The best horse breeds for beginners are even-tempered and forgiving. They learn quickly, respond promptly to commands and do not spook easily. Many beginners appreciate breeds with smooth gaits. Much of a horse's temperament is determined by his training, but it doesn't hurt to start with a horse breed known for patience and gentility.
American Quarter Horse
The American quarter horse is best known as a cow or ranch horse. The breed makes an excellent mount for a beginning rider. Quarter horses are intelligent and quick to learn, and they are among the most mild-mannered mounts. They work well on the ranch because they are not easily spooked by wayward calves or stampeding herds, which means they make surefooted mounts for nervous beginners.
Irish Sport Horse
An Irish sport horse or Irish hunter is a cross between a thoroughbred and an Irish draft horse, or the product of two Irish sport horses. The result is a calm, focused, high-energy mount. The athleticism of an Irish sport horse contributes to the growth of the novice rider. Irish sport horses frequently compete in dressage, eventing, hunter/jumper, foxhunting and equitation.
Tennessee Walking Horse
The smooth, comfortable gaits of the Tennessee walking horse make him one of the most desired beginner horse breeds. Unlike many other gaited horses, the Tennessee walker is known for his calm and friendly disposition. He is extremely versatile, serving in nearly all equestrian sports, including western pleasure, saddle seat, dressage, jumping and endurance.
The Shetland is a short, strong pony that adults commonly use for driving. They make solid mounts for young children because of their size. Shetlands are docile creatures with fairly calm temperaments, and their short stature often makes children feel safer on them in the saddle. Children will outgrow Shetlands, however, which reach only 11.2 hands.
Experience and personality are more important than breed for pairing a horse with a beginning rider. A horse who tolerates children, loud noises, moving vehicles, other horses and wildlife will make a calm and easy-going mount. Consider the goals of the rider, as well. A beginner who wants to learn how to jump, for example, should choose a horse who has several years of experience in the jumping arena.
Laura College is a former riding instructor, horse trainer and veterinary assistant. She has worked as a writer since 2004, producing articles and sales copy for corporations and nonprofits. College has also published articles in numerous publications, including "On the Bit," "Practical Horseman" and "American Quarter Horse Journal."