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Best Horse Breeds for Kids
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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:
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