Best Horse Breeds For Eventing (With Pictures and Pricing)

Eventing is known by the US Equestrian Federation as the sport that “tests horse and athlete pairs more completely than any other discipline.” When you watch an eventing competition and understand what is involved, it becomes clear why the sport would be described this way. A sport this intense requires a horse that is up to the task. 

What are the best horse breeds for eventing? Success in eventing requires a horse that is driven, agile, athletic, strong, and highly trainable. Eight of the most popular horse breeds for eventing are:

  1. Connemara
  2. Thoroughbred
  3. Quarter Horse
  4. Appaloosa
  5. Oldenburg
  6. Holsteiner
  7. Irish Sport Horse
  8. Selle Francais

Keep reading to learn more about these eventing horses, including their origin and how much you can expect to spend if looking to purchase one.

Eventing Horse #1: Connemara

The first four horses on my list are breeds that excel in eventing at the lower levels. They are reasonably priced options for amateur riders looking for experience and a trustworthy partner. If you are serious about eventing and would like to exceed to the upper levels, the breeds further down on this list can take you further.

My list starts with the Connemara. Best known for their common grey coats, Connemaras come from the wild moors of Ireland. They are rugged, hardy horses that have a natural talent for jumping, endurance, and bravery… all skills needed to succeed in eventing! These horses are technically a pony breed but have members that mature to around 15 hh. For children or small adults looking for a trustworthy eventing mount, the Connemara is a great option. In America, you can find a well-trained Connemara for $7,000 – $15,000. If you need a more reasonably priced option, check out the next few breeds.

Eventing Horse #2: Thoroughbred

The Thoroughbred is a hot-blooded breed known for its speed and stamina. While many start out as racehorses, they can be rehabilitated and retrained as successful event horses. Their athleticism makes them a natural choice for eventing. I have known off-the-track thoroughbreds who have succeeded to the mid-levels of eventing, like training level and prelim. If you have successfully ridden the beginner novice and novice levels, investing in a thoroughbred may be what you need to reach the mid-levels. There have also been plenty of Thoroughbreds who have gone to the upper levels of eventing.

Off-the-track Thoroughbreds can be purchased for as little as a few hundred dollars. That being said, horses coming from the racetrack will need a lot of re-training. They can also have medical and behavioral problems that need to be addressed. I only recommend these horses to experienced riders for these reasons. To learn more, visit my article Should I Get an Off-The-Track Thoroughbred? (Read Before Buying.)

Eventing Horse #3: Quarter Horse

Not only do Quarter Horses share the title of the most popular horses in America, but they also can be named one of the most versatile breeds in the world. While not an upper-level event horse, a Quarter Horse can easily help you experience the lower levels of eventing. Their cow sense and ability make them great for show jumping. Their calm demeanor and bravery can be beneficial in cross country. The Quarter Horse’s heart of gold can really shine in dressage.

If you have a junior rider looking for a horse, or you want a trustworthy mount to event on yourself, then the Quarter Horse is for you! You can find a broke Quarter Horse anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000.

Eventing Horse #4: Appaloosa

Not only do these horses look good, but they are also extremely athletic. I haven’t found an equine sport that an Appaloosa can’t do. I would even go as far as to say that they rival the Quarter Horse in versatility. Originating from the indigenous tribes in Western America, Appaloosas are known for their stamina and endurance. They are often rugged and low-maintenance horses, surviving on the bare essentials of grass in a pasture.

The Appaloosa varies greatly in build and height. Some Appaloosas will be short and stocky, like a Quarter Horse. Others will be tall and lean like a Thoroughbred. This will ultimately determine how far they can go in eventing; many will be able to succeed in the lower levels of eventing. Some will succeed in the mid-levels. On rare occasions, you may see an Appaloosa in the upper levels. Appaloosas can range in price from a few thousand dollars to into the low five figures, depending on their training and potential.

Eventing Horse #5: Oldenburg

The Oldenburg is the first warmblood on my list, built for upper-level equine events. If you want to go far in eventing, you’ll want to invest in one of the following breeds.

This breed is a German sporthorse that was developed in the 1600s as a “luxury horse.” Breeders crossed the desirable Frederiksborger horses of Denmark with Turkish and Iberian horses. While they were designed as carriage horses, breeders began introducing Thoroughbreds, Trakehners, Arabians, and more recently a number of Warmblood lines, to evolve the breed into a riding and sporting breed.

Oldenburgs are powerful and bold horses who excel at show jumping, and individuals with heavy Thoroughbred influence have shown great ability in eventing. You can generally find one for $15,000 – $35,000, though many of them come directly from Germany, and shipping costs must be taken into consideration.

Eventing Horse #6: Holsteiner

In the Holsteiner, there is another German native (I promise not all sport horses hail from Germany, though they do tend to produce a great amount of strong, athletic horses) and is considered to be the oldest warmblood breed, with lineage traced back to the 13th century. They were developed by the Uetersen monasteries for cavalry and later as carriage horses by introducing Thoroughbreds and Cleveland Bays. Holsteiners excel at show jumping and hunt-seat and are frequently seen in dressage and eventing as well.

A Holsteiner may cost between $10,000 and $25,000, but a proven horse who excels at eventing, show jumping, or dressage can fetch prices from $50,000 to $70,000. 

Eventing Horse #7: Irish Sport Horse

The Irish Sport Horse was developed in the 1920s in Ireland by crossing the Irish Draft Horse with Thoroughbred stock. In the 1990s, limited bloodlines were further introduced from the Hanoverian, Selle Francais, and Trakehner breeds. Irish Sport Horses do well in dressage, show jumping, and eventing. They frequently place high in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses and ranked #1 for five consecutive years from 2012 to 2016.

You may be able to find an Irish Sport Horse for between $10,000 and $25,000, but they are a relatively rare breed and thus, may need to be imported from other countries, increasing the acquisition cost. 

Eventing Horse #8: Selle Francais

In the 19th century, various regions in France began crossing their own native mares with Thoroughbreds and Norfolk Trotters. These horses were generally named after their locales of origin. In 1958, a breeding program was introduced to merge these horses into a unified sport breed called the Selle Francais, which translates to “French Saddle Horse.” Today, the Selle Francais dominates in show jumping, dressage, and eventing. Additional registries have developed in Great Britain and the United States.

While the Selle Francais breed is not particularly rare, it is also not as easily found as other breeds in the United States. Like some of the earlier warmbloods mentioned, one may need to search outside of the country for an eventing-level Selle Francais. These horses can be purchased for between $15,000 and $40,000. 

What is Eventing?

Eventing has been described as an “equestrian triathlon” as it involves three disciplines in one sport: dressage, cross country, and show jumping. These are typically performed over four days with dressage taking up the first two, though this show is called “3-day eventing” (3DE). Some, however, are performed over the course of a single day, called one-day eventing or horse trial. Throughout the show, horses and riders accrue penalty points. At the end of the event, the pair with the fewest points wins. 

Eventing is one of the three Olympic equestrian sports, with the other two being show jumping and dressage. The sport of eventing got its start in the 19th century and evolved from a series of tests that were performed on cavalry horses. Eventing first entered the Olympics in 1912 and has been a staple ever since. If you’d like to check it out (which I recommend!) the next Summer Olympics is coming up this year!

The Best Horse Breeds for Eventing

Not surprisingly, it is the warmbloods that dominate the eventing circuits. The term “warmblood” refers to a horse that has been developed by breeding “hot-blooded” horses like Arabians and Thoroughbreds with “cold-blooded” horses like draft breeds. Of course, all horses are scientifically warm-blooded, but these different terms are used to describe the general temperament of a breed.

“Hot-blooded” horses are athletic, driven, and at times nervous or sensitive. “Cold-blooded” horses will not generally win any races but are calm, gentle, and extremely strong. When these two horse types are combined, the resulting warmblood is typically mild-mannered and willing to work, with the agility and very powerful hindquarters needed in show jumping. The following are some of the breeds best suited to eventing.

Seriously Athletic Horses for a Seriously Athletic “Event”

Eventing is an intense sport, so it makes sense that the most successful horse breeds are ones that have been bred specifically for the grace and discipline required in dressage, the speed and courage needed in cross country, and the power and agility necessary for show jumping.

These horses have it all, and they come with the price tag to prove it. If you are serious about the sport of eventing, you will want to spend the money on a horse that will take you where you want to go. If that means you will need to spend some time saving for your dream horse, that just gives you more time to find the perfect match. Want to know more about eventing? Check out my article What is Eventing? Everything You Need to Know.

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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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