How to buy a family horse that the whole family will love
Buying a Horse

7 great breeds to buy as family horses

When you’re not just buying a horse for your children, but a family horse that can be used by the older kids or adults as well, you’re going to be looking at a smaller size horse or a sturdy pony.

Ideally, you’re looking for a horse with an even temperament and more experience. Keep in mind that if the horse isn’t going to be used for competing, a good all-rounder will serve you well.

If your kids are more focused and want to compete, you’re better off looking for a horse that is more suited for that purpose and maybe already has some training under his belt in that field.

Here I’ve put together a list of horse breeds to consider when you want a horse that the whole family can enjoy together.

#1 American quarter horse

The level and willing temperament, versatility across disciplines, and physical strength and durability make quarter horses a true family horse.

They’re praised for their gentleness and responsiveness even with beginner riders.

They’re great sprinters and can get great speeds on short distances thanks to their powerful hindquarters – this makes them popular in western disciplines, such as cow wrangling and barrel racing.

The quarter horse gets its name from the ability to outrun other horse breeds in races of a quarter-mile or less – some have been clocked at speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph).

The most popular horse in America, it’s favoured in both Western and English riding as well as driving.

Quick facts:

  • Height: 142 cm (14 hh) to 163 cm (16 hh)
  • Characteristics: well-muscled body, powerful and broad chest, rounded and strong hindquarters, intelligent
  • Origin: United States

#2 Appaloosa

The Appaloosa is another traditional American breed with strong local history.

Not only does the Appaloosa come in a fun colour, but it’s also a level-headed and gentle horse that is great with kids.

Notoriously friendly and even loyal, these spotted horses make great family companions.

They’re easy keepers, which is always a plus in a first horse, and even though it’s a full-sized horse it can be a great mount for younger children with support.

Quick facts:

  • Height: 142 cm (14 hh) to 163 cm (16 hh)
  • Characteristics: colourful spotted coat patterns, striped hooves, mottled skin
  • Origins: developed by the indigenous people of Niimíipuu in the Pacific Northwest of the modern United States

#3 Paint horse

The paint horse has a strong mix of American quarter horse in the pedigree and typically has the same calm, gentle temperament.

Paints are intelligent and social horses, which make them easy to train.

They’re reliable and well-balanced under saddle which make them suitable to young riders as well.

The pain horse comes in many bold “painted” patterns but is still a run-of-the-mill stock horse that can be used for Western and English disciplines.

  • Height: 142 cm (14 hh) to 152 cm (15 hh)
  • Characteristics: colourful coat patterns
  • Origins: United States

#4 Morgan horse

The first horse breed to be developed in the United States, the Morgan has had an influence on almost all other big American breeds.

The Morgan is known for being highly cooperative and eager to please, which makes this a perfect horse for inexperienced riders.

It’s known for its vigour and eagerness as well as a strong natural way of moving. Particularly the trot is animated, collected and elastic.

Its also an excellent driving horse and is known for its versatility both in front of a carriage and under saddle.

The Morgan is very fond of people and likes to socialise with the human family members.

Known for good soundness and longevity, the Morgan is known as an easy keeper.

The stature is also smaller than many other breeds, which makes this a manageable horse for many children.

Quick facts:

  • Height: 142 cm (14 hh) to 152 cm (15 hh)
  • Characteristics: thick mane and tail, compact but refined build, arched neck,
  • Origin: United States

#5 Icelandic horse

The Icelandic horse is long-lived and hardy. They were introduced to Iceland by Norse settlers in the 9th and 10 centuries.

Today Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return.

The breed has developed into its current form through centuries of selective breeding as well as natural selection. The horses roam their island home freely and harsh Icelandic climate eliminates many horses through cold and starvation.

The Icelandic horse will grow a heavy winter coat and can stand very cold climates due to its double coat with extra insulation.

In addition to walk, trot and canter, the Icelandic horse has two special gaits; tölt and pass. Despite having a small stature, this little firecracker can carry large adults as well as pull heavy loads and ploughs.

The Icelandic horse has a large, loveable personality and is typically a spirited horse, so it’s best suited to riders with a little bit more experience.

Quick facts:

  • Height: 132 cm (13 hh) to 142 cm (14 hh)
  • Characteristics: thick and long mane and tail, easy keeper, distinctive gaits, free-spirited and spunky attitude
  • Origin: Iceland

#6 Arabian

If your family likes a lot of go-juice in a horse, an Arabian may be a good choice for you.

Originally bred as war horses with speed, the Arabian will run like the wind – this makes it popular for endurance racing.

It’s one of the most popular pleasure horses worldwide and are versatile enough for almost every discipline and curious enough to learn just about anything.

The Arabian can hold its own in English and Western arenas.

Whether you’re into dressage, jumping, western pleasure, trail riding, drill team, or endurance, the Arabian has the versatility to learn any task.

Typically Arabians are more energetic and hot-blooded than your standard stock horse, so unless you can find a serene individual, consider Arabians only for more experienced riders.

Quick facts:

  • Height: 145 cm (14.2 hh) to 155 cm (15.1 hh)
  • Characteristics: chiselled head, dished face, high tail, large eyes, arched neck 
  • Origin: Arabian peninsula

#7 Mustang

If you’re experienced with horses or work closely with a trainer – and have a lot of time and patience – a mustang could be the horse for you.

Always remember that Mustangs are feral horses (descended from once domesticated stock) that come from the wild and so they are wild – I repeat, wild animals – that haven’t been handled or trained prior to being captured by the Bureau of Land Management.

If you still want a Mustang, but don’t have the time or skills to train one, check out some adoption programs that train the horses before setting them up for adoption.

The people who work with the horses will also have a good idea of what kind of temperament the individuals have and what kind of owner will make the best match.

There are far more Mustangs and burros in holding facilities (that are getting more crowded by the day) waiting for rehoming than there are people adopting them. Giving one of these animals a forever home is heroic. Period.

But you must have the time and patience to train a wild animal properly if you’re going to do it.

They’re shaped by nature herself and so are hardy, athletic, strong and smart.

At least initially, a Mustang can be a little trigger happy, so I’d recommend keeping the kids away until you’ve established the basics with your new horse and he can be handled safely by anyone.

Mustangs do come with more considerations than other horses but they are truly amazing and well worth the effort.

Quick facts:

  • Height: 142 cm (14 hh) to 163 cm (16 hh)
  • Characteristics: descended from Spanish horses, small, compact, good bone, very hardy
  • Origin: United States

It’s not all about breed

As always, when you’re buying a horse, don’t get too hung up on the breed (unless you’re going to show/compete in breed-specific events).

The most important thing is to find an individual that is a perfect match for the people who are going to handle and use him.

Think about what you want to use the horse for, who’s going to handle, ride and drive the horse and what kind of skills each individual already has.

Pedigree is never a guarantee that you’re going to get a perfect horse and so keeping an open mind when you start looking for a new companion will ensure that you don’t miss out on the horse of a lifetime.

A family horse is just that; a horse that the whole family can enjoy together, and that’s why you can get a bigger horse even if your kids are still a bit younger, because you’ll be there with them every step of the way.

A horse, even a small one, is never something your should expect your kids to handle solo and even a horse that you don’t ride will still be your responsibility.

Being honest with yourself before committing to a purchase is always a good idea. If you can’t or don’t want to buy, leasing and borrowing are wonderful ways in which to get your kids more horsey time!

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