What horse breed would you recommend for a first time horse owner who is interested in doing either western riding or dressage? I would like the breed to be very calm and would prefer the horses to be on the smaller side.
Paints (and QHs) are great horses to choose. They are hearty, low maintenance, easy keepers that have very good dispositions. Shorter and stockier, typically 14.2-15.2hh, 1000-1100 lbs and sure footed with a lower center of gravity. Excellent all around, and pretty, too.
I agree wit painthorsesmares, paints or qh's. If your looking for a dressage an western horse I just bought a spanish horse(Andalusian) they are usually very lam but they do need a confident rider. They need to feel very Royal
Have you considered reining? There's a video comparing dressage and reining posted elsewhere on this list. It's amazing how similar they are.
Dressage horses have a tendency to be larger, from what I've seen. Dressage is absolutely beautiful.
We have our first horse, a lovely young Paint with QH grandparents. He's quiet and smart. Even though he's very young he's quite enough for my little girlie, who is 10.
I'd really recommend making friends with a horse trainer. Our riding teacher is a horse trainer and he picked out a horse for us. He asked my daughter what she wanted (size, etc.) and then he went around and looked at local horses for sale. He sent us pictures of a couple and we told him which ones we thought were prettier but told him that we thought he needed to decide. We never saw our horse in person until he brought the horse to his house on a week's trial.
The added benefit of having your trainer find a horse for you is that he knows local horsey people. He was able to drive a really good bargain.
I am going to mention my fav. Breed (and I do believe it is the one in your avatar) the Icelandics
You have been talking about your knees hurting while riding, and I can tell you that I have terrible terrible knees (we're talking about stairs sometimes being to much) and my knees have never hurt after riding icies :)
I definitely think they're worth a shot !