8 Top Horse Breeds For Beginners (Picked By A Horse Trainer)

Best Horse Breeds for Beginners

Not many things are more exciting than buying your first horse! Maybe you have been riding for a few years, or maybe you are just getting into the equestrian world. Whatever the case, it is important that you do adequate research to determine which horse breed is best for your riding style and level of experience. 

What are the best horse breeds for beginners? Each horse within a breed varies. However, there are certain horse breeds generally considered well-suited for new riders or horse owners. The top eight horse breeds for beginners include the following:

  • American Quarter Horse
  • Thoroughbred
  • Morgan Horse
  • American Paint Horse
  • Appaloosa
  • Missouri Fox Trotter
  • Tennessee Walking Horse
  • Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse


While there are many other breeds, like the Haflinger and the Icelandic Horse, that would be suited for beginners, the breeds above are the most easily found beginner-friendly horses in America. You must always consider the horses’ unique temperament and characteristics rather than make assumptions based on breed. I hope this article helps guide your decision-making process as you search for your new equine companion!

Horse Breed for Beginners #1. American Quarter Horse

In addition to its reputation as perhaps the most popular horse breed in America, the American Quarter Horse is a great horse for beginners. Quarter horses are great for both English and Western riders, with an even temperament and adaptable demeanor. 

While Quarter horses are quite energetic, they tend to mellow out as they mature. Choosing a Quarter Horse 10 years old or older is a great option for most beginners! The American Quarter Horse is known as a reliable and loyal breed, something that has endeared them to many within the equine community. 

The American Quarter Horse stands between 14 hands (56 in.) and 16 hands (64 in.) high and weighs between 950 to 1,200 pounds when fully grown. Quarter horses are typically easy to train with a gentle demeanor. They are eager to please, making them a great horse breed for new riders or families with small children.

To learn more about the average cost of Quarter Horses, visit my article How Much Does a Quarter Horse Cost? 2023 Pricing Guide.

Horse Breed for Beginners #2. Thoroughbred

Horse Breeds in the USA

If you know anything about horses, you are likely shocked to see a Thoroughbred on the list of horses for beginners. Standing between 15 hands (60 in.) and 17 hands (68 in.) high and weighing between 1,000 to 1,300 pounds, the Thoroughbred is certainly on the larger side. Often used as racehorses, Thoroughbreds tend to be spirited and athletic in their prime. That being said, there are many Thoroughbreds that have been trained in the arena rather than the track.

Since there are so many of these horses, it’s easy to find one to purchase. If you are considering a Thoroughbred as your first horse, steer clear from ones that are being sold just “off the track” or re-sale OTTBs (off-the-track Thoroughbreds.) Many trainers pull these horses from the track and re-start them under saddle as riding horses. While I think this is great, I don’t think these options are good for a beginner rider. The horses often need a lot of work to get them out of the “track” mentality.

Instead, look for a Thoroughbred that has been trained in your discipline. Many older Thoroughbreds are used in lesson programs and in show circuits. This breed is also a good option if you are looking to excel in competition and riding as you gain more experience.

Horse Breed for Beginners #3. Morgan Horse

The Morgan horse is one of the best horses for new riders. This breed is attentive and eager to please, with very few health issues. Additionally, Morgan horses are known for their forgiving nature, something that is of great importance with a new rider.

The Morgan horse typically stands between 14 hands (56 in.) and 15 hands (60 in.) high and weighs between 900 to 1,100 pounds. Morgan horses are smaller than many other full-size horse breeds, making them an excellent choice for young riders. They are known as one of the most popular horse breeds for riders of all skill levels. 

One of the greatest benefits of the Morgan horse is the relatively low cost of investment and upkeep. As a smaller horse, a Morgan horse typically consumes less food than the average full-sized horse. They are also known for their exceptional health, reducing the lifetime cost of owning this beautiful creature.

To learn about the average cost of Morgans, check out my article How Much Does a Morgan Horse Cost? 2023 Pricing Guide.

Horse Breed for Beginners #4. American Paint Horse

Popular American Horses

The American Paint Horse is known for its stunning appearance. However, this is not the only quality that sets this horse breed apart! In addition to its exceptional beauty, the American Paint horse is known for its good temperament and loyalty. 

American Paints quickly form a strong bond with their owner, a quality that is especially endearing to a first-time horse owner. Its docile demeanor makes this horse breed well-suited for beginning riders of all ages.

These horses stand between 14 hands (56 in.) and 16 hands (64 in.) high and weigh between 950 and 1,200 pounds. An incredibly versatile breed, the American Paint is friendly, intelligent, and athletic. However, they are also known for their agility, stamina, and speed, making them well-suited for nearly every area of equine activity.

Horse Breed for Beginners #5. Appaloosa

Every lesson stable has to have at least one Appaloosa! Another horse breed with a flashy appearance, Appaloosa horses are an excellent choice for the beginner rider or first-time horse owner. With a docile and willing demeanor, Appaloosas are easy to train and enjoyable to ride.

They stand between 14 hands (56 in.) and 16 hands (64 in.) high and weigh between 950 and 1,200 pounds. This breed is also known for its versatility and often appears in a variety of equine activities such as trail riding, speed events, endurance, and eventing. 

The distinctive appearance of the Appaloosa is hard to beat. This friendly, gentle, loyal horse is a great choice for beginners. Overall, Appaloosas are hardy in nature with very few health or behavioral concerns. They are a safe investment for a first-time horse owner.

Horse Breed for Beginners #6. Missouri Fox Trotter

The Missouri Fox Trotter is a gaited horse breed that offers a comfortable ride. Because of its signature gait, the Missouri Fox Trotter is a great choice for beginners of all ages, including children.

Missouri Fox Trotters stand between 14 hands (56 in.) and 16 hands (64 in.) high and weigh between 900 and 1,200 pounds. As a breed, Missouri Fox Trotters are friendly with a gentle demeanor that makes them a great family pet. The steady steps of a Missouri Fox Trotter make this horse breed ideal for new riders, older riders, or riders with disabilities.

The Missouri Fox Trotter is known for its incredible strength and endurance. With a strong disposition, they are not prone to significant health problems.

Horse Breed for Beginners #7. Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse is another gaited breed that has a smooth gait that makes you feel like you’re riding a couch. Tennessee Walkers have a kind and understanding demeanor, making them well-suited for beginners and first-time horse owners. The Tennessee Walking Horse is known for its flashy yet versatile personality and is used in many areas of the equestrian world.

The Tennessee Walking Horse typically stands around 16 hands (64 in.) high and weighs between 900 and 1,200 pounds. Its docile and laid-back temperament makes it great for new riders, while its stamina allows the breed to keep up with even advanced riders.

Tennessee Walking Horses are well-suited for beginners and families of riders of many levels. The flat, gaited walk of Tennessee Walkers makes them ideal for riders who have physical restrictions or disabilities. 

Horse Breed for Beginners #8. Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is another gaited breed offering a smooth, effortless ride. This riding experience, coupled with the gentle temperament of the breed, makes it popular among older riders and beginners alike. 

Kentucky Mountain Saddle horses typically stand between 11 hands (44 in.) and 16 hands (64 in.) high and weigh between 950 and 1,200 pounds. A close relative of the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Kentucky Mountain Saddle horse has a natural four-gait beat. This allows the rider to sit virtually motionless while the horse traverses even the roughest of terrains. 

Similar to Tennessee Walking Horses, the Kentucky Mountain Saddle horse is the perfect breed for new riders, riders with physical limitations, and children. As such, it is a great option for beginners or first-time horse owners.

How Much Does a Beginner-Friendly Horse Cost?

All the horses on this list can be considered some of the cheapest horse breeds in America due to their plentiful numbers. That said, when it comes to finding a suitable horse for a beginner, it’s not necessarily the breed you’re paying for; it’s the training and experience that has gone into the horse.

You can expect to pay between $5,000 – $15,000 for a well-trained beginner-friendly horse. While this is a wide range, an older horse who is safe for any rider but may have limitations on their abilities will be cheaper than a docile horse in its prime that can continue to take your child up through the show circuit.

Tips for Choosing the Best Horse Breed for You

The breeds on this list are, of course, just a few of the most popular horse breeds for beginners. You must take time to research a breed that would be well-suited for your unique personality, goals, and riding style. As we mentioned previously, every horse within a breed varies. You have to take time to get to know the horse you are considering investing in before you make your decision. 

Here are a few tips for choosing the best horse breed for you: 

Consult an Experienced Equestrian

As a beginner rider or first-time horse owner, there are things that you simply do not know. Although research is a great teacher, experience goes a long way. One of the first steps in choosing a horse breed should be to consult with an experienced equestrian. 

It is also wise to ask this individual to accompany you as you visit horses you may purchase. An experienced equestrian has an eye for details that you may otherwise miss. Because they have worked through this process before, they will be able to ask important questions and make observations to guide your decision. 

Spend Time With the Horse Before Investing

If it is possible, it is always best to spend time with a horse before you invest. A horse is a large investment in many ways. It is best to watch them in a variety of situations. Even better, however, is to ride them for yourself. If you are a new rider, it is best to ask an experienced equestrian to ride the horse for you as they will see things you may not. 

Have a Veterinarian Look at the Horse Before Buying

Regardless of the reputation of the barn you are purchasing your horse, have your veterinarian examine the horse. If the horse you are purchasing is not local, ask your local veterinarian to recommend someone in the area. This preventative measure can save you from great pain, heartache, and financial loss down the road.

Best Horse Breeds for New Riders

It is estimated that there are over 400 horse breeds around the world. With this many horse breeds to choose from, it can feel nearly impossible to choose a horse that is well-suited for you! Especially as a new rider, the horse you choose will have a tremendous impact on both your ability to excel in the area of riding and your confidence in handling your horse. 

There is, of course, no horse breed that is perfect for every new rider or horse owner. However, as a beginner, it is best to look for a horse breed that is known for its calm demeanor, trainable nature, and overall health. 

Although many equestrians dream of raising a horse from the start, this is likely not the best decision for a beginner. Raising and training a horse comes with a laundry list of challenges that a new owner is likely not equipped to handle. Additionally, it can be hard to predict the demeanor and trainability of a young horse. 

An older horse will be much more predictable and enable the rider to feel comfortable more quickly. It is recommended that new riders or first-time horse owners invest in an older horse that is in good health with several years of riding left for the future.

Never Rush to Make This Important Decision

Finally, choosing your first horse is a huge decision. As a large financial investment, you must have adequate time to research and select a horse breed that meets your needs both now and into the future. Ask for the advice of trusted equestrians and equine professionals in your life. Consider leasing a horse until you have gained a better grasp on the qualities you are looking for in your horse. 

As you search for the perfect horse breed, ride horses of various sizes and breeds to get a feel for your personal preference. Oftentimes, this will open your eyes to qualities you didn’t know you wished for in your future horse. Maybe you thought you wanted a smaller horse but prefer the riding experience of a taller horse! You will never know some of these preferences until you are exposed to both possibilities. 

While it may seem like an arduous process, there is no better feeling than finally owning a horse that you just know was meant to be yours! 

If you are on a budget, check out my article Cheap Horses: 10 Cheap Breeds & Where to Get Them.

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Carmella Abel, Pro Horse Trainer

Hi! I’m Carmella

My husband and I started Equine Helper to share what we’ve learned about owning and caring for horses. I’ve spent my whole life around horses, and I currently own a POA named Tucker. You can learn more here.

Thank you for reading, and happy trails!

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