As a professional horsewoman, I work with many breeds and enjoy learning about their temperaments and character traits. There are over 200 horse breeds, and each has a unique personality.
My first pony was young and inexperienced, so I learned first-hand the danger and frustration of owning an unsuitable horse. Choosing the wrong breed can knock your confidence and put you off horses for life. So, with this in mind, I’ll tell you about the 8 worst horse breeds for beginners.
Bottom Line Up Front
Several horse breeds aren’t good for beginners, but in my opinion, the most unsuitable ones are the Thoroughbred, Arabian, and Mustang. These horses have the most unpredictable temperaments and can be dangerous in novice hands.
The Worst Horse Breeds For Beginners
The worst horse breeds for beginners are hot-blooded ones, such as the Thoroughbred or Arabian. Hot-blooded breeds are fast and flighty by nature, hyper-alert and responsive and are hard for beginners to handle.
Novice riders should also avoid large, heavy horses, like the Shire or Trakehner because their size and power can be intimidating. A beginner should also avoid wild horses such as the American Mustang and Australian Brumby, which are difficult to train.
If you want to know more about why newbies shouldn’t choose these breeds, take a look at my list of 8 of the worst horse breeds for beginners below:
Breed #1 – The Arabian
- Height: 14.1 – 15.2h.
- Color: Chestnut, gray, roan, bay and black.
- Temperament: Friendly, but flighty and hot-blooded.
- Uses: Endurance, dressage, showjumping and trail riding.
Arabian horses are relatively small, between 14.1 – 15.2h, but are hot-blooded and full of spirit, making them one of the worst horse breeds for beginners. Arabians are incredibly elegant and often prance around on their toes with their tail in the air. They come in many colors and are full of stamina, so they excel in endurance riding.
The Arabian is one of the oldest and most influential breeds. They come from the Arabian Peninsula in the Middle East, and most modern breeds have Arabian ancestors. I love this breed’s stunning beauty, forward-going nature and versatility – they adapt well to most riding disciplines.
Arabians enjoy human company but are too temperamental, flighty and unpredictable for beginners – they’re hyper-responsive, excitable, and will buck. Arabian horses can also be stubborn and are super intelligent, so they know how to outsmart a beginner.
Breed #2 – Australian Brumby
- Height: 12 – 16.2h.
- Color: All colors including roan and dun.
- Temperament: Intelligent, wild, flighty and shy.
- Uses: All riding disciplines.
The Australian Brumby is an iconic wild horse of Australia, the southern hemisphere’s equivalent to the American Mustang. They are semi-feral with a wild spirit, so aren’t suitable for novices. Brumbies have a diverse bloodline and are many colors, shapes and sizes. They’re hard-working, super intelligent, and adapt well to most riding disciplines.
The Brumby arrived in Australia in 1788 with the first European settlers and are incredibly hardy, as only the toughest survived the journey to the continent and its harsh terrain. Brumbies are warm-blooded with strong ties to the Thoroughbred, Irish Draft, Arabian and Australian Draft.
The Australian Brumby is highly spirited and needs the guidance of a seasoned owner. They are flighty, forward going and strong-willed and will challenge novice riders. I don’t have first-hand experience with Brumbies, but by all accounts, they are shy and reserved, so beginners find it hard to bond with them.
Breed #3 – Friesian
- Height: 14.2 – 17h.
- Color: Black.
- Temperament: Friendly and gentle but can be anxious.
- Uses: Driving, dressage, and trail riding.
Friesians are large, stunning black horses from the Netherlands, with an average height of 16h. They are incredibly gentle but aren’t good for beginners because of their size and power and because they are prone to many health problems. Friesians are traditionally working horses, but now there is a lighter Sporthorse variation, and they excel in dressage, driving and trail riding.
These graceful equines are incredibly striking, so it’s no wonder they have a long history of serving knights and nobility. Their breathtaking appearance makes them the most popular breed in Hollywood, and Friesians star in many blockbuster movies.
The Friesian is my favorite breed, and I love them because they’re intelligent, forward going and energetic. The downside to Friesians is that they have strict breed standards, and the small gene pool gives them a short life span and makes them prone to illness.
Friesians are loyal, affectionate, and dependable but are sometimes anxious and too sensitive for beginners. They are large and powerful, with big movements – which can intimidate novice riders.
Breed #4 – Hanoverian
- Height: 15.2 – 17.2h.
- Color: Chestnut, gray, bay, and black.
- Temperament: Friendly and dependable but forward going.
- Uses: Show jumping, dressage, and driving.
The Hanoverian is a popular Warmblood horse from Germany. They are large, powerful creatures with an average height of 16.2h, but are incredibly agile and excel in show jumping and dressage. Hanoverians are the ultimate sports horses and need a fit and experienced rider, so aren’t a good option for beginners.
Traditionally, Hanoverians were agricultural and cavalry horses, but breeders introduced Thoroughbred and Trakehner lines to make them more athletic. I love these horses because, despite their size and power, they are incredibly graceful with high endurance and are spirited yet sturdy.
The Hannovarian is gentle and willing to learn, but beginners may struggle to control such a large, powerful animal. Furthermore, their graceful movement isn’t easy to sit to, and a novice rider may find them uncomfortable.
Breed #5 – Mustang
- Height: 14 – 16h.
- Color: all colors, including dun and palomino.
- Temperament: Wild, feisty, and strong-willed.
- Uses: Western riding, showjumping, dressage, and trail.
The American Mustang is famous for its fiery spirit, and these small but powerful horses will challenge inexperienced owners. Mustangs are a mix of horse breeds – they come in every color and are 15h high on average. They are fantastic trail horses because they can comfortably manage any terrain.
Mustangs are wild horses and have been breeding freely in the USA since the Spanish Conquistadors introduced them in the 16th century. They’re incredibly hardy, energetic and adapt well to most riding disciplines. I love Mustangs because they’re super intelligent and, with extensive training, are dependable, versatile riding horses.
Mustangs aren’t suitable for beginners because they have wild, flighty instincts. A rider or handler must know about equine body language and herd mentality to manage them. In my experience, mustangs can also be aggressive, stubborn, territorial, and push boundaries.
Breed #6 – Shire
- Height: 16 – 20h+.
- Color: Black, bay, brown, gray, and roan.
- Temperament: Gentle giants, calm and dependable.
- Uses: Driving, trail riding, and pleasure horses.
The Shire is a British draft horse and is one of the oldest and largest horse breeds. They are 17.h tall on average, with large bones and joints and heavy feathering on the legs. Shires are cold-blooded, calm, and gentle, but their size alone is enough to put a beginner off.
Shire horses are massive animals, and the largest horse ever recorded is a Shire named Mammoth, back in 1848, who measured 21.2h. Shires were traditionally farm and cart horses but also served in battle and are incredibly powerful.
I love Shire horses because they are intelligent, easy to train, and rarely spook or buck. They are gentle giants, but their size and power can be problematic for beginners. Beginners may find their size intimidating, and they might not have the skills to control such a large horse.
Shire horses are also hard to mount and dismount, and believe me, it looks like a long way down when you sit on one.
Breed #7 – Thoroughbred
- Height: 15-17h.
- Color: Bay, brown, chestnut, gray.
- Temperament: Highly intelligent, flighty, and unpredictable.
- Uses: Racing, dressage, and jumping.
Thoroughbreds are from the UK and are outstanding athletes famous for horse racing. They’re large horses, 16h on average, with a slender build, and come in many colors but are predominantly bay. These highly strung creatures are one of the worst horse breeds for beginners because they are incredibly flighty and spooky.
Thoroughbreds are full of energy, hyper-alert, and super responsive, making them astonishingly unpredictable. They are fast and powerful and need an experienced, strong rider to stop them from taking flight.
I spent over five years working with thoroughbred racehorses, and It took me years to understand and appreciate their character. I learned that despite their seemingly irrational behavior, they are super intelligent and need a relaxed, confident, balanced rider – they can be dangerous in untrained hands.
Breed #8 – Trakehner
- Height: 15 – 17h.
- Color: Bay, black, chestnut, and gray.
- Temperament: Calm and friendly but strong-willed.
- Uses: Dressage, showjumping, and eventing.
The Trakehner is a warm-blooded sports horse from East Prussia which excels in show jumping and dressage. They stand on average 15.2h high and are intelligent, calm, and friendly but can be strong-willed and may challenge a beginner rider.
Trakehners were originally a heavy breed – but were crossed with Arabians and Thoroughbreds to make them more athletic. I adore these horses because they have the nerve and strength of a draft horse but the elegance and stamina of a Thoroughbred.
Trakehners are hard-working elegant horses, but are one of the worst horse breeds for beginners because they are large, powerful, and strong-willed. They are forward going with a springy stride due to the Arabian/Thoroughbred influence and respond better to experienced handlers.
The Best Horse Breeds For Beginners
The best horse breeds for beginners are hardy ones with a calm, obedient nature, such as draft or draft crosses. However, even passive breeds can be dangerous for beginners if they are untrained.
I find that if a horse is aggressive, has a bad attitude, and is hard to work with, it’s usually due to its training and upbringing rather than its breed.
That said, here’s a lowdown of the reliable, sturdy horse breeds I would suggest for beginners:
- American Quarter Horse
- Morgan Horse
- Welsh Cob
- Tennessee walking horse
- American paint horse
- Dales Ponies
Characteristics of a Beginners Horse
Breed aside, beginners must also consider the size, training level, and hardiness of a horse before choosing one. If you are a beginner looking to buy a horse, I highly recommend seeking advice from an experienced owner and taking them with you when you view one.
You shouldn’t choose a horse solely based on its breed. Here are the other things you must account for:
- Size – All riders, including beginners, must choose a horse that can comfortably carry their weight and isn’t too small or short. Large horses can intimidate a novice and are strong, so they need a confident owner. But, riding a small horse can be uncomfortable and may harm the horse.
- Age – First-time owners must choose a horse over 8 years old. Young horses are flighty, can be unpredictable, and challenge their owners, while older horses are more sensible and cooperative.
- Training – An inexperienced rider shouldn’t choose an untrained horse. Regardless of age, if the horse only has 12 months of riding experience, it won’t suit a novice. A beginner’s horse must be fully trained, with a few years of experience under the saddle.
- Hardiness – Hardy horses are better for beginners because they have fewer health problems and are easier to care for. In my experience, purebred horses have more complex health needs than mixed breeds.
- Temperament – Beginners should choose calm, patient, cooperative, gentle horses that are easy to handle, with no pushy, bad habits.
Answer: There’s a famous saying in the horse world, “You tell a stallion and ask a mare”. Mares have a solid reputation for being temperamental, and their attitude can change daily. In my experience, however, any horse can have a bad temperament if it’s not trained correctly or has been spoiled or abused.
Answer: Horses are generally passive animals. Aggression in horses is usually due to their upbringing, not the breed. That said, wild horses such as the American Mustang and Australian Brumby can be territorial and aggressive when threatened.
Stallions can also be aggressive and territorial without the correct handling, and mares may be aggressive when nursing a foal.
Answer: The most gentle horses to ride are draft and draft crosses. Draft horses are slow and steady with a comfortable gait and are patient with beginners. Geldings (castrated male horses) are more gentle and passive than mares and stallions.
The worst horse breeds for beginners are flighty, hot-blooded ones, such as the Arab, and large intimidating ones, like the Shire. Beginners must choose the correct breed because riding an unsuitable horse is dangerous, and accidents can shatter confidence.
If you’re a beginner, I recommend choosing a laid-back breed such as the American Quarter horse or Morgan. You should also consider the horse’s age, training level and temperament, not just the breed. Most importantly, always take an experienced horse person with you when buying a horse.
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- Henry, M. (2023b, July 12). What Is The Best Horse For Beginners? The Key Isn’t Breed. horseracingsense.com. https://horseracingsense.com/what-is-the-best-horse-for-beginners-breed/
- Ihearthorses. (2020). All About The Brumby: Australia’s Controversial Feral Horse. I Heart Horses. https://ihearthorses.com/australian-brumby/
- Rider size | The British Horse Society. (n.d.). The British Horse Society. https://www.bhs.org.uk/go-riding/stable-mates/rider-size/
- Trakehner Horses – Oklahoma State University. (2021, June 29). https://breeds.okstate.edu/horses/trakehner-horses.html