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What Is the Best Horse for Beginners? The Key Isn’t Breed

Last updated: July 12, 2023

By: Miles HenryFact Checked

When choosing a horse for a beginner, it’s crucial to know what traits to look for and which ones to avoid. So I decided to research what type of horse would be best for first-time horse owners and riders.

The best horse breed for beginners is quarter horses. But the breed isn’t the most crucial factor when choosing a beginner’s horse. The key is to choose a mature, well-trained, well-mannered horse that doesn’t spook easily and has an even temperament. Your main concern is safety.

Many new owners begin looking for a horse based on color or breed. However, many important things are important, and color and breed are not at the top of the list.

Keys to choosing a beginner horse.

Don’t choose a beginner’s horse based on its breed. Horses are individuals and should be considered on their own merits. Breed characteristics are generalizations.

Look for a horse that meets your needs, and check the fitness of the horse and its temperament. You are buying a horse, not a breed. However, certain breeds can be excluded based on the activity you intend to participate in.

For example, some draft breeds aren’t good jumping horses; the same goes for dressage or barrel racing. Horses of the same breed have similar characteristics, such as their temperaments, gaits, and physical attributes; however, horses are individuals, and not all fit the breed model.

Typically Arabians and Thoroughbreds are high-strung, but we’ve owned some that were the sweetest and most docile horses you would encounter. A horse’s lineage influences its nature as much or more than its breed.

Picture of a young horseback rider,

Keeping in mind that horses are individuals, it’s still worth looking at some common breeds and determining if their general characteristics would suit a beginner.

Get experience with horses.

To ensure you aren’t wasting your money, it’s a good idea to spend some time riding and working with horses before buying. This also gives you a feel for what type of horse you like.

Some people prefer short horses, while others like to ride tall horses. Having exposure to horses before you buy is critical.

There are a few ways to get some experience with horses other than purchasing one:

  1. Riding lessons: spend one day a week at a riding facility learning to ride under the tutelage of an experienced trainer,
  2. Loan or Lease a horse.  You can agree with a horse owner to keep and care for their horse for a set period for a specific price. Or maybe you have a friend that will let you keep their horse for a few weeks.

Exposure to horses gives a person some insight into the cost associated with horse ownership, vets fees, shoeing, tack, and feed all add up. Horse ownership is a big commitment, so take your time making your decision.


Temperament is the most important factor for a beginner rider. Temperament is the horse’s overall demeanor and personality, both on the ground and under the saddle.

If you decide to buy, temperament is the most critical factor in choosing your first horse. Ideally, you want a kind, gentle, quiet, and calm horse that should never kick or bite. But there are other considerations as well.

Equine activity

Match your horse with your equine activity. Knowing how you intend to use your horse is essential before buying. Certain breeds and temperaments fit particular activities better than other kinds.

You wouldn’t spend time looking at large draft breeds if you wanted to compete in barrel racing. And you wouldn’t want to buy a competitive barrel horse if you are not an experienced rider.

Riding ability

Your horse should fit your riding ability. Buying for your talent level is paramount to getting the most enjoyment from owning a horse. For example, if you intend to start barrel racing but you are not an experienced rider, it wouldn’t be wise to buy a competitive quarterhorse.

Top-level barrel horses explode out of turn and will leave most novice riders on the ground. Instead, starting with an older, slower horse that knows the pattern but won’t leave you on the ground when turning a barrel would be better.

Recognizing your riding ability takes honesty but is safer and will result in a better overall experience. You want a mature horse that’s trained for the activity you wish to participate in. You don’t want to have to teach a horse when you are trying to learn yourself.

Picture of my granddaughters quarter horse
Picture of my granddaughter’s quarter horse

Before you buy a horse, follow these rules.

Ride the horse.

Don’t buy a horse unless you have had a chance to ride it. Looking at pictures of a horse online is fine, but that is not how you buy a horse. There are people in the horse industry that unload undesirable horses through the Internet.

Don’t buy a horse until you’ve saddled it and ridden it. You must tack the horse yourself, and you don’t want to own a horse you can’t saddle or get a bridle on it. Ideally, the seller will let you try the horse for a week to ensure it’s the right fit for you. If he allows you to take the horse, put your agreement in writing.

Have an experienced horse person check the horse.

Once you’ve found a horse you are serious about buying, ask someone experienced with horses to check out the horse for you if you aren’t friends with any offer to pay someone.

A person that knows horses can recognize confirmation defects and other problems an inexperienced eye might not notice. They can also watch you ride and help buffer against a sharp horse trader. In the long run, the inspection could prevent you from making a big mistake.

Vet-check the horse before you buy it.

You want a mature experienced horse, but not an old horse requiring constant vet care to stay on its feet. A vet check is a routine series of tests veterinarians conduct to ensure fitness.

A vet check can save considerable expenses in the future. There are various levels of vet checks depending on how extensively you want the horse examined and what you want to do with the horse.

Always use an experienced equine vet you know or a vet recommended by someone you trust. Any horse you buy should be vetted regardless of its value or cost; a healthy-looking horse could still have a severe health condition.

The opposite could also be true. We bought a beautiful horse for a meager price because it was lame. After having it vet checked, we learned that the lameness was caused by thrush. Once we got the horse home, we treated the condition, and the horse fully recovered.

Find out as much as you can about the horse.

Ask for the name of any vet that’s treated the horse and get its records. If the horse has competed in events, check with others to learn how the horse performed.

Don’t rely on the seller to provide you with accurate information. Many people unload horses on unsuspecting and inexperienced buyers. Move on if you can’t gather information about the horses’ history. You will find the right horse without forcing the issue.

Get some background information on the seller.

If you don’t know the seller personally, ask others about him. Try to learn as much as you can. If he has been in the horse business for an extended period, someone can give you information about him.

For example, a horse trader was notorious for drugging his horses before showing them. His reputation was so bad locally that he could only sell horses to out-of-town buyers. If you can’t verify a seller is honest, don’t buy the horse.

Horse rescue societies are an excellent resource when shopping for a horse. They have staff that works and trains the horses and also have the knowledge to pair horses with the prospective owners’ riding ability.

New Vocations is a retired racehorse adoption agency that provides a valuable service and is a good source for buyers.

Get a bill of sale when buying a horse.

Get a bill of sale; you can find a basic model on the internet. Make sure it covers all identifying marks on the horse, its registration number, the name and address of the seller, and any warranty information. Of course, have the document signed by the seller.

Always ask a lot of questions when buying a horse.

When you are trying to find the best horse for a beginner, there are some essential questions you need to answer. The responses to these questions help you put a value on the horse or exclude it as an option. The following is some basic questions:

  • Is the horse registered? If so, ask for a copy of the horse’s papers. The registration will confirm the horse’s age, pedigree, and ownership history.
  • What is the horses’ health history? What’s the name of the veterinarian or clinic that’s treated the horse? What is the name of the horseshoer he uses for the horse?
  • How long has he owned the horse, how long has it been broken, and what type of training does the horse have?
  • Does the horse has any vices? Precisely, does the horse crib, set back, or kick?
  • Why is the owner selling the horse?
  • Does the horse load in a trailer?
  • Has the horse competed? If so, in what discipline, where, and when. Is it a show record for the horse?
  • Has the horse had a recent Coggins test?

Take your time and ask questions; if a seller seems evasive, remember there are always other horses available and don’t shop for a color.

Picture of horses

The best horse breeds for beginner riders.

American Quarter Horse

Quarter horses are ideal horses for beginners, but you have to choose the right one. Many performance quarter horses are a little on the hot side, but one bred for trail riding and ranch work makes great beginner horses.

We’ve owned a lot of quarter horses, and some are absolutely bulletproof; any level rider could take them on a trail ride and have a pleasant trip. The quarter horse above is my five-year-old granddaughter.

She and her friends ride this gelding daily without any problems. But we’ve owned some that only an experienced rider could get on, and even they may have a difficult ride.

With patience and proper training, most experienced equestrians can work with quarter horses. My point is that not all quarter horses are the same, so follow the rules above, and you should end up with a nice beginner’s horse.

Picture of a paint horse decorated for halloween.
Picture of the children’s paint horse.

American Paint Horse

Paint horses have many of the same traits as quarter horses, athletic, smart, and even-tempered. They get these traits honestly because the American Paint Horse breed is a quarter horse cross.

I’ve always thought of Paints as colorful quarter horses. So my warning about the temperaments of quarter horses applies to Paint horses as well. I’ve known some that were docile and others, running Paints, that were extremely high-strung.

But generally, Paint horses are easy to train for various equestrian events and work well for all levels of riders. The Paint pictured is a beginner horse that travels well, is easy to handle, and is excellent for beginners.


Morgans are typically an excellent horse breed for beginners. Morgan horses are a great choice as a first horse for an inexperienced rider. Not only are Morgans attractive, but they also have the versatility to compete in many equine activities.

Morgan horses have a good temperament, are not flighty, and enjoy human companionship. Furthermore, they are a hardy breed, not prone to lameness or disease.

They also eat less than many other breeds, making them a more economical choice over some different breeds. Overall this is an excellent breed for a beginner.


Percherons have the right temperament for beginners. Percherons are calm and willing workers. Percherons are big horses, and handling them can be more complicated than working with smaller breeds, not because of temperament but because of the horse’s massive size.

Tacking and mounting a tall horse is not easy, not to mention generally handling the horses. Working with large breeds isn’t difficult, but it is a little different.

Percherons are intelligent, with a calm demeanor and a willingness to please. They have great stamina and make excellent trail horses. They don’t have lower leg feathering like other draft breeds, making them easier to keep.

Overall they are good horses and are easy to keep. Percherons can be excellent beginner horses, but ideally, you should know someone with experience with large horses to advise you on their particulars.

Some horse breeds I don’t recommend for beginners.

All I can do is go by my personal experience when recommending horse breeds for beginners. I know some people will strongly disagree with the horse breeds I have on this list, and that’s ok.

For example, my closest neighbor has a great beginner horse in his pasture, and it’s an appaloosa. I’m also aware of Arabians that would be suitable beginner horses. Still, I’m stating that generally, these breeds show characteristics I don’t think make them good beginner horses.


Arabian horses are typically not suited for beginners. Arabians are very reliable horses with many desirable traits. They have high stamina and energy and are willing learners.

Arabians are one of the oldest pure breeds, but they aren’t typically good horses for inexperienced riders. Arabians are full of energy and like to work and train.

With an experienced hand, they are easy to control and are very responsive. However, they get frustrated easily with unsure riders. They expect to be led, not lead.


Standardbreds are typically rough horses to ride. Standardbreds have an uneven gait, and a beginner should start on a comfortable horse. Some Standardbreds are so rough even seasoned riders are jostled from side to side by their stride.

Otherwise, standardbreds are known for being sturdy horses and easy keepers. They are most often used for harness racing. They have a good temperament, are friendly horses, and don’t spook easily. If someone wanted to use one for a beginner, it would need training under the saddle to even its gait.


Haflingers can give an inexperienced rider fits. These small horses can be pig-headed. They are brilliant horses and will test their rider. An inexperienced rider doesn’t need a horse that challenges his authority constantly, and a Haflinger will.

A well-trained Haflinger makes for a great horse. They are small, have enormous strength, and are good trail horses. But their stubbornness is a real problem, and they can pitch a fit at the most inopportune times.

If you happen across a well-trained and physically sound Haflinger, you should scoop him up because he will make an excellent horse for all levels of riders.


beginner horse,
My neighbors Appaloosa

Appaloosas are typically too high-strung for beginners. Appaloosa horses are high-energy horses and are not suitable for inexperienced riders. Through the centuries, Appaloosa horses have been bred for performance.

Through selective breeding, Native Americans created an intelligent horse with great stamina, energy, and strength. The Appaloosa today continues to exhibit some of its forefather characteristics.

However, because they are smart and energetic, they don’t work well with inexperienced riders. Appaloosa horses need an experienced hand to guide them. They learn leg pressure cues quickly and are easily frustrated with an unsure rider.

Appaloosa horses are an excellent choice for various equine activities, including dressage, general riding, endurance riding, mounted athletics, jumping, work, and racing.


The best horse for an inexperienced rider is a mature, well-mannered horse; don’t be overly concerned about the horse’s color or the breed.


Which horse breed is the calmest?

The calmest horse breeds are the draft breeds, Belgiums, Clydesdales, and Shires. However, the calmest horse breed for beginner riders is warmblood breeds like the Irish Sport Horse. Horses are individuals; you can find calm horses in almost any breed.

What is the most aggressive horse breed?

Hot-blooded horse breeds are the most aggressive. Hot-blooded breeds include Thoroughbreds, Arabians, and Akhal Tekes. These breeds can be stubborn at times and tend to act out if faced with stressful emotions from their rider or other stimuli around them, such as another animal close by, leading to injury.

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Miles Henry