Last updated: January 22, 2023
In our community, many of the kids have horses and enjoy competing in equine events. Recently, a family moved here, and the parents want to buy a horse for their children, but they are unsure which breed is best for children.
There are many good horses and pony breeds for a child, such as Shetland ponies, Welsh ponies, Quarter horses, and Paints. Although I don’t particularly like Appaloosa horses for beginners, I’ve included them because so many of my friends have Appaloosa for their children and swear by them.
For most people looking to buy their child a horse, the first consideration will be breed. But you also need to know the critical characteristics that make a good kid’s horse because not all horses conform to their breed’s traits.
Essential tips on buying a kid’s horse.
Many children are what may be termed “horse mad.” That’s not just little girls; boys can also fall in love with these fascinating equines. If you are planning to buy a longed-for horse or pony, there are several things to consider.
Rely on an experienced horse person to help you.
Knowing the breed is only part of the answer. Horses are as individual as people, with their own quirks and foibles. If you are new to horse buying, there are many things to keep in mind.
One of them is to have someone who does know horses help you pick. An experienced horse owner can see problems with conformation and other issues that may not be as obvious to someone new to the world. Their insight will help narrow down the field.
Choose a seasoned horse.
It may seem like a good idea to buy a young horse or one that isn’t trained yet. The idea behind it is the horse and child will grow up together. This is not a good idea at all. Children want to be able to ride on day one, and these horses won’t be rideable for a long time.
Some say that choosing an older horse isn’t a good idea. Again, they are wrong. Older horses are less likely to spook at the least thing, and many have had a lot of experience with young, inexperienced riders. They can be ideal.
Find a horse that doesn’t easily spook.
There is another crucial thing to look for. For children, you will want a horse that is bombproof. That means that it has been trained not to spook or panic at something unexpected.
Horses are prey animals, and one of their responses to threats is to run. They may also rear or do any number of other things that will quickly dislodge even an experienced rider at times.
Sudden noises, unexpected movements, and strange objects will often cause this reaction. You can test it with a handkerchief or other materials, but having an experienced rider with you will make it easier.
In the picture below is a Welsh pony that has been used by numerous beginner riders. He is trained in barrels and poles and is bombproof. You can ride him around other horses, cars, and big crowds, and he’ll never spook.
Stay away from “green broke” horses.
There is a term that is important to know about breaking a horse. If the owner says the horse is “green broke“, it is not a horse for a beginner. This comes from personal experience.
A green broke horse isn’t really trained. It’s likely learned to accept a saddle and a bit, but not much else. It may even have some time under saddle riding in a round pen and be ready for serious training, but it isn’t a finished horse.
Pretty much, that means you can saddle it, and you may be able to mount it. However, it will know as much about being a riding horse as the beginner sitting in the saddle. Go for a finished horse.
One last thing; when looking at a horse, please don’t have the idea of backyard breeding in mind. Sure, foals are cute and adorable. However, the number of these backyard horses being sold for dog food is very high. You don’t want that result.
Younger children may not do as well on this horse, but older kids and other beginning riders would. They can be trained in many different disciplines, which gives the new rider options.
Remember to ride with proper gear.
Horse riding is a fun recreational sport for kids, but it has risks. Most significant injuries are caused when a rider falls from a horse and hits their head.
Horse breeds for kids
I prefer horses over ponies for kids; they are less stubborn and handle trail rides easier than most ponies. Here are some of the breeds that typically make good horses for children.
American quarter horse
Quarter horses are known for their easygoing nature, which helps with confidence in young riders. They are between fourteen and sixteen hands. The larger horses may be a bit daunting at first, so you may want to look into the shorter versions.
Two of my grandchildren, one six years old and the other four, ride quarter horses. The oldest rides a tall sorrel gelding, and the other a brown mare. Both of these horses have proven to be outstanding for kids.
I wouldn’t typically recommend the Appaloosa breed for beginners because I find them flighty and too hot-blooded. They test their rider and can be a handful. However, a few of my neighbor’s kids ride Appaloosa horses and love them.
These neighbors urged me to include Appaloosa horses in my recommended list for kids. The kids enjoy the breed, and I have to say their horses display perfect manners every time I’ve been with them.
I recommend you have a seasoned horse owner thoroughly vet the prospect before buying one for your child. The Nez Perce originally bred these horses in the Pacific Northwest.
The wars fought by the Native Americans caused the number of Appaloosas to decline, but they continued to be bred by a few who knew how.
In 1938, the official registry was started, and they have once again returned to be a very popular breed. Some of it is their distinctive coat patterns, but they are athletic and versatile horses.
They aren’t prone to hard-headedness, and they are considered friendly and loyal. Height is fourteen to fifteen hands.
American Paint Horse
The American Paint Horse is primarily made up of quarter horse stock. However, there are a few others thrown into the mix. They are known for the blend of colors in the coat. They are calm horses and very trainable. They can do just about any equine sport well.
Every paint horse I’ve been around has a good head and a willing disposition. They are sound horses and make excellent mounts for kids, plus they have flashy good looks.
The horses are fourteen to sixteen hands. Taller horses may have some thoroughbred lineage, so shorter horses would be better for children, particularly young children. Larger horses are suitable for older, taller kids.
Good pony breeds for children
Even though I prefer horses for children, I have been around some outstanding ponies. Shetland ponies are one of the best riding equines in our area for children.
This equine is on just about every list, though not always first. Shetlands are short, compact ponies with a great deal of hardiness. They are strong; many feel they are as powerful as a draft horse, despite their diminutive size.
Shetland ponies were used to haul coal out of mines in the UK. They may still be doing so in some places, though that would probably be a tourist attraction. This strength may come in handy when the child is ready for long rides.
They do have one drawback; Shetlands can be very stubborn and hardheaded, which can translate to it not being willing to take guidance from a young, inexperienced rider.
Our neighbor has a Shetland pony that has been the first mount of many young cowboys and cowgirls. He is an outstanding pony that is durable and surefooted.
He enjoys trail rides and has great endurance, but I consider him the exception rather than the Shetlands standard. Always remember animals are individuals.
If you choose a Shetland, look at the other keys in this article for choosing the right one.
Welsh ponies and Welsh cobs are extraordinary equines for beginning riders. The Welsh pony is around eleven hands high, and the cob can grow up to fourteen hands. A hand is about four inches, so that it is easier to get an idea to size.
They are another breed known for hardiness, although not necessarily as hardy as the Shetland. They are smart but not necessarily as stubborn. They can be trained for either English or Western riding, making them versatile.
I’ve never owned one, but from everything I’ve learned about them, they seem to be great for kids. And owners of Welsh ponies are loyal and quick to exalt the breed’s virtues.
- What is the Best Horse Breed? (Top 3 Breeds By Activity)
- 12 Horse Coat Colors: Patterns, Genetics, and Pictures
- 10 Differences Between Ponies and Horses: Size, Breeds …
- Smoky Mountain Toddler Boots: Are They a Quality Kids Boot?
- Great Gift Ideas For The “Horse Lover” In Your Life
Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
🔗 Connect with Miles: