The horse has been one of the most popular domesticated animals for centuries. While most people today ride horses to relax or compete in a variety of equestrian sports, these animals were once a primary mode of transportation. For the knights of the Middle Ages, the feared Ghengis Khan and cowboys throughout the world, horses were essential.
With the many ways in which horses are used, it is no surprise that many different breeds have been developed. However, all of these breeds can be placed into several categories. These categories are the light, heavy and pony classifications. Some people prefer to further divide some of these categories with classifications such as warmbloods, draft and gaited horse varieties.
While each horse breed has its own breed association, there is no overall horse breed registry, as there is for dogs and cats. However, there are national horse associations for the different horse sports and competitions, such as the United States Equestrian Federation and the British Equestrian Federation.
Light Horse Breed Overview
One of the oldest light horse breeds is the graceful, speedy Arabian. This horse breed is known for its stamina and endurance and has been competing in desert races for hundreds of years. However, this breed is also popular for being beautiful inside and out. Unlike some other breeds, most Arabian horses are known for being sweet natured and loving.
Another popular light horse breed is a descendant of the Arabian, the Thoroughbred. These horses command some of the highest prices in the world, since horse racing has become a big business. If you are looking for a safe family horse, you may want to think twice about buying a Thoroughbred, since this breed is often a bit high strung and likely to run away when being ridden by less experienced riders.
If you are looking for a horse that is versatile enough to help you round up cattle, compete in races, complete grueling trail competitions or just go for a leisurely ride, you may want to look at a breed that started as an American cow horse, the Quarter Horse. This breed was named for its ability to race at high speeds for a quarter mile.
For people looking for a family friendly, hard working horse on the small side, the Morgan horse is probably the perfect choice. The Morgan was developed by a man named Justin Morgan, who was amazed by the strength and sweet nature of his little horse. It was simple to create a breed from this single animal, because all of the Morgan’s foals had his characteristics. As the breed was refined, the Morgan became a bit more elegant looking, but kept its powerful, compact body and gentle disposition.
Of course, the tiny Miniature Horse is also extremely popular today. Although some people think this breed is a pony, it is classified as a horse because it does not have pony characteristics. This breed is kept as a companion animal and is sometimes used as a guide horse by blind or disabled people.
Other popular light horse breeds include the Appaloosa, the Standardbred, the Saddlebred, the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Paint and the Paso Fino.
While most people who want a horse opt for one of the light horse breeds, there are other options. Heavy horse breeds were once used to fight wars, to farm or to pull large loads. Of course, if you are looking for a first horse for your child, you may want to look for a much smaller horse, the pony. Ponies are the ideal choice for children.
Heavy Horse Breed Overview
There are two types of heavy horses, draft horses and horses that were once used as war horses. Draft horses are often used to help out on the farm or pull wagons. The former war horses often are trained in dressage, a complicated routine that challenges both the rider and the horse.
If you’ve ever seen the Budweiser wagon in parades, you already know what one of the most popular draft horses, the Clydesdale, looks like. Although the Clydesdale was originally used to pull heavy loads, this horse breed is so sweet natured and gentle that it can be ridden, as well.
Another popular draft horse is the Percheron. This horse may be smaller than the Clydesdale, but is just as powerful. The breed’s placid nature makes it a great choice for people who want a calm cart horse, while its intelligence means that it is easily trainable. However, you may want to consider a different breed if you don’t care for gray or black colors, since the Percheron only comes in these colors.
If neither of these draft horse breeds is right for you, there are several other excellent choices, including the Belgian, the Shire and the Suffolk Punch. Shires and Suffolk horses are a bit more rare than other draft horse breeds. However, the Belgian horse is more readily available, since these horses are frequently used by Amish farmers.
The most popular descendent of the war horse is probably the Lipizzaner. This breed is known for its spectacular dressage performances. The Vienna Lipizzaners travel the world to perform for audiences ranging from royalty to school children. Despite its popularity, the breed is rare and you can find very few of these horses in countries other than Austria.
When you think of a pony, you probably imagine the placid, stocky little Shetland Pony. This breed has been the first pony for generations of children. The Shetland is easy going and sweet tempered, although younger ponies often have some ornery tendencies.
When a child outgrows his Shetland Pony, he will probably move up to a Welsh or Connemara Pony. While several types of Welsh Ponies are fairly small, the Cob type is large enough to easily carry teens and adults. The Connemara is a bit smaller, but is a good choice for shorter teens or adults.
Whether you decide you want a pony, a light horse or one of the heavy horses, you will have plenty of breeds to choose from. To be sure you pick the right breed, you may want to see a few horses in person before you make the final choice.
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