Six Horse Breeds You Should Know
A horse is a horse, of course, of course—but did you know there are over 350 different breeds of horses around the world? That’s about the same as domestic dogs, and waaaaay more than cats! Horses have been carefully bred for thousands of years, leading to a spectacular diversity of horse breeds, sizes and traits.
Horse height is measured at the withers (top of the shoulder) in a unique unit called hands (abbreviated to “hh,” meaning “hands high”), which is equivalent to four inches. The smallest miniature ponies can stand at just 8.5hh—34 inches—while some draft breeds can grow to be over 18hh, or six feet tall! Some horses are lean and athletic, which make them well adapted to jobs requiring speed, or climates with warmer weather, while other breeds are powerfully built with heavier muscling and bone structure.
We invite you to learn about several common horse breeds that you might encounter at your local riding barn or when browsing adoptable horses on myrighthorse.org.
Interested in adopting or riding an Arabian horse? Great choice! Arabian horses are extremely versatile and are known for their beauty and athleticism. The Arabian is one of the oldest breeds of horse, with evidence that they have been selectively bred for over 4,000 years. Arabians are usually from 14.1hh to 15.2hh tall. Arabians can be found in a variety of colors but are most commonly gray, bay, black or chestnut. Arabians are generally very intelligent and are prized for their endurance and stamina. They are known for being extremely loyal to their people and excel in a variety of disciplines ranging from endurance to Western events.
While not every Thoroughbred is bred to race, the Thoroughbred is perhaps the most well-known breed in the world. Thoroughbreds are not only stars on the racetrack, they also tend to have a natural aptitude in a variety of performance events including jumping, Western events, eventing and dressage. Many retiring racehorses find adoptive homes and second careers in these sports. This athletic, lean breed originated in 17th and 18th century England. Many Thoroughbreds have plenty of energy and spirit, and often have a valuable wealth of training and experience from their time on the racetrack.
If you’re looking for a versatile breed with an incredible temperament, you might want to consider adopting or riding an American Quarter Horse. American Quarter Horses are celebrated for their ability to sprint over short distances and work cattle (many American Quarter Horses have an innate ability to read livestock, similar to a herding dog). They are usually between 14hh and 16hh with a compact, muscular build and well-developed hindquarters. They are known for being exceptionally good-tempered horses and are appreciated for their ability to compete and work in a variety of different disciplines. While celebrated for their cow sense and speed on the racetrack, the American Quarter Horse has been successful in both the English and Western show arenas and they often make wonderful trail mounts. Other “stock”-type breeds such as the American Paint Horse and Pinto Horse are closely related to the American Quarter Horse and share many characteristics.
Considered “the horse America made,” the American Saddlebred is known for being spirited and gentle. Adopting a Saddlebred could be a great choice if you’re looking for a beautiful horse with plenty of athletic potential to excel in a variety of disciplines. Typically 15hh to 16hh, the Saddlebred is a gaited breed, meaning that in addition to having the ability to walk, trot and canter, they can also perform a special four-beat gait that is known for being smooth and comfortable to ride. They typically have a straight profile with elegant necks and sloping shoulders. Saddlebreds are seen competing in a variety of events including jumping and dressage.
Another popular breed in the United States is the versatile and cherished Morgan horse. Compact in build with strong legs and bone structure, yet a refined face, the Morgan horse has played an important role in American history. Historically, Morgan horses were used for general riding and travel and the breed was also a popular choice for the cavalry. Now, Morgans are adored by their owners for their wonderful personalities and versatility. They are especially popular among younger riders due to their kind nature and ability to compete in variety of riding events.
Just as their name suggests, Miniature Horses are among the smallest horses in the world. Miniature Horses usually stand between 8.5hh and 9.5hh and are loved by equestrians all around the globe. They are generally too small to be ridden by anyone other than very young children, but a variety of competitive opportunities exist for these special horses and their handlers. Most often they compete in hand, meaning they are judged on how well they’re handled and trained without a rider. Many Miniature Horses can also pull a small cart and are enjoyed as beloved pets.
If you’re ready to learn more about the different breeds of horses available for adoption, visit myrighthorse.org.