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Best Horse Breeds for Kids

Is it my turn to drive?

Is it my turn to drive?

Which horse breeds are best for kids?

Which horse breeds are best for kids?

Horse Breeds

As a lifelong equine enthusiast, owner, trainer, and breeder, I’ve often been asked about the best horse breeds for kids. In all honesty, this question is impossible to answer accurately. There are hundreds of horse breeds, and each horse is a unique individual. Just because most members of a certain horse breed might be gentle doesn’t mean that every member of the breed will be that way. The opposite also holds true. For example, Thoroughbreds are often considered to be nervous, high strung, and not suitable for inexperienced riders, but one of the sweetest, most docile horses I’ve ever owned was a Thoroughbred. On the other hand, Quarter Horses are usually known for their great temperaments, but we owned an AQHA (American Quarter Horse Association) mare once that was totally unmanageable.

Instead of focusing on the best horse breeds for kids or beginners, pay more attention to the specific animal. Generally speaking, an older equine will be much better suited for an inexperienced rider, especially if the animal is well trained. Also, geldings are often a lot less temperamental than mares are, and as many horsemen will tell you, “A gelding’s the same horse every day.” In other words, geldings – castrated male horses – aren’t affected by hormonal changes like mares and stallions are. This brings up another good point: stallions rarely make good mounts for children or inexperienced horsemen. Even so, we once had an Appaloosa stallion that my kids could ride and handle easily. Boss was bomb-proof, even around mares in heat. Believe me, though, Boss was the rare exception.

Now that I’ve explained why you shouldn’t pay as much attention to horse breeds as you should to individual horses, there are some breeds that often serve well as mounts for children. While there are no guarantees that every member of these horse breeds would be appropriate, they’d be a good place to begin your search.


The Quarter Horse is one of the world's most popular horse breeds.

The Quarter Horse is one of the world's most popular horse breeds.

Quarter Horses are also among the most versatile horse breeds.

Quarter Horses are also among the most versatile horse breeds.

American Quarter Horse

I’ve owned numerous quarter horses, and all but one have been great mounts. I especially like the ones from old foundation bloodlines and prefer them over the ones that have more Thoroughbred breeding. Most foundation quarter horses are short, stocky, and heavily muscled, with great temperaments. Some of the foundation bloodlines include Poco Bueno, King, Leo, Wimpy, Peppy, Joe Hancock, Two Eyed Jack, Three Bars, and Old Sorrel. My Poco Bueno and Old Sorrel horses were awesome!

Because of their enormous popularity, you probably won’t have any problems finding an AQHA breeder near you. You might also have the opportunity to attend an AQHA sale.

Another great thing about Quarter Horses and kids is showing. The AQHA hosts all sorts of shows and events for children. The AQHA has a very active youth association that offers numerous shows, fun days, and camps.


American Quarter Pony

Speaking of the foundation Quarter Horse lines, the American Quarter Pony resulted largely from them. Back in the 1960s, the trend began for many AQHA breeders to focus on taller, leggier, leaner Quarter Horses, and some of the old bloodlines didn’t meet the height requirement, which was 14.2 hands at the time. Thus, the American Quarter Pony Association was started in 1964.

Basically, a Quarter Pony is a small Quarter Horse, usually standing between 11.2 and 14.2 hands. They’re known for their sweet temperaments, their good looks, and their athletic ability. The horse can have unknown bloodlines and still be registered, as long as it meets the guidelines. These are western or stock-type horses and excel in western and timed events. The association uses a point system that awards points for any types of shows. As a result, this horse breed is popular with 4-H Club members.


The Welsh pony is often an excellent mount for children.

The Welsh pony is often an excellent mount for children.

Welsh Pony

If you’re considering pony breeds for your kid, the Welsh is one of my favorites, and I much prefer them to Shetland ponies. There are four different types of Welsh ponies, and they range in size from 11 hands for the Section A or Welsh Mountain Pony, to the often horse-size Section D Welsh Cob.

Most Welsh ponies are gentle yet spirited. The ones we’ve owned have all had sweet dispositions, and the breed is also very versatile. They’re great for trail riding, Western and English pleasure, driving, hunting and jumping, and even dressage.

The Welsh Pony and Cob Society of America has a Junior Merit Program that encourages and rewards kids for being good students and good citizens. The WPCSA also holds lots of shows and events for kids.


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The POA has the markings of an Appaloosa.

The POA has the markings of an Appaloosa.

Pony of the Americas

The Pony of the Americas, usually referred to as POA, is a wonderful mount for kids. The POA generally combines the best of three horse breeds: the beautiful head of the Arabian, the body of the Quarter Horse, and the markings of the Appaloosa.

The POA ranges in height from 11.2 hands to 14 hands, with well muscled shoulders and hindquarters. The breed is known for its even temperament and its willing nature. Most POAs are athletic and versatile, too.

The POA Club has a great reputation with parents. They host all kinds of events, and there are even classes for children under the age of six. The kids are encouraged to support each other. Their motto is “Try hard, win humbly, lose gracefully and, if you must … protest with dignity.”


My granddaughter (front) and niece on a gentle old Arabian.

My granddaughter (front) and niece on a gentle old Arabian.

The Arabian has a beautiful head.

The Arabian has a beautiful head.

best-horse-breeds-for-kids

Arabian

An ancient breed, Arabians were often part of the Bedouin household. As a result, most of these horses form strong bonds with their owners and handlers. I’ve owned several Arabians and Arabian crosses, and they were all sweet, willing, and docile. The younger ones were fairly spirited, but the older horses were great with kids.

Arabians are smart and versatile. They make great trail horses and often excel in the show ring in a wide range of events, including English and Western. Like the AQHA, the Arabian Horse Association is very committed to young owners and riders. They host many shows, contests, and fun events for youth riders. If you want to get to know this horse breed better, find a Discovery Farm in your area. There, you’ll have the chance to talk with Arabian owners, and you might even get to groom and ride an Arabian.


My grandson is riding a gentle draft horse here.

My grandson is riding a gentle draft horse here.

Draft horse breeds can be good choices for kids.

Draft horse breeds can be good choices for kids.

Draft Breeds

When you’re thinking about the best horse breeds for kids, don’t discount the draft breeds. Yes, these are very big horses, but most draft breeds are extremely patient, docile, and willing. If you’re concerned about the enormous size of these horses, you might want to consider a draft cross. I’ve dealt with a few of these gentle giants, and they made great babysitters.


If your child is interested in showing, choose horse breeds with active youth associations.

If your child is interested in showing, choose horse breeds with active youth associations.

Choose Horse Breeds Wisely

Before going out and falling in love with the first horse you see, take your time. Buying a horse is a big investment, and maintaining a horse properly is an even bigger investment. Keep in mind, too, that horses and ponies can be dangerous. They’re powerful animals, and if not well trained, they can be a nightmare. If you feel sure that your child will want to enter horse shows, find horse breeds associations that are active in your area.


Little kid barrel racing:

Foundation Quarter Horses:

Read more about horses:

Comments

Norma Lawrence from California on July 02, 2016:

Another great article. The information was very good and the pictures were beautiful.

Sarah on November 27, 2014:

Thank you so much Habee. But FYI the breed I'm lookin for is a drafting Breed.

Thank you!

Raven on November 27, 2014:

I am looking for a nice breed that is a mare.

Lashea on October 02, 2013:

I'm looking for a gentle,calm,mare pony but I want one that is like me

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 02, 2013:

Marion, horseback riding is awesome - when you have the right mount. Geldings are usually very dependable. Good luck with your horseback riding!

marion langley from The Study on July 02, 2013:

I'm very much looking forward to horseback riding when my little one is a little older...we were looking into the halflinger breed...I'll narrow the search for older geldings after reading this article. Thanks for writing!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on July 02, 2013:

Thanks for the tip, Robie! I haven't "known" any Icelandic horses, but they sound great. I'll have to learn more about them.

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on July 02, 2013:

I think the Icelandic Horse( well technically it's a pony, but Icelanders always call it a horse) is a fabulous breed for kids. They are small, unfailingly gentle and they have those two extra gaits that make riding them a real pleasure. I first came across them in Iceland, but there are Icelandic horse farms all over the world and many in North America. NIce hub and great pix. Well done!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 16, 2013:

Thanks for noticing that, Jordan! I think it's a point often overlooked.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 16, 2013:

Nora, I LOVE Quarter Horses!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on May 16, 2013:

Thanks, Derby!

Jordan Hake from Southwest Missouri, USA on May 16, 2013:

Very thought out and logical. A lot of the articles I read on "the best whatever" forget to account for individual variations.

Spot on!

Nora Kusler on August 23, 2012:

I think a Shetland pony would be best for a kids they are really easy to groom and really fun to ride. For a big kid I would suggest a Quarter Horse they are really fun to have.

Derby Deals from Jeffersonville, Indiana on August 14, 2012:

Just found this hub! Great work. Very informative.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 18, 2012:

Gabrielle, I know there are some great TWH out there, and many are suitable kids' horses. Remember, however, that I'm basing this on my personal experiences, and the only full-blooded Walker I knew really well was one I trained for a stable owner. She was very high spirited and not for kids.

Gabrielle on January 17, 2012:

Personally, I think Tennessee Walkers NEED to be added to this list. There the BEST!!!!!!!!!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 15, 2011:

Melovy - actually, this isn't the hub I was referring to. lol. I agree that there are good and bad in all horse breeds.

Yvonne Spence from UK on October 14, 2011:

Interesting hub - I saw your comment about your hypothetical Shetland ponies hub on the forum and came to take a look. Having grown up in Shetland I am sorry to see that you seem not to have good experiences with Shetland ponies as they can be wonderful, loving pets.

You might be interested to know a little about how they live in Shetland itself. Most ponies spend much of the time in the hills away from humans, but are always brought in when it’s time for foaling. We had one or two that were not very tame, and many that were. Only a few are used for riding in Shetland itself, most are kept for breeding. As children we had around 6 or 7 mares, a couple of which we could ride and one that we had to be careful around as she was nervous and flighty. Another was so tame that my sister once took her to school for everyone to pet.

Three years ago I had a deeply moving experience of being with a mare just after her foal had died; she stood very still and nuzzled into me as I talked to her and stroked her face.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 10, 2011:

IS1820, too true. Some parents get an equine with too much "horsepower" for a beginner. Horses and horse breeds shouldn't be judged on their flashiness! lol

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on October 06, 2011:

Thanks, Amy. Great to meet you! Yes, horse breeds all contain unique individuals, and all def aren't suitable for kids or beginners!

amynichter from Canton, Ohio on September 23, 2011:

Fantastic hub! It's so nice to see another horse person express these thoughts! All too often I've heard of somebody who has purchased a horse, just to find that the horse is too much for them to handle. And I inevitably hear "but he's a [insert breed here] ... he should be perfect for [insert child's name here]. Looking forward to reading more of your hubs!

IS1820 on September 23, 2011:

Great and informative hub. I think that the sentence "Instead of focusing on the best horse breeds for kids or beginners, pay more attention to the specific animal" says more than people realize - or as my sons first trainer said - "he (the horse) has good eyes" - refering to the goodness you can se in a horses eye. Another fact that people need to consider is whether the child will be going into equine sports and when, but for beginners a good calm horse with a good trainer will get the kid is what is needed.