This is the last part in our series of articles looking at the best horse breeds for beginner riders. So far we’ve checked out great horses for the larger/taller and the medium weight and height beginner rider.
Now let’s discover the best breeds for smaller adults and children. Like those we’ve already seen, these have been chosen for their quiet temperament and ability to excel in many different disciplines.
8. Highland Pony
This beautiful pony usually ranges in height between 13 and 14.2 hh, but can be a little taller or shorter. He comes from the highlands and islands of Scotland, and is a hardy animal with a quiet, sensible disposition.
This, plus his excellence in dressage, jumping, eventing and driving, makes him an ideal family pony. The Highland is very athletic and famous for his calm level-headedness. He is capable of carrying a child or a small adult.
Crossed with Thoroughbreds, he produces a great warmblood type.
Highland Pony manes and tails are long and thick, and their lower legs carry some feather. The usual colors are grey and various shades of dun, although black, bay, and chestnut can also be found. A white star is acceptable in purebreds, but white markings are not considered correct.
Resources for Highland Ponies:
Highland Pony Society in Scotland
Scottish Highland Pony Association of North America
Images of the Highland Pony
Highland Ponies for Sale (U.S.)
Highland Ponies for Sale (U.K.)
9. Dales Pony
This pony is described by the Dales Pony Society of America as ‘the great all-rounder’ and ‘a strong, active pony, full of quality and spirit, yet gentle and kind.’ He is very calm and courageous, with great intelligence.
Able to easily carry heavy adults, Dales Ponies are sweet enough to carry children. They have a quiet temperament and are usually great in traffic, since they do not panic in awkward situations, and are extremely sure-footed.
The versatile Dales Pony makes a good jumper, dressage performer, eventer and endurance partner. He has tremendous stamina and staying power.
Originally from the Dales area of England, near the Scottish border, this hardy breed has silky feathers on his legs, and a long mane and tail. Dales Ponies stand between 14 – 14.2hh and their normal colors are black or brown, with some greys and bays and the occasional roan. A star or snip on the face is acceptable, and white markings only on the hind legs, reaching up to the fetlocks.
Resources for the Dales Pony:
The Dales Pony Society (U.K.)
The Dales Pony Society of America
Dales Ponies for Sale
Images of Dales Ponies:
10. Dartmoor Pony
This little guy stands at 12.2 hh and his excellent temperament makes him an ideal children’s first pony. He is calm and friendly, and perfect for jumping, driving and showing. He lives a long time and can also be ridden by adults.
Although still considered a rare breed, Dartmoors are becoming more popular in America now due to their wonderful disposition and quiet dependability.
True Dartmoors are only bay, brown, black, grey, chestnut or roan, with no piebalds and skewbalds (paints), and no excessive white markings. He has a full, flowing mane and tail and is a very attractive riding pony of sturdy build, yet shows quality.
Resources for the Dartmoor Pony:
Dartmoor Pony Society (U.K.)
Dartmoor Pony Registry of America
Dartmoor Ponies for Sale (U.S.)
Dartmoor Ponies for Sale (U.K.)
Videos of Dartmoor Ponies for Sale U.S. and U.K.
Don’t touch Welsh Mountain Ponies (Section A) or Shetland Ponies if you’re a beginner who wants to ride off the lead rein!
I hope this list has been useful to you in helping you find that perfect first horse or pony to give you confidence as you begin your fun journey into the world of horse-riding.
My horse, Cruz Bay is a Welsh Cob (Section D) Cross
Last time we looked at ideal horse breeds for the taller/larger beginner rider.
Now let’s check out horses that work well for medium and lighter weight beginner riders.
Breeds for Medium and Lighter Weight Riders
This breed is extremely versatile, calm and good-natured. It is beautiful to look at, and renowned for its soundness, agility and stamina.
Morgans are powerful, elegant movers, and perform well in both English and Western disciplines, including trail riding, with steady and comfortable gaits.
They usually range in height from 14.1 to 15.2 hands, but can reach 17 hands. Permissible colors are bay, black, brown, chestnut, gray, palomino, cream or creme, dun and buckskin.
Resources for Morgans:
The American Morgan Horse Association
Where to Buy a Morgan
5. Quarter Horse
Named after its ability to race a quarter of a mile, this horse is the most popular breed in America. He is a versatile animal, equally at home in Western and English riding disciplines.
Quarter horses usually stand between 14 – 16 hh, and can be virtually any color. They have a pleasant disposition and are ideal for families and children.
Resources for Quarter Horses:
Owning a Quarter Horse
6. Welsh Cob (Section D)
Welsh ponies come in four sections, A, B, C and D. Section D is the Cob variety, ‘cob’ being a term used to describe a small, stout horse with strong bones and a steady disposition.
Welsh Cobs are strong and hardy, gentle in nature, with the character of a pony. They are over 13.2hh, with no upper height limit. (Since a pony is usually 14.2hh and under, some Welsh Cobs are horse size.) They are not normally grey, but often have striking markings.
The Welsh Cob is a popular choice for dressage, combined training and combined driving and makes a great family equine.
Resources for Welsh Cobs (Section D):
About the Welsh Cob Section D
Buying a Welsh Cob
A word of warning: if you’re a beginner rider, don’t touch the little Welsh Mountain Pony (Section A). It’s not called a ‘spirited’ animal for nothing!
7. Connemara Pony
Don’t be put off by the word ‘pony’! Ranging from 13 – 15hh, this breed originated in Ireland, and is a strong, hardy animal for both adults and children. The Connemara can show jump, be a working hunter, event, perform Western pleasure, go on endurance rides or work between the shafts.
Connemaras are friendly, intelligent animals (my first pony was a Connemara) with large, kind eyes set in a handsome head. They are easy keepers, meaning they don’t need a rich diet to maintain health and fitness.
Gray and dun are the most common colors, but you’ll also find blacks, bays, browns, chestnuts, palominos, and an occasional roan. The only unacceptable color is paint.
The largest of the pony breeds, Connemaras range from 13 to 15 hands, with 14 to 14.2 hands as the average. Being fully mature at five, they can live well into their 30s.
A natural jumper, the Connemara is also suitable for dressage. With their big hearts and amazing endurance, they often win against taller, larger horses.
Resources for the Connemara Pony:
What Is a Connemara Pony?
Buy a Connemara Pony
Connemara Weird Facts
Next time, in the final part of this series, we’ll be looking at horses and ponies for the beginner rider.
Horses are my big obsession, and I'm constantly striving to get better, smarter and more in harmony with my equine buddy, Cruz Bay.
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