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Irish Sport Horses, Are These Warmbloods Good for Beginners

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Irish Sport Horses are powerful, athletic, and versatile. They’re willing workers with intelligence. But are these warmbloods the right horse for you? Are they suitable for beginning riders?

Irish Sport Horses are typically good beginner horses. A traditional Irish Sport Horse is an offspring from a Thoroughbred and Irish Draught Horse cross. But be aware that sometimes Thoroughbreds produce high-spirited horses.

Warmbloods typically have the characteristics you want in a horse for the beginner rider. However, when choosing an Irish Sport Horse, there is a lot to consider.

What is an Irish Sport Horse?

Recently I was asked to look at an Irish Sport Horse for sale. Before I went to see the horse, I researched the breed to learn as much as possible.

The Irish Sport horse has the desire, speed, and athletic ability of a Thoroughbred, combined with the calm and sensible temperament of the Irish Draught horse. They are durable, sound, and have stamina, which makes them desirable for use in a wide variety of equine activities.

Picture of an Irish sport horse, jumping hurdles.
By don carey

Irish Sport Horses are a versatile breed with an engaging personality, excellent movement, and outstanding jumping ability.  The breed is a product of crossing Thoroughbreds with Irish Draught Horses.

The percentage of Thoroughbred to Irish Draught blood is not typically equal. For example, the most popular cross for Eventing is 1/4 Irish Draught and 3/4 Thoroughbred, which creates a horse with great speed and uncommon jumping talent.

The Irish Draught Horse: An integral element of the Irish Sport Horse bloodline

The Irish Draught Horse was developed in Ireland. The Irish farmer relied on this breed to handle multiple purposes, eliminating the necessity of keeping different horses for each specific chore.

The Irish Draught Horse was an excellent plow horse, strong enough to pull a cart at a brisk pace, and had the speed and athletic ability to be involved in fox hunts.  

Picture of an Irish Draft horse.
Irish Draught

Irish Draught Horses have the calm temperament of large horses but are much lighter than the traditional draft breeds. The Irish Draught is often crossed with light breeds to introduce more substantial bone and a calmer disposition.

The Irish Draught can trace its bloodline to the original Irish Sport Horse, the Hobby horse. The hobby horse originated in Ireland in the 12th century and was brought to England for racing and light military use.

Most European horses of this period were big, slow draft horses. The Hobby horse contrasted with these large working breeds; they were light, quick, and smart.

Today, the Irish Hobby is extinct, but their blood still flows through the hearts of the Irish Draught, the Connemara Pony, the  English Thoroughbred, and some American breeds.

horse on the Irish plain
Picture of horses in Doolin Ireland

Are Irish Sporting Horses good for beginner riders?

Irish Sport horses are exceptional animals; they are graceful, athletic, and smart. But do they have all the traits desired for beginner riders?

Some Irish Sporting Horses make good beginner horses, but they are not the ideal breed for beginners. There’s a lot to choosing the right horse for a novice rider, and breeding is only one consideration.

Remember, horses are individuals and don’t always conform to general breed traits. Non-conformation to breed characteristics is prevalent in Irish Sport Horses since they originate from mating different breeds.

Typically, Irish Sporting Horses are high-energy animals, and they need to be exercised regularly. And much like their relative, the Thoroughbred, they like to be guided and get frustrated quickly with an unsure rider.

If you are a novice rider looking to start English equestrian eventing, an Irish Sport Horse may be the horse for you. Few horses can advance with you as well as an Irish Sport Horse.

Most beginners start with the fundamental English hunters. Hunters allow novice riders to work on their necessary riding skills. Once they master these principles, most Irish Sport Horses can step up to jumpers if that is your plan.

Finding a horse with the temperament and ability to move from hunter class to jumper is difficult. Take your time, try a lot of horses, and have an experienced horseman help you choose the right horse for you. To learn more about horses for beginner riders, click the link.

Picture of an Irish Sport Horse that is used in dressage.
Irish Sport Horse (17 hands tall)

Irish Sport Horses typically have a calm demeanor.

When shopping for a beginner’s horse, temperament is a critical factor. Horse temperament is the overall demeanor of the horse. Horses tend to have general personalities based on their breed, environment, and age.

Typically, Irish Sport Horses are calmer than Thoroughbreds and are easy to handle; however, they can be stubborn and headstrong. They are high-spirited horses that are willing to work and learn. But remember that the Irish Sport Horse is bred to be a competition horse.

For competitive riding, they have the ideal temperament. Irish Sport Horses are bold, energetic, and have incredible endurance. They enjoy training and want to please their rider. To better understand the personality of the Irish Sport Horse, it’s essential to look at the temperaments of the breeds used to develop it.

Picture of a thoroughbred stallion.

Thoroughbred temperament

Thoroughbreds typically are hot, which means they tend to be easily spooked and are high-strung, anxious, or nervous. They are also eager to go and are sensitive to the slightest pressure, unlike horses cold-blooded horses.

These horses require a rider with some experience and knowledge of how to handle it; otherwise, it may be a rough ride. Irish Sport Horses inherit the sensitive nature, energy level, and anxiousness from its Thoroughbred’s blood.

Irish Draught Temperament

Irish Draught Horses are generally calm, dependable, and not easily startled. They are friendly horses that don’t mind taking on a task, and once they get going, they stay the course.

The Irish Draught Horse is a light breed developed to work on Irish farms and is renowned for its strength, intelligence, courage, durability, and gentle temperament. From their Irish Draught branch, the Irish Sport Horse gets its honesty, intelligence, and calm demeanor.

Irish Sport Horse Breed Characteristics


Irish Sport Horse conformations vary based on the percentages of Thoroughbred and Irish Draught in their pedigree. Some Irish horses used for breeding also have Connemara in their pedigrees.

Irish Sport Horses have a strong bone structure and are sculpted muscular animals with clean, well-formed legs. The head of an Irish Sport Horse is attractive, with some having a convex profile. Its neck typically has a slight arch and is muscular.

The shoulders are long and sloping, with a deep chest. The Irish Sport Horse should have a short compact back and muscular croup with strong hindquarters.

They often inherit the long-sloping croup of the Irish Draught, which is good for jumping. From its Thoroughbred blood, the Irish Sport Horse inherits high withers.

Height of an Irish Sport Horse

The average height of an Irish Sport Horse is roughly 16 hands and is typically between 15-17 hands tall. But heights vary significantly in the Irish Sport Horse breed.

Horses with a lot of Connemara heritage may be as small as 13 hands, and those with more Irish Draught blood may get as tall as 17 hands. The average weight of an Irish Sport Horse is around 1,300 pounds.

Colors of Irish Sport Horses

Irish Sport Horses are acceptable in any color or pattern, including tobiano and overo. The most common colors are grey, chestnut, bay, and black. The diversity of breeding creates horses in many different colors.

Irish Sport Horses: Uses

Irish Sport Horses were initially developed for transportation, agricultural work, and fox hunting. But they quickly proved themselves worthy in a wide variety of equine activities.

The modern Irish Sport Horse excels at every level of competitive Eventing, Show Jumping, and Dressage. Their temperament, durability, and athleticism make them the perfect type of horse to succeed in many equine disciplines.  

The Irish Sport Horse has the movements of a warmblood, combined with the intelligence, speed, and heart of a Thoroughbred.  They are talented enough for use in Eventing, Show Jumping, Foxhunting, Dressage, Driving, or pleasure riding. This is the one horse that can do it all. 

Irish Sport Horses have established a winning legacy in competitive international level of equine sports and is currently number one in the World Breeding Federation for Sport Horses.

Below is a YouTube video that explains the traditionally-bred Irish Sport Horse.


What breeds make an Irish Sport Horse?

The traditional Irish Sport Horse is a cross between the Irish Draught horse and the Thoroughbred. The Irish Sport Horse is known for its versatility, athleticism, and courage and is considered to be one of the best horse breeds in the world.

Are Irish sport horses rare?

Yes, there are only a few thousand Irish sport horses in existence, making them a rare horse breed. However, they are not considered an endangered horse breed; they can be found competing at the highest levels of show jumping, dressage, and eventing.

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