The 10 Best Horse Breeds in Detail

The 10 Best Horse Breeds in Detail

All riders have a favorite horse. This may be because it was the first breed that you owned or it’s a breed that you think looks more beautiful than any other horse. The list of best horse breeds can be based on popularity, how they look, the number of people who own them, or how good they are when riding.

Check out our list of the 10 best horse breeds in North America – you’ll find everything from American quarter horses to the magnificent Arabian, our list of horse breeds has it all.

American Quarter Horse

American Quarter Horse

The American quarter horse is frequently chosen as one of the overall best horse breeds by novice horse owners and experienced equestrians. They have a height of between 14 and 16 hands (56 inches – 64 inches) and have a weight of 950 to 1,200 pounds. In terms of appearance, the American quarter horse has a medium-boned and finely chiseled head with a wide forehead and flat profile.

This horse breed combines all the characteristics that make up an ideal family horse. It is docile enough for use as a novice riding horse but agile and athletic enough to take on more challenging trail rides. Quarter horses win hands down when it comes to the size of horse breed registry and are frequently named as the most popular of all the horse breeds in the U.S. If you have never owned a horse before, this is a dream horse for you. They are very at home in the show ring and have a lovely temperament and superb versatility. Their lineage can be traced back to the English thoroughbreds and the Native American Chickasaw.

Arabian Horse

Purebred white arabian horse in desert

The elegance of the stunning Arabian horse is apparent in many famous photographs by the renowned equine photographer Julia Moll. They owe their good looks to their lithe physique and wedge-shaped head. Their back is short and they have sloping shoulders balanced by powerful hindquarters.

This exceptional horse breed has the oldest breed registry on the planet and the breed dates back to 3000 B.C. In fact, they can be viewed as the original domestic horse breed as many other breeds can trace their lineage back to them. They are survivors – perfectly adapted to desert living and with a history as Bedouin horses living in tents with their human companions.

This may be why they have such loyalty and affection towards humans. These exceptional horses have a height of between 14 and 16 hands (56 inches – 64 inches) and have a weight of 800 to 1,000 pounds. The Arabian horse is very intelligent and highly versatile but is also loving and very loyal to its owners. Because the Arabian can have a spirited nature, they are not amongst the list of horse breeds that are suited to a novice rider and would be a better choice for experienced equestrians.

Tennessee Walking Horse

Tennessee Walking horses are naturally gaited horses known for their unique four-beat gaits that are often described as smooth or silk

The Tennessee walker has earned its name from its distinctive gait and silky smooth ride. This is, without doubt, one of the best horse breeds for people who have taken up riding a little later in life. Its running walk is very similar to a single foot gait and is gentle on the back. Combine their gentle walk with their pleasant temperament and you have the best horse breed for traveling over rough ground. They were originally bred for farm and ranch work so they are not lacking in strength and stamina either.

The Tennessee walker can trace its heritage back to a pacing New England breed called the Narragansett Horse. These days it has a height of between 14.3 hands and 17 hands and a weight of between 900 to 1200 pounds. They are equally at home in the show ring and on trails and are one of the most popular horse breeds with riders of all ages and abilities all over North America.

Friesian Horse

Black friesian horse with long mane runs in the blooming green garden in spring.

The Friesian Horse is one of the oldest horse breeds and originates from The Netherlands. They were originally used as military horses and obtain many of the characteristics from their ancestor – the Old English Black – which is also related to the Shire horse and has great endurance and strength. They are medium size and have a height of between 62 inches and 65 inches (14.3 to 15.3 hands) with clear, kind eyes and small ears. These ponies have a strong body and a thick tail, they also have feathered legs.

During the 1600s they could frequently be seen in the dressage ring and worked as performing ponies in circuses in the U.S- showing off their grace, speed and agility attributes over little jumps and taking part in trick riding displays (To find out more about horse speed, check How Fast Can a Horse Run). They make a great choice as a general riding horse and can also be used as a driving horse.

Icelandic Horse

Icelandic horse

As you’ve probably already guessed, the Icelandic horse comes from the tiny country of Iceland. They have a small stature, making them similar in size to ponies. They are well known for living a long time and for being hardy enough to withstand the hard conditions and terrain of their home country. One of the notable characteristics of the breed is the two extra gaits in addition to the typical walk, trot, canter, and gallop. This makes them very sure-footed which is a great advantage to riders when crossing rough ground.

They are usually 13 or 14 hands high and weigh between 730 and 840 pounds in weight. Their color and coat patterning are very varied. Their heads are well-proportioned and they have a straight profile with a wide forehead.  These horses are commonly used as working horses as well as by equestrians and have found their way to all four corners of the world.

Irish Thoroughbreds

Big strong young bay Irish gypsey cob shire horse foal standing proud in sunshine countryside paddock field setting blue sky and green grass.

Standing at 15 to 17 hands high and weighing 1,000 to 1,300 pounds, the Irish Thoroughbreds are firmly positioned at the top of the best horse breeds for racing in the U.S. and throughout the world. They have won huge accolades in the sport of racing at all levels and have made people a lot of money!

Any owner or trainer of Irish Thoroughbreds will tell you that they are hot-blooded horses and only riders with plenty of experience, training, and skill should entertain riding them. This is not the breed of choice for beginners who have never been horse riding before. Their outstanding characteristics include speed, agility, and plenty of spirit. They are also a good choice if you want a horse for jumping or dressage. These horses have a lean body and a deep chest. Their muscles are long and flat – built for speed.


Appaloosa mini horses in the meadow

The gorgeous Appaloosa are one of the types of horse breeds that you can spot from a distance. They have a distinctive and colorful coat pattern with a mottled appearance and striped hooves. The breed is between 14 and 15 hands high and weighs between 950 to 1,200 pounds.

The Appaloosa is suitable for all levels of horse riding ranging from beginners to racing. They have the stamina to deal with a long-distance trail as they were originally bred for hunting by Native Americans. Their heritage is probably a combination of wild horses with Thoroughbreds. Although there are also elements of the American quarter horse and even the Arabians. This breed is both hardy and versatile and riding them is a joy. You can find them in circuses all over the world as they are both courageous and docile but they are equally content to be trail horses.

Morgan Horse

Palomino Morgan Stallion

The official horse breed of Vermont, the Morgan breed is very popular as a driving and riding horse. All Morgan horses have been bred from a single stallion called Figure who lived in West Springfield, Massachusetts in the late 1700s.

They are one of the top horse breeds when it comes to muscle and they have been used for tilling and farming in U.S farms during colonial times. The Morgan breed is now used for horse riding and driving and have a sure-footed way of walking over rough ground. They are also one of the types of horses that look great in the ring. Morgan horses stand between 14 and 15 hands high and weigh between 900 and 1,100 pounds. They have small ears and expressive eyes as well as a crested neck. Thanks to their steady disposition and gentle gait, they are a suitable beginner’s horse and are also suitable for disabled riders. There is even a children’s book series called ‘Morgan Horse’ written by author Ellen Field and full of content about Morgan horses and the adventures that they get up to.


Amazing black dutch warmblood running alone in paddock

The Warmbloods are a group of horses rather than one breed. They are medium-weight horses and originated in Europe. The breed descended from heavy agricultural horses but they were bred with ‘hot blood’ horses to give a mixture of the two – hence the name ‘Warmbloods’.

They are very popular as general riding horses and as racing horses. The breed combines the spirited nature of the Arabians with the docile nature of a working horse. Therefore, you get a horse that will never lose your interest, has a touch of temper but is overall a very balanced ride.

The breeding of warmbloods is much more relaxed than it is with pure breed horses like the Arabian or Thoroughbred. The studbooks are open and breeding horses from similar populations are accepted. These horses are used for general purpose riding but are also content in show jumping and driving.

Draft Horses

Belgian draft horse in summer field at sunset

No list of horses is complete without a mention of the wonderful draft horses. These horses are described as cold-blooded breeds and are not generally used for riding. It is a heavy breed that is content pulling large loads on farms and along city streets. In the past, these horses were used by the military in battle and were strong enough for a fully armed soldier to ride.

The Clydesdale is a typical draft horse breed. They stand 16 to 18 hands high and weigh up to 2400 pounds. They have a distinctive feathering on their legs and around their feet. They also have a broad forehead. Another stand-out feature is their high-stepping gait. These horses can be used for driving and riding and are often seen in parades carrying drums that weigh at least 120 pounds.

Sharon Parry

Sharon is a Ph.D. scientist and experienced pet content writer. As a life-long animal lover, she now shares her family home with three rabbits, a Syrian hamster, and a Cockapoo puppy. She has a passion for researching accurate and credible information about pets and turning it into easy-to-understand articles that offer practical tips. When it comes to our furry friends, she knows that there is always something new to learn!

  1. Tina Austin
    Jun 01, 2021

    I love your information about horses an other animals. I grew up on a farm an around different horses. Would love to send you my adventures sometime soon. Email me.

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