style, some are more athletic than others. Thoroughbreds and Arabians, for example, make great jumping horses due to their agility and endurance. However, beginners should stay away from hot-blooded horses because jumping can increase their excitement level. Instead, opt for a Quarter horse or Appaloosa. These breeds are also excellent jumpers, but are easier to handle for non-experienced riders.
Mounted Athletics – Those who want to play polo or try their hand at archery should consider Morgans, American Saddlebreds, Quarter horses, or pony breeds.
Racing – If you want to race, you will need a breed that boasts speed and endurance. Quarter horses, Arabians, and Thoroughbreds make world-class racing horses due to their agility and stamina.
Rodeo – Whether you want to participate in barrel racing, calf roping, or reining events, the best breeds for rodeos are the Quarter horse, Appaloosa, and Paint.
Work – Those in need of a work horse should consider draft horses, such as Belgians or Shires. Big and muscular, these horses are best for hard, labor-intensive tasks like ploughing, pulling, and farming. In addition to their strength, they are patient and docile.
What to Watch for in Horse Breeds
Don’t buy a horse without carefully thinking through your decision. Horses are a huge responsibility and require a major commitment of time and money. You need to ensure you will have adequate time to ride and care for your horse. It is also important for you to confirm that you can afford the long-term costs that come with your purchase.
In addition to the upfront payment of the horse, you will need to weigh the costs of monthly boarding (at a stable or barn), grooming equipment, farriers, vaccinations, horse feed, tack, etc. In short, it is expensive to own a horse, so make sure you will be able to handle the monetary demands.
Do not buy a horse that is very young (also referred to ‘green’). Green horses are usually much cheaper than other horses, making it tempting to buy one. However, they are not trained and tend to be temperamental, making them very unsuitable for first-time horse owners. Even if you can find a qualified trainer, you will end up paying much more to have the horse trained than you would have originally paid, had you spent the money on the more expensive yet more appropriate horse for you.
This figure is an estimate of many years the horse breed is expected to live. When considering horse breed options, it’s important to think about how long you’ll be willing and able to own a horse. A horse that is well maintained and stays in good health can usually be expected to live between 25 and 30 years. However, both breed and lifestyle can greatly alter a horse’s life expectancy.
As a general rule, the two horse breeds that are likely to live longer than most are ponies and draft horses. These horses usually live past 30, and it is not uncommon for ponies to reach 35 years of age. The horse breed with the shortest life expectancy, on the other hand, is the Thoroughbred. These horses have a more delicate constitution, and when that is combined with the rigors of racing or competitive showing, they do not age as well and usually only live for 20 to 25 years.