Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
I think a grade horse can be as good as any other, and even better than some.
Purpose bred/registered horses are good, and I do tend to think that the most excellent horses are bred for that purpose (and therefore registered). However, I think most people are aware that you can come across some registered horses with poor conformation, poor temperaments and little to no talent.
So I think if you were to be looking for a horse that has not been specifically bred to excel in a specific discipline, then the only real difference between having a grade horse or a registered horse are papers, and of course value.
Although, just like any horse, it's your responsibility to choose one that suits you. In grade horses there are ranges of quality, from strange backyard crossbreeds to beautifully conformed, athletic horses. When you're looking at a specific registered breed they're all going to be of a similar type, where as a grade horse can be almost anything. You would do the same disease checking as with any other horse.
Showing... well I don't know. I suppose you can just do regular showing, ridden hack, etc but you will not be able to compete in breed shows and classes, which if you're serious about doing, can be a big downside. From my experience, there are no real registrations that will improve your showing experience that do not require parentage, the exception may be some colour registries, if your horse is coloured.
I've mostly owned "grade" horses and they were more than adequate for what I wanted to do, low level - dressage, jumping, showing, pony club, trail riding etc.