You’ve probably seen or heard about dozens of different horse breeds, but what you may not know is that there are just five main types of horses. The horse type is different from the breed because it goes back to the horse’s origin. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to tell which type of horse it is simply by looking at it.
Types of Horses
The horse type is determined by the reason the horse was originally bred. For example, some horses are bred for racing, others for work, and some for riding.
The main types of horses are draft, pony, gait, light, and warm blood. Each type has a specific body type, temperament, work capacity, and athletic ability. Read on to learn more about each of the different types of horses and what they are best suited for.
1. Draft Horses
Draft horses are used for hard labor. They have a sturdy and robust build that makes it easy for them to carry heavy loads. The name draft comes from the old English word dragan, which means to move around. Having such an old name shows you how long this horse type has been around.
Since they’ve been around for so long, draft horses have had the most significant impact on history. In the past, people used them for war and farming.
Draft horses have been a permanent feature of human society since the 19th century because of their ability to haul freight and pull large carriages. Without draft horses, the Industrial Revolution would have been highly challenging and perhaps impossible.
Even though we use machinery now, draft horses still play a significant role on farms. They are used for pleasure riding, plowing, and logging. Also, they are popularly used to pull carriages around cities. Even though their role seems resigned to history, these horses are not obsolete just yet.
Draft horse breeds are often named according to the place they originate from and the kind of work they typically do.
The most popular breeds are Belgian drafts, Haflinger, Clydesdale, Shire, and Percheron. While these may be the most popular breeds, horse breeders have become more innovative and can develop newer breeds.
You can identify a draft horse by its tall and muscular stature, well-arched neck, and black or gray color. Usually, a draft horse is between 16 to 19 hands tall (64 to 76 inches) and weighs between 1,400 and 2,000 pounds.
Another physical characteristic you can easily spot is the feathering on their legs, which is long hair that grows from the horse’s ankles and covers its hooves. So, if you see a giant horse with feathering on its legs and performing hard labor, it is likely a draft horse.
The largest draft horse breed is the Shire. It originates in England and is well-known as a war and agricultural horse. Shires were often used to haul heavy military equipment during WWI and WWII.
These days, they are used to plow fields on farms because of their incredible pulling strength.
While a draft horse can be a handy asset for riding and working, caring for them is expensive. Feeding them is costly because of the quantity of feed that they eat and their fast metabolism.
Buying horseshoes for them is also costly because they have special requirements, and the ferrier will most likely charge you a high price for those requirements. So, a draft horse is not one that you buy to just enjoy around the farm. It should have a specific job.
2. Light Horses
If your horse’s strength is not an important factor to you, and you’d rather have a horse with speed or agility, light horse types are perfect for you. Light horses are the opposite of draft horses because they are built for riding and endurance.
Light horses are recreational. They are used for no other purpose except for enjoying a nice ride. Most of the horse breeds you know are probably light horses. When you hear the word horse, it’s most likely that a picture of a light horse enters your mind.
Historically speaking, light horses were used for travel. Their speed and efficiency meant they could quickly move between one location and another, which made light horses the best option for sending a message quickly. People also used them for pleasure and show riding.
Light horses have the perfect balance between strength and speed. While they are smaller than draft horses, they are also bigger than ponies, which makes them faster than draft horses and stronger than ponies.
If you’re looking for a horse that combines the best of both worlds, you should consider buying a light horse. You might be able to use it on a ranch, but it’s best to keep it for recreational riding.
The most popular light horse breeds are the American Quarter Horse, the American Saddlebred, and the Arabian.
We can further divide light horses into categories: hunter, stock, and saddle. Hunter horses are long and lean, and they are often used for activities where covering ground quickly is essential (e.g., racing). Saddle types have a high neck and a flat croup, making them perfect for riding. Stock horses are bigger and more muscled and can be used for ranch work.
While they come in a wide range of colors, light horses are typically either light brown or dark brown. You can identify them by looking at their medium build. Their height ranges between 12 to 17.2 hands high (56 to 69 inches), and their weight fluctuates according to the horse’s use.
Light horse types are perfect for everyone. They have all of the bases covered, and they are handy to have around the ranch.
If it’s speed you’re into, there’s a light horse for you. If you’re more interested in show events, there’s a light horse for you, too. If you just want to enjoy a good ride, a light horse can do the job.
3. Pony Horses
Usually associated with princesses and young children, ponies are the smallest horse types. Don’t let their small size fool you. Ponies are among the strongest and sturdiest horses out there. They may be small, but they are powerful.
Ponies are defined in two ways. A pony can be defined as such if it fits certain height and weight restrictions. Any miniature horse, regardless of breed, can be referred to as a pony.
On the other hand, a pony can be a small horse that fits the conformation and temperament requirements. To make it easier for yourself, if a horse is small, you can refer to it as a pony.
The first pony emerged as a draft horse adapted to the harsh environment of Northern Europe, made from a combination of different wild mares and a single male ancestor. Ponies were among the last horse types to be domesticated. They weren’t as strong as draft horses or as fast as light horses.
Since they are heavy-bodied with thick manes, ponies are valuable as working animals. You can use them to pull things around or plow a field. Also, they are built for harsher environments so they aren’t affected by cold weather or rugged terrains.
As time passed, ponies were mixed with light horses to make them eligible for equestrian pursuits. As a result, you can use them for pleasure riding. Ponies are proof that a horse’s size does not determine its athletic ability.
It’s relatively easy to identify a pony by its heavy build, thick mane, and short legs. They don’t have any defining color, but they are primarily found in white or brown. Their hair coat is heavier than other horse types, and their hooves are more robust.
Ponies are perfect for someone who is looking for a reliable horse that will survive harsh conditions and that is enjoyable to ride.
4. Gaited Horses
The term “gaited horse” is not saved for any horse breed but is given to any horse bred for riding. If you often feel uncomfortable or suffer from lower back pain, you’ll appreciate a gaited horse.
Gaited horses are well-known for their smooth rides. They can perform a two-beat trot or a four-beat trot. This natural movement makes it easy for anyone to ride them, especially beginners.
Since they already have the movement down, you won’t need to do much but sit back and enjoy the ride.
Only a small percentage of horses are naturally gaited, and most gaited horses are trained to perform that way. They are slightly more expensive since they require extra training. However, the ease and comfort are worth it if you are a beginner to intermediate rider.
The Florida Cracker is one of the most popular common gaited horse types, standing between 13 to 15.5 hands (53 to 61 inches). While they can be found in various colors, they are most commonly gray, chestnut, and black. They are easily identifiable by their running walk and their coon rack.
Gaited horses are so reliable that they were previously associated with class and wealth. They are known as the “gentleman’s horse” because of their elegant gallop. If you’re looking for a dress or show riding horse, you’ll like the gaited horse.
This horse is also a great fit for beginners and for people who suffer from back problems.
5. Warmblood Horses
This classification is made according to biological and not physical classifications. You can’t identify a warmblood using the naked eye, and you’ll need to understand a horse’s biology to know whether or not it is a warmblood.
Technically, all horses are warmblooded, but warmblood horses are classified according to their temperament. They are even-tempered and easy to handle. They are not as explosive and difficult to handle as hot-blooded horses, and they aren’t as calm as cold-blooded horses.
This mild-mannered personality makes warmblood horses versatile and valuable for equestrian sports. They are also tall and athletic, so they perform well in show jumping, dressage, and other events.
Warmblood horses are a result of generations of cross-breeding. Breeders have worked hard to create the perfect balance between heavy-bodied and light-bodied horses. The ideal combo is helpful in equestrian sports.
The Hanoverian is one of the most common warmblood horse types. It is one of the oldest breeds originating from Germany. Over time, breeders found the ideal combination to create this solid and elegant animal. The silky black color and shiny coat demonstrate the exceptional breeding of this horse.
This horse was first used as a military horse to drag around carriages.
Warmbloods are not ideal for beginner or intermediate riders. They are large athletic horses that are specifically bred for competition. As a result, they are quite costly. You are advised to buy a warmblood only if you plan to use it in competitions.
Knowing the different types of horses will help you classify different horse breeds. And if you are in the market to buy, It’s an easy way to help you choose the kind of horse you want.
Looking at the hundreds of horse breeds can be confusing and overwhelming but looking at types of horses makes it so much easier to narrow down which horse is best for you.
Each horse type has different physical characteristics and specialties. Looking at types of horses is helpful because you can pick a horse according to use.
If you’re looking for a strong horse to use for hard labor, we advise buying a draft horse. If you want a fast and agile horse for racing or riding, a light horse is ideal. If you’re looking for a sturdy and versatile horse, you can choose a pony. Gaited horses are made for easy and comfortable rides while warmblood horses are athletic and great for equestrian sports.
We hope this article has aided your understanding of horse types. If you’re looking for more articles on all things equestrian, feel free to explore the rest of our site.