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Top Horse Breeds for Children and Families

Last updated: June 12, 2024

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

Choosing the right horse breed for your family is crucial to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some of the top horse breeds for children and families, along with their key features, temperaments, and care requirements.

Picture of a boy riding a quarter horse. This is one of the top horse breeds for children.
Young boy riding a quarter horse.

American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is one of the most popular breeds in the United States, known for its calm demeanor and versatility.

Key Features:

  • Temperament: Gentle, friendly, and easy to train.
  • Size: Typically stands between 14 and 16 hands high.

Care Guide:

  • Dietary Needs: A balanced diet of high-quality forage, grains, and supplements as needed. Quarter Horses can be prone to obesity, so monitor their weight and adjust feed accordingly.
  • Common Health Issues: Watch for signs of laminitis, navicular disease, and equine metabolic syndrome. Regular vet check-ups are essential.
  • Grooming Tips: Daily grooming to keep their coat healthy and clean. Pay attention to their hooves and clean them regularly to prevent infections.

Personal Experience: My experience with Quarter Horses has been nothing but positive. They are incredibly reliable and great for beginners. We’ve used them in racing, rodeoing, and trail riding. All my children rode Quarter Horses before they were ten years old, and their patience and gentle nature made these early riding experiences enjoyable and confidence-building.

Related Article: How to Choose the Best Horse Breed for Beginners

Expert Quote: “Most Quarter Horses are perfect for young riders due to their steady temperament and versatility.” Blaine Verbois, Horse Trainer.

Morgan horse pulling a small wagon.
Morgan horse pulling a wagon. Source: Selena N, CC BY 2.0

Morgan Horse

The Morgan horse is known for its versatility and friendly nature, making it a great choice for families.

Key Features:

  • Temperament: Friendly, intelligent, and eager to please.
  • Size: Usually stands between 14.1 and 15.2 hands high.

Care Guide:

  • Dietary Needs: Morgans often do well on a simple diet of quality forage and minimal grain. They are easy keepers and can become overweight, so feeding should be monitored.
  • Common Health Issues: They are susceptible to obesity-related conditions such as laminitis. Regular exercise is crucial to maintaining their health.
  • Grooming Tips: Regular brushing and hoof cleaning. Morgans have thick manes and tails that may require extra attention to prevent tangles.

Personal Experience: My experience with Morgan horses is limited. My brother owned one, and it was a wonderful addition to his family. The horse was versatile and excelled in numerous activities, from driving to riding. Their friendly nature makes them a joy to work with, especially for children.

Related Article: The Versatile Morgan Horse

Expert Quote: “Morgans are excellent family horses. They are calm and willing to please.” – Ira Brown, Riding Instructor.

Picture of an American Paint horse.
All the kids love riding this paint mare.

American Paint Horse

The American Paint Horse is known for its colorful coat patterns and calm nature, making it a family favorite.

Key Features:

  • Temperament: Calm, friendly, and social.
  • Size: Typically stands between 14.2 and 16 hands high.

Care Guide:

  • Dietary Needs: Balanced diet with quality hay, grains, and occasional supplements. They require proper nutrition to maintain their vibrant coat.
  • Common Health Issues: Susceptible to sunburn on lighter patches of their coat. Regular checks for skin issues and appropriate shelter from the sun are necessary.
  • Grooming Tips: Regular grooming to maintain their coat’s health. Use sunscreen on light-colored areas to prevent sunburn.

Personal Experience: The American Paint Horse shares much of its pedigree with the Quarter Horse, resulting in athleticism and a gentle nature. The paint mare pictured above was a favorite for many children’s first rides, demonstrating her calm and friendly disposition.

Related Article: American Paint Horse Facts and Pictures

Expert Quote: “Paint Horses are not only beautiful but also make great companions for families due to their gentle and friendly nature.” – Jan Bonita, Paint horse trainer.

Shetland pony waiting to be saddled.
Shetland pony waiting to be saddled.

Shetland Pony

Shetland Ponies are small but sturdy, making them an excellent choice for young children.

Key Features:

  • Temperament: Intelligent, sometimes a bit stubborn, but generally gentle with kids.
  • Size: Usually stands between 9.3 and 10.2 hands high.

Care Guide:

  • Dietary Needs: To prevent obesity, Shetland Ponies require a low-calorie diet. High-quality hay and minimal grain are usually sufficient.
  • Common Health Issues: They are susceptible to laminitis and obesity. Regular exercise and careful monitoring of their diet are essential.
  • Grooming Tips: Shetlands need regular grooming and hoof cleaning. Their thick coats require extra attention during shedding season.

Personal Experience: We’ve had several Shetland Ponies over the years, and they’ve been wonderful for our young children. Their small size makes them less intimidating, and their easygoing nature allows them to handle kids’ playful antics. One of our Shetlands, Daisy, became an instant favorite for pony rides during family gatherings. However, we did have a Shetland pony that was quite stubborn, which sometimes made handling a bit challenging.

Related Article: Shetland Pony: Height, Colors, and Temperaments

Expert Quote: “Shetland Ponies are ideal for young children due to their small size and sturdy build, but their stubborn streak requires patience.” – Kerry Wagner, a longtime owner of ponies.

Welsh pony eating.
Our neighbors Welsh pony.

Welsh Pony

Welsh Ponies are known for their friendly disposition and versatility in various equestrian disciplines.

Key Features:

  • Temperament: Friendly, intelligent, and energetic.
  • Size: Varies from 12 to 15 hands high, depending on the section (A, B, C, or D).

Care Guide:

  • Dietary Needs: Welsh Ponies need a balanced diet with quality forage and minimal grain. They tend to maintain weight easily, so monitor their intake to prevent obesity.
  • Common Health Issues: Generally healthy, but watch for signs of laminitis and obesity. Regular exercise is important.
  • Grooming Tips: Regular grooming and attention to their manes and tails to prevent tangles. Hoof care is also essential.

Personal Experience: Our neighbor’s Welsh pony is extremely athletic and great with the kids. She competes in barrel racing, and her patience and gentle nature have made her a perfect companion.

Related Article: What Do Ponies Eat?

Expert Quote: “Welsh Ponies are versatile and friendly, making them an excellent choice for families involved in various equestrian activities.” – Sarah Thompson, Barrel Racer.

Horseback riding in the mountains.

Grade Horse

Grade horses are mixed-breed horses without a recorded pedigree. They can vary widely in appearance and temperament but often make great family horses.

Key Features:

  • Temperament: Depends on the individual horse, but many are friendly and adaptable.
  • Size: Varies widely.

Care Guide:

  • Dietary Needs: Grade horses should be fed a balanced diet of quality forage and grains appropriate for their size and activity level.
  • Common Health Issues: Health issues can vary, but regular veterinary care is important to catch any problems early.
  • Grooming Tips: Regular grooming and hoof care. Tailor the grooming routine to the horse’s specific coat type and needs.

Personal Experience: We had a Grade Horse named Max, who was a fantastic all-around horse. Despite not having a pedigree, Max was reliable, gentle with kids, and an excellent riding companion. He proved you don’t need a purebred horse to have a wonderful family pet.

Related Article: What is a Grade Horse? Definitions and Uses

Expert Quote: “Grade Horses can be fantastic companions for families, offering a range of temperaments and abilities to suit different needs.” – John Cooper, Equine Enthusiast.

Speckled appaloosa tied to a fence.
Speckled Appaloosa.

Appaloosa

The Appaloosa is known for its distinctive spotted coat pattern and versatile nature.

Key Features:

  • Temperament: Friendly, intelligent, and versatile.
  • Size: Typically stands between 14.2 and 16 hands high.

Care Guide:

  • Dietary Needs: Appaloosas thrive on a diet of quality forage, grains, and supplements as needed. Proper nutrition helps maintain their vibrant coat.
  • Common Health Issues: Prone to equine recurrent uveitis (moon blindness) and skin conditions. Regular veterinary check-ups are important.
  • Grooming Tips: Regular grooming to keep their coat healthy and clean. Pay attention to their eyes and skin for any signs of health issues.

Personal Experience: An Appaloosa we owned was a true family favorite. Her striking coat and gentle demeanor made her stand out, and she was always eager to please. She was particularly patient with our younger children, making her an ideal family horse. However, we did own one that was a bit energetic for the younger kids.

Related Article: Appaloosa Horse Breed Profile

Child wearing a riding helmet while on horseback.
Ensure your children always ride with a helmet.

Safety Tips for Families with Horses

  1. Supervised Riding: Always supervise children when they are around horses, especially during riding.
  2. Proper Gear: Ensure children wear appropriate riding gear, including helmets, boots, and gloves.
  3. Safe Handling: Teach children safe handling practices, such as approaching horses calmly and never standing directly behind them.
  4. Regular Training: Enroll children in riding lessons to build their skills and confidence.
  5. Know the Horse: Make sure the horse’s temperament is suitable for children, and avoid horses that are too young or have not been properly trained.

By choosing the right breed and following these safety tips, you can create a positive and safe environment for your children to enjoy the wonderful world of horses.

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FAQs for Top Horse Breeds for Children and Families

What makes the American Quarter Horse a good choice for children?

The American Quarter Horse is known for its gentle temperament, friendly nature, and ease of training, making it an excellent choice for children and beginners.

Are Shetland Ponies suitable for very young children?

Yes, Shetland ponies are suitable for very young children due to their small size and robust nature. However, they can sometimes be a bit stubborn, so proper supervision and handling are important.

Are Grade Horses good for families even though they don’t have papers?

Yes, Grade Horses can be great for families. Their temperament and suitability depend on the individual horse rather than pedigree, and many Grade Horses are friendly and adaptable.

What safety gear is essential for children riding horses?

Essential safety gear for children includes helmets, riding boots, and gloves. Proper gear helps prevent injuries and ensures a safer riding experience.

How can I ensure my child’s safety around horses?

Always supervise children around horses, teach them safe handling practices, and enroll them in riding lessons. It is also crucial to choose horses with suitable temperaments for children.

Young girl riding a roan Quarter Horse.
Riding a roan Quarter Horse.

Conclusion

Choosing the right horse breed for your children and family can make a significant difference in creating a safe and enjoyable experience. Breeds like the American Quarter Horse, Morgan, Paint Horse, Shetland Pony, Welsh Pony, Grade Horse, and Appaloosa each offer unique qualities that make them excellent family choices.

By considering each breed’s temperament, size, and care requirements and by following essential safety tips, you can ensure a rewarding and positive relationship with your equine companions.

If you’re ready to find the perfect horse for your family, start by visiting local stables and horse shows to meet these wonderful breeds in person. Don’t forget to share your experiences and any questions you might have in the comments below or on our social media channels. Happy riding!

References and Authorities for Top Horse Breeds for Children and Families

  1. American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)
  2. United States Equestrian Federation (USEF)
  3. The American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA)
  4. American Paint Horse Association (APHA)
  5. The Shetland Pony Society
  6. The Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America (WPCSA)
  7. American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP)
  8. Horse & Rider Magazine
  9. Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC)