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.
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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