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Quarter Horses: Are They a Good Breed for Beginner Riders?

Last updated: May 25, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Where I live, quarter horses are primarily used for racing and rodeoing, and because of this, many seem anxious. My neighbor is concerned they are too high-strung for beginner riders. I suggested he learn more about the Quarter horse breed.

Quarter horses are perfect for beginner riders. They are typically calm and level-headed but are athletic and willing workers who are responsive to riders. Some performance quarter horses are on the hot side, but that’s likely because of their diet and training.

Everyone wants the perfect horse for beginners to learn to ride, so take your time and look around. But I wouldn’t be shocked to find that you chose a Quarter horse because they have the characteristics needed for a beginner horse.

Picture of my grandsons sorrel quarter horse.
My grandson’s sorrel quarter horse

Why quarter horses are good for beginner riders.

Quarter horses are perfect for beginner-level horse riding for several reasons. First, they have a relatively calm temperament and generally like people; they are sturdy and surefooted.

Most Quarter horses aren’t really tall, so novice riders feel comfortable and aren’t intimidated by their size. They are willing workers, smart, and seek to please.

The chances are good that an inexperienced rider will feel confident relatively quickly on the back of a quarter horse.

What makes a good beginner’s horse?

What we want to see in a beginner’s horse is one that doesn’t spook, has good conformation, is surefooted, and has plenty of miles under a saddle. Typically, Quarter horses possess these traits.

Every Quarter horse won’t be ideal for a beginner rider because, like people, horses are individuals. We’ve owned some extremely high-strung Quarter horses that I wouldn’t put an experienced rider on.

But, we can generalize horses based on their breed characteristics, such as what kind of temperament they have, whether they are willing to work, and whether they are easy to keep.

The traits of a Quarter horse match well with the ones expected in a good beginner’s horse.

Picture of a sorrel quarter horse.
My granddaughter’s barrel horse

Characteristics of a Quarter Horse.

Quarter horses are willing workers.

Novice riders generally favor quarter horses because they are extremely cooperative. Beginner riders become easily frustrated by a non-response horse, making their experience unpleasant.

You want to encourage new riders, so they need a horse to ride and have fun with. Honestly, besides having a calm temperament, a responsive horse is essential for a beginner rider.

Quarter horses have a calm temperament.

Why is a calm temperament so important? Because horses are prey animals and instinctively bolt when confronted with what they perceive as danger. A horse with a calm demeanor is more likely to remain under control in stressful situations.

We were on a large family-style trail ride when a few stray dogs approached our group. One young girl’s horse bolted and raced toward a busy roadway. Fortunately, we chased her down and reined her horse in before anyone was hurt.

She quickly dismounted and ran to a nearby wagon; her riding day was finished. I can’t say if she ever rode a horse again, but it’s unlikely that she did.

A well-seasoned Quarter horse would not have bolted under a similar situation; that’s why beginner riders must get a horse with a calm temperament.

It can’t be stressed often enough: horses are individuals, and some are high-strung Quarter horses. But, their hot nature is likely due to diet and training more than their breed.

Picture of a gray quarter horse
Gray barrel quarter horse.

Quarter horses height

Quarter horses are a mid-sized horse breed, making them less intimidating and easier to mount. Some beginner riders face difficulties adjusting to tall horses’ height, but with a Quarter horse, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Quarter horses range in height from 14.3 to 16 hands tall and are well put together. A typical Quarter horse is muscular and has powerful hindquarters and shoulders. They have broad chests and short but wide heads.

Quarter horses are smart.

Quarter horses are excellent learners, so a new owner who spends time with their animal will see results from their effort. Nothing is more rewarding for beginner riders than to train their horse to perform a new or novel task.

Quarter horses are intuitive, so training them will not require a lot of repetition. Chances are, a few training runs will be enough for your quarter horse to figure out what you are trying to convey and will do as instructed quickly.

You can train them for rodeo events, barrel racing, dressage, or ground tie. Their intelligence and athletic ability make them suitable to succeed in almost any equine event.

Picture of beginners riding quarter horses.
Kids riding quarter horses at a horse show.

Choosing a horse for beginner riders.

We have a cold-backed horse that is almost perfect for beginners. A cold-backed horse is one that acts up when you first get in the saddle but warms up quickly and becomes a perfect gentleman.

Before we let the kids ride, an adult always rides the horse for the first five or so minutes to warm him up. We are working on his behavior, but would this disqualify him from being classified as a good beginner’s horse?

The answer depends on whether it’s something you are willing to work on or not. I don’t consider him to be a beginner’s horse, but others might.

Here is a checklist to consider when shopping for a horse for beginner riders:

  • Ensure the horse has a calm temperament. A beginner rider needs an even-tempered horse, one that won’t crow-hop its own shadow.
  • Good conformation and health are essential. You don’t want to spend time and money treating a lame horse instead of riding.
  • The horse should have a handle. That means it should know some basic riding cues. It should move forward, back up, and stop when prompted.
  • The horse should have spent extensive time under the saddle. For beginner riders, I recommend a horse no less than ten years old and with experience with kids.
  • Not too tall of a horse. Ideally, you want a mid-sized horse for beginner riders. A horse about 15 hands tall is not too difficult to mount but is not so short it has difficulty keeping pace with other horses.
  • A good beginner’s horse should be a willing worker and easy to move from the barn.
Picture of a quarter horse mare and her foal.

Is a gelding or mare better for a beginner?

The sex of a horse is a personal preference. It’s more important to have the horse’s history than worry about their gender, although I prefer a mare for beginner riders.

I find mares more intuitive, patient, and understanding with novice riders than a gelding. But I’m outside of the general consensus most people would recommend a gelding because they are supposedly more level-headed unless they were proud-cut.

To learn about proud cut horses, check my article on the subject: What Is a Proud Cut Horse? Its Cause, Symptoms, and Facts

Mares have heat cycles, and like human females, they can go through depression or become irritated quickly during this period. I haven’t had this problem with our mares, but I know some horse owners who have.

If you’re considering a mare for a beginner horse, ask the seller about its heat cycles and whether it changes attitude during these times. You could also lease the animal for a few months to find out for yourself before buying it.

Picture of a quarter horse.
Three-year-old quarter horse.

At what age can you start riding a quarter horse?

You can start riding a Quarter horse when the bones in their knees begin to close; this typically occurs when they are two years old. Before you ride a two or three-year-old horse for the first time, get its legs checked by a veterinarian to ensure its legs are developed enough to carry a load.

We had some horses ready for riding early and others whose knees didn’t close until they were three years old. And Quarter horses are one of the breeds that develop the youngest for riding.

If you’re interested in racehorses’ age, click on this article: Why Are Racehorses So Young? Does Age Matter in a Race?

Picture of an almost white appaloosa.

What are other good breeds for beginner riders?

There are many good breeds for beginner riders, such as Morgans, Tennessee Walker Horses, and American Paint Horse. The American Paint is one of my favorites because they have similar characteristics to the Quarter horse.

But I wouldn’t focus so much on the breed as the individual horse. I’ve seen some Thoroughbreds and Arabians that made wonderful horses for beginner riders even though they are a “hot-blooded” breed.

Some of the best horses I’ve been around are grade horses. Grade horses are the “mongrels” of the horse community, their breeding can’t be confirmed, and they have no papers to document their lineage.

Picture of a quarter horse


After considering the type of qualities, you should look for in a beginner’s horse, we believe Quarter horses are ideal. Their easy-going nature makes riding, training, and keeping one easier than most other breeds.

It’s challenging to find a good beginner’s horse, so have patience and look over your option well. And one key to remember is never to choose a horse based on its color.

Below is a YouTube video by Utah State University that provides information on the characteristics of Quarter horses.

YouTube video


Are quarter horses friendly?

Quarter horses are intelligent, friendly animals with an easy-going nature,, and they are a versatile breed that you can train for many tasks.

What are Quarter Horses used for?

The American Quarter Horse is a versatile horse used in many equine activities, from racing to trail riders, in addition to their ancestral roots of ranching work and rodeo competitions.

What is considered a beginner horse rider?

A beginner rider is someone who does not regularly ride or participate in horse riding activities. They often feel uncomfortable cantering and don’t have a grasp of the basic principles of horse riding.