Types of Horses to Consider

The type of horse you buy should be primarily determined by what you intend to use the horse for. Each breed of horse has its virtues, as well as its limitations, and is generally disposed in conformation, size, and temperament toward certain kinds of work. Forcing a horse to perform a job he is not suited for will be a waste of time, money, and energy, and might be dangerous to you and your horse.

Two famous thoroughbred racehorses are known to have reached exceptional years. Pocahontas lived to be thirty-three years old while Parrot lived to thirty-six. Both of these horses lived to an age equivalent to a ninety-five-year-old human.

Thoroughbred

The thoroughbred is possibly the most versatile horse. An excellently bred thoroughbred can often be purchased very affordably from racetrack auctions and adoption organizations. Only a handful of them ever make it to serious racing competition, which is almost exclusively what they are bred for. They are often started young on the track and might have consequently sustained leg injuries requiring long lay up periods. Bringing such a horse back to health can be an invaluable bonding experience. Since their first and only training is often purely to race, they must be retrained, or “let down,” gradually, which can take up to a year. In this time, the horse should be allowed to relax from the high stress demands of the racetrack. With a little luck, patience, and hard work, her mind and muscle will change to accommodate her new job. A seasoned horseman will be able to tell what discipline she has the brain and body for.

Warm Blood

The warm blood's magnificent presence, together with their size, agility, trainability, temperament, strength, and high initial expense, make them the predominant horse for high-level show hunting, jumping, and dressage competition. Their powerful rear ends and typically strong hocks give them great “carrying capacity” and suspension for an eminently elegant gait, fluid movement, and “scope” over jumps. Their willingness and easy-going nature also means that they can make excellent driving horses. Warm bloods are preferred over draft horses for any form of competitive or combined driving because of their superior agility and elegant movement.

Drafts are mainly used for driving, specifically coaching, although some of the “lighter” breeds, like the Percheron, are favorites of fox hunters for their ruggedness and power. Some of the draft breeds include the Shire of England, the Friesian of France, and the Clydesdale—originally from Scotland but more common now to Canada and the United States. The Clydesdale's size and uniformity make them an impressive team of drivers, known worldwide in their role as the “Budweiser” horses.

Sport Horse

The sport horse, or “cross bred,” is becoming a popular choice of field horse for the pleasure rider, fox hunter, and eventer. Cross breds are a mix of a “light” (hot-blooded horse) with a “heavy” (cold-blooded horse) or a warm-blooded horse. Careful breeding can yield a horse with the perfect qualities for a specific discipline. For instance, an eventing sport horse would tend more toward the refinement and athleticism of a thoroughbred, while a fox hunter would tend more toward its drafty origins. A sport horse will quickly show which way his physical and mental disposition leans—toward the hot blood or the cold blood in him. You can choose which will suit you best. Some sport horses are the Irish, bred from the Irish draught and the Irish thoroughbred, and the Canadian, bred from the Clydesdale and the thoroughbred. Percheron and shire crosses are gaining popularity in the eastern United States as well.

A popular cross-bred is the Appendix quarter horse. It is a quarter horse-thoroughbred cross, which relegates this horse to the “appendix” of the quarter horse registry. Like all cross-bred horses, this one can tend more toward the “light” or the “heavy,” and might be less likely to inherit genetic faults of conformation and disease common to one breed or the other.

Quarter Horse

The quarter horse developed in the American West. All the competitive sports in which he reigns supreme, such as team penning and roping, barrel racing, and Western pleasure riding, derive from the attributes he needed to perform his working duties involving livestock. He is conformed “down hill” and low to the ground, with a powerful rear end that gives him the ability for short bursts of intense speed, quick cornering and turning ability, and all around great agility. Quarter horses are among the most commonly used horses for pleasure riders who want a fast, rugged, even tempered, sure-footed trail horse. These attributes often make them a good choice for someone who wants an all-around horse.

The Morgan Horse

The Morgan is popular in the northeastern region of America, with the highest concentration of admirers in Vermont, the place of its origin. The Morgan is thought of as one of the heartiest, most agreeable, and versatile horses in the world. They usually lack the refined gaits of the thoroughbred or warm blood and tend to have a hotter temperament than the quarter horse. They are generally around 15 hands, although many breeders these days are trying to get a little more height into the breed. Morgan horses are most often shown in Western division competition and make a great allpurpose horse. Their tendency for high front action makes them a good candidate for a light carriage horse as well.

The Gaited Horse

Gaited horses were developed and bred specifically for ranch and plantation workers and owners so they could cover long distances at a fast and comfortable pace. Their movement is back and forth, which doesn't require posting, rather than a trot, whose motion is up and down, which requires a rider to post for a comfortable ride. They can have up to five gaits, ranging from a walk to what in some breeds is called a flying pace, which can be as fast as another horse's gallop. Some gaited horses are the Icelandic of Iceland, the Tennessee Walker and Standard Bred of North America, the Peruvian Paso of South America, and the Paso Fino of Spanish origin.

The Icelandic horse is enjoying increasing popularity in the eastern United States as a pleasure mount. They are generally kindly disposed, stoic, brave, hearty, bold, and intractable. One of the oldest breeds of horse, their disposition is uniformly consistent, quite unlike any other breed of horse.

Today, gaited horses are mainly used in breed specific competition, with the Standard Bred exclusively bred for harness racing. The smooth gait of most gaited horses makes them excellent trail horses, especially for someone with a bad back. However, they are sometimes limited by conformation, and these horses might have trouble performing the canter or over jumps. Though they are genetically disposed toward their gait, they must be constantly maintained in it in order to perform properly. This will require discipline and diligence on your part, and perhaps the hiring of a trainer from time to time.

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