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.
Riding Callow Double Clover, my husband's Irish Draft/Thoroughbred cross horse at First Level
As a beginner rider, you need a horse to give you confidence and forgive those inevitable mistakes we all make when learning to ride. You need a good equine friend to take care of you, who is also a safe and fun mount.
You’ll be taught on such animals when you take riding lessons at your local equestrian center. But if you decide to buy your own horse, you’ll
want a horse able to take you beyond the beginning stages.
After all the time and energy spent on developing a good partnership with your equine buddy, you’ll likely want to continue riding him at a higher level.
You don’t want to sell your beloved first animal because he can’t jump, or has poor gaits
for the show ring.
You’ll want him to carry you with competence in your future riding discipline.
What Riding Discipline?
But, you’ll say, “I’m a beginner - I don’t know
what my ‘future riding discipline’ will be! I’ve no idea whether I’ll be interested in jumping or dressage, or trail riding!”
For that very reason, I’ve listed these 10 breeds because their temperament makes them ideal horses for beginner riders, yet they possess the talent to jump and perform dressage when (and if) their riders are ready for it.
It doesn’t matter that you don’t know what kind of riding you want to do later: these horse breeds will take you in whichever direction you choose.
First Read the Small Print!
1. As a beginner rider you need an experienced horse person helping you. However kind or quiet a horse is, he will become your leader if you don’t learn to become his, and you will have an unhappy partnership within a short period of time. A seasoned horse owner will ensure you learn to be the 'senior' partner!
2. Don’t buy a young horse. A green rider needs an older horse (around 8 years or more) which has been trained properly.
3. Finally, don’t buy a horse simply because he is the ‘right’ breed. Take a competent horse person with you when trying him out and make sure he is suitable. There are definite breed traits, but some horses don’t conform to them.
The following breeds are divided into broad categories, beginning with horses to carry the taller/larger rider and working down to the most useful children’s ponies.
For the Larger/Taller Rider
1. Irish Draft and Irish Draft Crosses
My favorite of all the breeds (I’ve owned two fantastic Irish Draft Thoroughbred crosses) the Irish Draft aka Draught is not, as its name suggests, a heavy horse used to pull a cart or the plow. It is, instead, an incredibly versatile, athletic animal, excelling in all modern riding disciplines, and possessing a wonderful temperament.
Because of this, the Irish Draft is the perfect confidence giver for novice riders, as well as being able to perform well with the more professional rider.
The Irish Draft crossed with the Thoroughbred (Irish Sport Horse) is also an amazingly athletic animal and loses none of its sensible temperament. Nelson Pessoa’s Special Envoy, also ridden by his son Rodrigo, was a perfect example of the capabilities of this breed.
The height of an Irish Draft normally ranges from 15.1 hh to 16.3 hh, and the predominant color is grey, but any whole color is permissible.
Although I have put this horse in the larger/taller rider category, it is such a kind animal that smaller riders can successfully learn how to ride on one.
Resources for Irish Draft horses:
2. Cleveland Bay and Cleveland Bay Crosses
Although their numbers have dwindled, the patient and willing Cleveland Bays are still in existence today and worth a close look.
Also as a cross with the Thoroughbred, the breed is docile enough for the larger beginner rider, being strong with great stamina.
This horse was bred to withstand daily work on the farm, under saddle on hunt days and in harness for taking the family to church on Sundays. It had to stay sound all year
round and not need too much care.
The result is a sturdy, long-lived animal, and a ‘good doer’ (doesn’t require a lot of high quality feed). The Cleveland Bay has a kind temperament combined with the talents to perform dressage, show-jumping and
eventing, as well as be driven in harness.
Heights are 16 hh – 16.2 hh and Cleveland Bays are always bay in color, with totally black points (mane, tail, legs and tips of the ears).
Here are some Cleveland Bay resources:
3. The Percheron
Though bred as a carriage horse and for heavy pulling, this French breed is becoming popular as a riding horse, and rightly so. Percherons have a quiet disposition and are willing to try anything you want, including dressage and jumping. I have a friend whom I envy for the fun she is able to have with her gentle giant: he’ll stand quietly all day by the trailer, do Second Level dressage movements, go on a trail ride and pop over jumps.
Look for either a pure Percheron, or – for a lighter horse - a Percheron cross.
A purebred stands between 15 and 19 hands high, and can weight up to 2600 pounds. Usually black or grey, ther Percheron can also be sorrel, bay or roan. He is a willing, intelligent worker with a kind disposition.
Resources for the Percheron:
Percheron Horse Association of America http://www.percheronhorse.org/
Background Information http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Percheron
Where to Buy Percherons http://www.percheronhorse.org/Buy.htm
Next week I’ll be looking at breeds for riders in the medium and lighter height and weight categories.
Cruz Bay gets a well deserved rest after a great riding session
Last week we looked at the first four of the seven most important things to look for in a horse. They are not the only attributes, but they should be at the top of your list if you’re going to be successful in the search for your ideal horse.
As I wrote before, I could have saved myself
much heartache and money if someone had told me about these 7 things before I leapt into my many bad horse purchases!
Five: Good conformation
I admit that horse conformation is not a sexy topic, like breed or color. If the horse is pretty and well-behaved, who cares about ‘conformation’ (whatever that means)?
Yet if you understand the rudiments of how a horse should be ‘put together’ you can minimize the probability of later lameness and other health issues. The front legs of the horse carry between 60-65% of the horse’s weight, and even more once we get on them, so be especially aware of conformation in this area.
Here is a great article: “Horse Conformation Analysis from Washington State University Extension.”
Don't let the title put you off: it's an easy read! It includes helpful diagrams showing how the horse should be built, plus faults to lookout for and what problems they can lead to. Don’t try
and absorb all the information at once. Take a copy of the article with you when visiting prospective horse purchases.
Make sure the horse has good, clean legs, a strong back and a good shoulder. You'll be vetting him later anyway, but finding a horse with good conformation gives him a better chance of passing the vet.
A horse can still be a worthwhile buy even if he has some conformation flaws, just as we can become good riders even if we don’t have perfect bodies!
Six: Suitability for the Job
This is where horse buying can get tough.
You’re looking for a show-jumper, and have found a lovely animal which fits all the above criteria – yet can’t jump to save its life.
If you don't buy a horse which excels at the work you want it to do, you'll need to modify your expectations.
When we met CD, my husband’s gray gelding, we were tired of buying dealers’ jumping horses which had turned sour and mean through bad
Callow Double Clover (CD) was a breath of fresh air. He had a lovely temperament - but was a terrible jumper.
However, he tried.
So we bought him, and my husband has had many happy years competing him at lower level eventing, show–jumping and pure dressage. The horse has a heart of gold, and we were able to train him to jump well enough to win and be in the ribbons.
The pleasure he has given us has far outweighed his lack of talent at the higher jumps.
You need to be very realistic in your expectations about a given horse. You cannot turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse, as the saying goes.
If jumping high is important to you, walk away from a horse which cannot jump. If Grand Prix dressage is your aim, don’t get attached to a
beautiful horse with a wonderful temperament, but with terrible gaits that will ruin your chances of excellence in your chosen field.
Seven: Correct Size
You will read a lot about the ideal rider to horse weight ratio, some of which is very unfair to the horse. The horse should neither be too small for you nor too big.
If he is too big, you will have little control over him. Your seat, legs and arms will not be strong
enough to influence him, and you will get frustrated very quickly.
If he is too small, he will struggle underneath you. The horse needs to be able to carry your weight comfortably, if he is going to perform at
his best and give you many years of happy
The ideal horse to ride weight ratio contains several variables, such as temperament, breed and fitness of the horse and rider, plus the quality of the latter’s balance in the saddle. But a good rule of thumb is to weigh no more than 15% of the horse’s weight when he is fit. If you weigh a lot less than 10% of his fit weight, you may find him too strong for you.
One final point is the picture you present. You don’t want to dwarf your horse, or have him make you look tiny. I have a large friend who
rides a large horse, and they look great together. If I rode her horse or she rode mine, we would both look really silly. The idea is to look harmonious together.
Looking for a new horse can be a nerve wracking experience. Save yourself from falling into the many pitfalls that can catch you by surprise: look for the most important attributes first, and you’ll hugely increase your chances of finding the right one.
Cruz Bay: The
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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