What’s the Easiest Horse to Ride?

What's the easiest horse to ride

What’s the easiest horse to ride you ask? The horse on the carousel at the local show 😅

Jokes aside, it’s a great question – especially for those who might not have much experience with these majestic animals – what makes some horses more approachable for beginners? Is it all about the breed, or is there something more?

Let’s jump in and talk about it in more detail.

What to Look for in a Horse

Whether you’re going to lease a horse, buy a horse, start riding lessons or simply head out for a one-off trail ride, the following information is handy to understand.

Temperament

To the untrained eye, it’s not easy to know the temperament of a horse by simply looking at it but a horse with a gentle temperament is absolute gold for beginners. One that’s calm and patient and won’t get flustered if the rider makes a mistake or two. Also a horse that doesn’t spook easily.

That’s the type of horse that will give you the confidence to learn without adding any unnecessary drama. They’ll wait patiently as you figure out how to communicate what you want, making the learning curve a whole lot smoother.

Yet having said that, a horse is still a 500+kg animal that can have a bad day. We never assumed a horse with a usually good temperament would always be polite!

Training Level

A well-trained horse is usually termed a ‘school’ horse or a point and shoot. A horse that knows the ropes – has been there done that – and can help guide you as you learn.

Most riding schools will typically have school horses, horses that can anticipate the common mistakes that trip up beginners. They understand commands, know how to respond gently to incorrect cues, and essentially make the ride smoother and more enjoyable.

Size

When our daughter started riding at 6, the size of horses she was riding was important.

A horse’s height is measured in hands. In her younger years, she rode horses around 14 to 15hh and when she was older, 16.2hh.

A horse that’s just the right size can make everything from getting on to controlling the ride that much easier.

Gait

A horses gait is how it walks, trots, canters and gallops. Some horses have a smoother gait than others. A smooth gait vs a bumpy gait feels more comfortable and can be easier to get used to as well as be more enjoyable to ride.

Experience

Older horses often have a wealth of experience with different riders. This means they’re usually more forgiving and understanding, able to accommodate a beginner’s learning process with grace. Again, you’ll tend to find older horses and more experienced horses at riding schools and businesses that offer trail rides.

Best Breeds for Beginners

When it comes to choosing a breed, you’ll need to consider what type of riding you’re going to be doing e.g. dressage, show jumping, western or a horse to simply jump on and ride. Certain breeds suit certain disciplines or riding.

In Australia, we’re lucky to have a range of horse breeds that are not just good-looking but also have temperaments and abilities perfect for those just starting their riding journey. 

Here are a few top picks:

Australian Stock Horse

This breed is the Swiss Army knife of horses – versatile, reliable, and tough enough to handle the varied Australian landscape. 

  • Versatile and Adaptable: The Australian Stock Horse’s ability to adapt to various environments and tasks makes it an ideal choice for riders who dream of exploring different aspects of equestrian life.
  • Born to the Bush: These horses aren’t just any horses; they’re born and bred in the Australian bush, imbued with the spirit of the landscape itself.
  • A Willing Partner: This breed shows a remarkable willingness to learn and participate, making the training process more engaging and rewarding for new riders.
  • Good-Natured Companions: They are known for their good nature, ensuring that your interactions are positive and encouraging.
  • Toughness and Reliability: The phrase “tough as nails” could very well be inspired by this breed. Their toughness doesn’t just refer to their physical ability to endure the elements but also their reliable nature, ensuring that they won’t easily spook or tire.
  • All-Rounder Abilities: Whether you’re interested in casual riding, competitive sports, or working with livestock, the Australian Stock Horse can do it all. This versatility means that as a beginner, your horse will grow with you as you explore different equestrian disciplines.

Quarter Horse

The Quarter Horse is often hailed as the ideal choice for those just starting their equestrian journey, and it’s not hard to see why.

  • Calm Disposition: For beginners, this means less worry about unexpected jitters or overreactions, allowing for a more relaxed and enjoyable learning environment.
  • Sharp Intelligence: They pick up on cues and commands quickly, which is great for beginners learning to communicate effectively with their equine partners.
  • Patient Teachers: They don’t get easily frustrated with beginner mistakes, which can be a huge confidence booster for riders who are still getting the hang of things.
  • Even Temperament: This predictability helps beginners build trust and confidence in their riding abilities.
  • Responsive Nature: It makes communication between horse and rider clearer and more intuitive.
  • Versatility: The Quarter Horse excels in a variety of disciplines, from trail riding to competitive events. They can adapt to whatever direction their beginner rider wants to take.
  • Strength and Stamina: Despite their calm demeanour, Quarter Horses are robust, with the strength and stamina to participate in longer rides without becoming overly tired.

The Quarter Horse is typically for those who are interested in Western Pleasure riding vs English riding e.g. dressage, showjumping.

Pony Breeds (including Shetland and Australian Pony)

Don’t let their size fool you. Pony breeds, including the Shetland and Australian Pony, hold a special place in the hearts of equestrian enthusiasts, especially beginners. Despite their smaller stature, these ponies bring a host of attributes that make them perfect first-time companions.

  • Manageable Size: For young riders and small adults, the manageable size of ponies offers a less intimidating introduction to riding. Their smaller frame makes it easier for beginners to mount and dismount, fostering independence and confidence from the start.
  • Sturdiness: The robustness allows them to comfortably carry riders, ensuring a safe and stable ride.
  • Dependability: They often exhibit a loyal and patient demeanor, willing to tolerate beginner mistakes and help riders learn at their own pace.
  • Patience: It is invaluable for beginners who are learning the ropes, as it provides a forgiving space for riders to practice and improve.
  • Versatility: Whether it’s a leisurely trail ride, a jumping session, or a dressage lesson, ponies are versatile enough to participate in a variety of disciplines.
  • Longevity: Ponies generally have a long lifespan and can provide many years of companionship.
  • Low Maintenance: Ponies often require less upkeep, making them a practical choice for first-time horse owners.

I’ve observed many young riders on ponies and to me they were quite frightening 😅 they can be super fast and watching them hoon around an arena and flying over jumps often had me holding my breath! I’m glad our daughter never rode spirited ponies. Like any horse though, not all ponies are spirited speed demons.

Thoroughbreds

Often retired racehorses, Thoroughbreds can be a great match for beginners under the right circumstances.

  • High Intelligence: They can learn new skills and adapt to a rider’s needs, making them responsive partners for the more intermediate rider ready to put in the time for training and bonding.
  • Eagerness to Please: This trait can make the learning process more rewarding as they respond well to positive reinforcement.
  • Deep Bonds with Riders: This can create a powerful sense of partnership and trust, which is crucial for developing confidence in the saddle.
  • Adaptability: With the right care and retraining, they can enjoy a variety of equestrian activities including showjumping, trail riding and basic dressage.
  • Athleticism: For the more intermediate rider interested in jumping or eventing, a Thoroughbred can be a capable and versatile partner as both the horse and rider’s skills advance.
  • Resilience: This resilience can be reassuring for beginners, knowing their horse is robust and capable of handling different riding conditions.

Our daughter trialled a few Thoroughbreds that turned out to be unsuitable. If buying or leasing a horse, you really have to know breeds or have a coach who can help with the buying decision.

Welsh Ponies and Cobs

Another excellent choice for beginners, Welsh Ponies and Cobs are known for their friendly demeanour, robust build, and versatility.

  • Friendly Demeanour: Welsh Ponies and Cobs are well-regarded for their amiable nature. Their approachable personality helps to ease beginner anxieties.
  • Robust Build: Despite their smaller size, these ponies are remarkably sturdy. Their robust build allows them to carry riders comfortably.
  • Versatility: Whether your interest lies in peaceful casual rides, the precision of dressage, or the excitement of jumping, these ponies are equipped to excel across the board.
  • Level-Headed: Their level-headedness ensures they don’t easily spook and can handle new experiences with grace.
  • Intelligence and Trainability: These ponies are quick learners. This attribute is particularly beneficial for beginners, as it means Welsh Ponies and Cobs can adapt to their rider’s growing skills and help them progress in their riding abilities.
  • Endurance: They are suitable for longer rides without tiring quickly. It’s great for beginners who wish to spend more time practicing and enjoying the outdoors.
  • Child-Friendly: For families looking to introduce their children to riding, Welsh Ponies are ideal. Their gentle nature and manageable size create a perfect match for younger riders.

Tips for First-Time Riders

Horse riding is thrilling but it’s all about starting with the basics and building your confidence. 

Here are some friendly tips to help you saddle up successfully.

Get to Know Your Four-Legged Friend

Before you even think about saddling up, spend some time getting to know the horse. Offer a carrot or two and spend time grooming. Understanding their moods and earning their trust makes a world of difference. 

Take Professional Lessons

Depending on your riding goals, starting with professional lessons is a great idea. It’s not just about learning the ropes safely, it’s about building confidence. 

A good instructor will guide you, step by step, ensuring you’re comfortable and most importantly, in control.

Explore Your Local Riding Schools

Just like us, horses have their own personalities so if you’re planning on making horse riding a longer term goal then pay a visit to some local riding schools, it’s a great way to dip your toes in the water. 

Conclusion

Yes, it’s really all about finding the right partner for the ride ahead. Choosing the right breed is about matching your personality, size, and riding goals with the horse’s characteristics. Like finding a new friend, it’s about the connection. 

The breeds mentioned here are just starting points on your equestrian adventure. Approach it with a heart full of enthusiasm but also with the utmost respect for these noble creatures. They’re not just mounts to be ridden but friends to be cherished.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What should I look for in a beginner-friendly horse?

A beginner-friendly horse typically has a calm and gentle temperament, making them patient and forgiving of new learners. Look for a horse that matches your size to ensure comfort and control, and opt for one with proper training to respond well to basic commands.

Are professional lessons necessary?

Though not necessary, professional lessons are highly recommended. They not only teach you the fundamentals of riding but also focus on safety, helping you build confidence alongside a qualified instructor. Think of it as learning to drive – best done with someone who knows the ropes!

Can I start riding at any age?

Absolutely! Riding is an inclusive activity that welcomes enthusiasts from the young to the young at heart. The key is finding the right instructor and horse that suit your age and physical capabilities.

How often should I take lessons when starting?

Consistency is crucial when learning to ride. Most beginners find that taking lessons once or twice a week allows them to progress steadily while retaining what they’ve learned.

Is horse riding safe for beginners?

With the right precautions, horse riding can be a safe activity. Wearing appropriate safety gear, choosing a well-trained horse, and learning under professional guidance significantly reduce risks.