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Quick disclaimer: I know every horse is an individual and needs to be treated as such. But for the sake of this discussion, I'm referring to general bred expectations.

I've done a LOT of research on this topic, but I'd really love to hear some opinions outside of articles online. So, in your personal opinion, experience, etc., which breed or breeds of horses do you believe to be best suited for a novice horse owner? And if I may be so particular, I'd love your opinions specifically on breeds that are easier to find in the United States.

It was through my research of this very topic that I discovered my love of Fjords, but I admit, their scarcity in the US has really brought down any excitement or hope of ever actually acquiring one. I haven't given up on this dream entirely, but I am definitely trying to open up my mind to other breeds out there that may share similar attributes that I find appealing. Specifically, I've started doing more research on Haflingers, but most equestrians seems pretty 50/50 split on whether or not that breed is appropriate for beginners.

My instructor highly suggests quarter horses, and while I like quarter horses just fine, I admit, aesthetic-wise, they're not everything I hoped for in my own horse. But I do know that shorter, draftier type horses are simply not as common in the states, and it might save me a lot of heartache later if I start learning to appreciate the qualities of taller, sportier horses.
 

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I'm a beginner rider and I ride exclusively Morgans at my barn! My horse is my best friend and Morgans are always there for you. The breed is very sweet and calm. They're always willing to do anything. They try to understand what their rider is asking, even if their rider isn't a great communicator yet.
 

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My first horse was an Appy. He taught me so much. He was very "stubborn" but really he just knew more than I did, and he wouldn't let me do dumb stuff. He was 22 when I got him, and he was not taking any crap. He would even turn back and give me "the eye". He was patient. I think everyone wants a younger horse, but I am so glad my first horse was old and very "been there, done that". And people say Appys are crabby, but he was just smart and experienced. His name was Bandit.
 

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Sham- 5 year old Thoroughbred ~~~ Texas Pete- 32 year old Thoroughbred still going strong.
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I started with Pony of Americas. I’ve worked with four different POA s over the years and 3/4 were angels and just the best for starters. They tend to be easy keepers (typically can go barefoot, usually thrive on a forage diet) they’re smaller, so if you’re nervous about falling or anything like that their size can help with confidence. While they’re small they are still very capable and athletic and fun to ride. They come in all colors and can have conformation from that if a Shetland to that of a quarter horse, it really varies. Basically, I love POAs and I would absolutely suggest one as a first horse.
They’re also pretty common in the U.S. so not hard to find one that meets your needs :)
 

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Honestly, just go for a breed that you actually like. Haflingers seem like a really good option for you. I don't know how they wouldn't be appropriate for beginners, as long as you're getting a semi trained horse of any breed you should be fine really.

Friesian horses also have a heavier build and share a lot of the same qualities as fjords do. Many Norwegian breeds are actually descendant from friesians so it's a good place to look for alternatives for your fjord obsession. Also I highly suggest irish cobs as well, they're very much like haflingers so you might like them too. Irish cobs are known for their paint black and white coat but trust me, you can find cobs in all colors and sizes.

I don't think there's a horse breed that's an absolute no no for beginners as long as you're not getting a young untrained horse- When I was looking for my first horse I looked around the ages of 8 to 12 and mostly geldings (note that mares are fine too as long as you know what they're like in heat). But I really don't think you should settle for a sporty warmblood if you love draftier horses.
Also it can take a long time to find the right horse even when you know exactly what you look for, but the right one is totally worth waiting for so don't get disheartened if it takes a while.
 

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Focusing on one breed because the expectation that that breed is the breed for a beginner puts you in the position that you miss the horse that could be your perfect horse. Look at what is available within a reasonable travel distance for you. Don't get hung up on a breed. There are sturdy, well built QH ponies out there that are amazing.
 

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Focusing on one breed because the expectation that that breed is the breed for a beginner puts you in the position that you miss the horse that could be your perfect horse. Look at what is available within a reasonable travel distance for you. Don't get hung up on a breed. There are sturdy, well built QH ponies out there that are amazing.
This^^^^

And also, nothing says you have to have a “breed”. Look at the cross breds that don’t have papers. They often are much healthier mentally and physically than their perfectly bred counterparts.
 

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Looking for the "perfect breed" of horse for a beginner is like looking at a horse's color to determine whether they are a good horse, it's just not realistic haha.

The stigma of Arabians is that they are high strung and uncontrollable, yet I have met SO many Arabians that were being used as beginner horses. One, God rest his lovely soul, toted around 3 year old on her own and never took a wrong step. Then I've met a few paints who were "supposed" to be dead heads but I wouldn't let a beginner near with a 50 foot pole (one reared straight up with me, another took off like a bat outta heck for a full 25 mins with no sign of stopping, which was fun lol) I had one Percheron kick at me, try to run me over, take off with me, etc and another who would plod around with a 5 year old. My QH when I first started working him when he was younger was a bronc and I would never in a million years think of putting a beginner on him, now he's as quiet as a kitten and my go to when I have newbies come to ride. My appy can be a total brat with me but the second a child is on his back he moves like a western pleasure horse.

My point is there is no definitive good breed for a good horse. Some breeds may be more prone to being a little more sensitive than others but there are anomalies to all of the rules.

My advice is to find an older, been-there done-that kind of horse that will help you to be able to focus on your riding. I wouldn't rule out any breed specifically because, in my opinion, it depends on the individual horse 😊
 

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Many Norwegian breeds are actually descendant from friesians so it's a good place to look for alternatives for your fjord obsession.
Lol, what? Norwegian Fjords predate the modern day Friesian by quite a bit. Certainly they might share a common ancestry -Thanks to the both of them being breeds from Northern Europe- but they're hardly direct descendants of one another.

Irish cobs are known for their paint black and white coat but trust me, you can find cobs in all colors and sizes.
Paint = A specific breed of horse. Originated in the United States of America. Has specific bloodline requirements in order to be registered.

Pinto = Catch all for horses with white patches and other such markings.

Irish Cobs are Pintos, not Paints.
 

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Morgan,Morgan,Morgan. Never met one that wasn’t a sweetheart.
Haflingers had a very good reputation as well but my farrier told me that they’re being overbred now to meet the demand and he’s encountered some “nasty ones”. Truth is that I had my heart set in one...until I met my Angelina who is of course a Morgan 🙂
 

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Of the horses I've met and experienced myself, if and when I have children in the future, their first horse(s) will be either Arabians or Morgans. I think both of these breeds bring different qualities to the table that are really beneficial for beginners.

The Arabians (NOT the halter bred hot-heads) are very smart and can be challenging, but in my experience, they only challenge you as much as you can handle and never more. I started out with a half-Arabian (Toofine, I post a lot about him, I own him still 13 years later) and my parents bought him as a very green 8 year old. He could walk and trot under-saddle, had zero idea how to canter with a rider, and was pretty spooky BUT he took care of me anyways. He never did anything intentional to get me off of his back, is a sweetheart on the ground, and really "changes" who he is undersaddle depending who rides him. My SO (24 year old city boy) rides him around and he is quiet as a mouse, sometimes challenging SO to keep him on his toes but never too much. I can get right after and he can be a snorty-hot, impressive moving horse, that is being a pain to ride. I can get off and swap back to SO, and he goes right back to being quiet. He just knows, somehow.

Also, I've never laughed as hard as I have with Arabians.

As for Morgans, I think they are very forgiving sweethearts who are also super, super smart. I've had two, starting out with a Morab (Morgan x Arab) as my first horse that I pretty much only did groundwork and limited under-saddle stuff with. She allowed me to learn natural horsemanship, while making and learning from my mistakes, without reacting in a way that would be detrimental. As for the Morgan I own now, I've never been on or around a horse that learns so quickly. I can spend one ride teaching something new to her and the next ride it's already a new cue that she knows. I just cannot believe how smart she is, and how well she retains new things. Also, she was the easiest horse I've ever backed by far. Her first ride was walk only in the round pen, second ride we were already out on the trails. She has yet to do something nasty under-saddle, and really just tries so hard for me.

I know many people have luck with QH's and Paint's. I personally am not a huge fan of them, but I started and stayed with Arabians (and other light breeds, like Morgans). My family owned two growing up, but I always had so much more fun with my half-Arabian. Depending on what you want to do, they could be a more popular choice, but I haven't seen anything that a QH/Paint does that an Arabian/Morgan can't.
 

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My first thought was to suggest a Haflinger. Mine is so low-maintenance and willing. I can ride him once a month, and he is reliable every time ( not to mention in amazing health at age 26). I have had a Thoroughbred, Paint, and Welsh Cross, and none are as easy as my Haflinger. I know some people say they are stubborn, but I don't think I've ever heard of a "dangerous" Haflinger.
 

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Of the horses I've met and experienced myself, if and when I have children in the future, their first horse(s) will be either Arabians or Morgans. I think both of these breeds bring different qualities to the table that are really beneficial for beginners.

The Arabians (NOT the halter bred hot-heads) are very smart and can be challenging, but in my experience, they only challenge you as much as you can handle and never more. I started out with a half-Arabian (Toofine, I post a lot about him, I own him still 13 years later) and my parents bought him as a very green 8 year old. He could walk and trot under-saddle, had zero idea how to canter with a rider, and was pretty spooky BUT he took care of me anyways. He never did anything intentional to get me off of his back, is a sweetheart on the ground, and really "changes" who he is undersaddle depending who rides him. My SO (24 year old city boy) rides him around and he is quiet as a mouse, sometimes challenging SO to keep him on his toes but never too much. I can get right after and he can be a snorty-hot, impressive moving horse, that is being a pain to ride. I can get off and swap back to SO, and he goes right back to being quiet. He just knows, somehow.

Also, I've never laughed as hard as I have with Arabians.

As for Morgans, I think they are very forgiving sweethearts who are also super, super smart. I've had two, starting out with a Morab (Morgan x Arab) as my first horse that I pretty much only did groundwork and limited under-saddle stuff with. She allowed me to learn natural horsemanship, while making and learning from my mistakes, without reacting in a way that would be detrimental. As for the Morgan I own now, I've never been on or around a horse that learns so quickly. I can spend one ride teaching something new to her and the next ride it's already a new cue that she knows. I just cannot believe how smart she is, and how well she retains new things. Also, she was the easiest horse I've ever backed by far. Her first ride was walk only in the round pen, second ride we were already out on the trails. She has yet to do something nasty under-saddle, and really just tries so hard for me.

I know many people have luck with QH's and Paint's. I personally am not a huge fan of them, but I started and stayed with Arabians (and other light breeds, like Morgans). My family owned two growing up, but I always had so much more fun with my half-Arabian. Depending on what you want to do, they could be a more popular choice, but I haven't seen anything that a QH/Paint does that an Arabian/Morgan can't.
Before I bought her, my Morgan was bred with an Arab. My friend now owns him and he’s an amazing horse!
My daughter learned to ride on the same friend’s Egyptian Arab at age four. Aside from my own Angelina, I’ve never loved a horse more than Pasha.
 

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I've known nasty embittered Haflingers, bug-up-their-behind Morgans, dead-quiet Thoroughbreds, rock-steady Arabs, and nervous little Quarterhorses who would buck you right over a fence given the chance. It's not about the breed. Not for beginners. Breeds are more important for people looking for a specific kind of talent -- love of jumping, cow savvy, endurance, flashy gaits.

There is no beginner breed, there are only beginner horses. It's fun to research breeds and make lists of pros and cons but in the end, only the individual horse matters. Many people on this very board will tell you about the dream horse they went shopping for ("I had to have a black Arabian!) and the completely different horse they ended up with ("somehow I came home with a pinto pony!") which turned out to be their dream horse after all.

I'll repeat the wise thing an old cattleman told me about cowdogs long ago: "the way to find the right dog is to make the dog you have the right one."
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Thank you all SO much for your answers! I'm sorry if this question makes me sound like an annoying turd, and I promise it's mostly out of my own ignorance and excitement. I'm still trying to do my part in learning as much as I can so I don't make an expensive, possibly dangerous mistake in the future. I completely understand all of your points and I'm taking them all to heart.

In June (if it's not canceled due to Covid), we will be attending a Horse Expo and I'm very excited about it. The expo will have a pavilion exclusively to showcase 100+ breeds of horses from breeders and enthusiasts, and I'm hoping that will be a great opportunity for me to learn even more.
 

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There is no "best breed" for a beginner, all horses are individuals. Instead of setting your heart on a certain breed, look for a horse that is Safe, Sane and Sound. Preferably with a little age on them, to increase the chances of them having a "Been there, Done that" attitude.

For the record, the first horse I ever rode was an Appaloosa. I still have a soft spot for the breed.
 

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Thank you all SO much for your answers! I'm sorry if this question makes me sound like an annoying turd, and I promise it's mostly out of my own ignorance and excitement. I'm still trying to do my part in learning as much as I can so I don't make an expensive, possibly dangerous mistake in the future. I completely understand all of your points and I'm taking them all to heart.

In June (if it's not canceled due to Covid), we will be attending a Horse Expo and I'm very excited about it. The expo will have a pavilion exclusively to showcase 100+ breeds of horses from breeders and enthusiasts, and I'm hoping that will be a great opportunity for me to learn even more.
You know though, if you take what everyone is saying, to me it sounds like finding a beginner Norwegian Fjord is not out of the question. If all breeds can be good for a beginner, you might as well try the NF route. Good luck to you and I hope you enjoy the expo--that sounds like a lot of fun!
 
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I was looking for a really safe horse for my young daughter. Probably a Quarter horse. Couldn't find anything for the longest time. I saw this pretty little Arabian but didn't want to go see him since Arabians are too hot right? Well, when we still couldn't find anything suitable, I finally decided to go see him. That was nearly 6 years ago, and he took my little girl to all of her first shows, winning ribbons in hunter/jumper, and more recently, in dressage classes. She even got a few division championships and some provincial reserve championships with him, and they are still going strong. He is 100% safe for beginners and young children.

My next purchase was a Quarter Horse. Supposed to be dead broke and bombproof. Within two weeks, I'd fallen off her twice (and I had never fallen off a horse in my life, and have never fallen off any other horse than her since). Eventually, she gave me a concussion. She had massive spooks and was literally afraid of her shadow. So much for the safe QH stereotype. I ended up selling her to someone who didn't mind her extreme reactivity.

Then, a friend of mine had a green broke Appy. I have had horses in my youth and more recently, but don't consider myself any kind of horse trainer. Yet I brought home this baby who had had about 10 rides on him. He's totally safe. If anything, I sometimes wish he had more pep, but I have never been afraid to fall off him.

Our most recent addition is a 2 (soon 3) year old pony. Just for fun - my daughter will train her under saddle (under my close supervision of course). So far, we are having a blast with her. She's totally fearless, loveable, friendly and happy. Easy to work with, wants to please. Nothing like "pony" stereotypes.

I think you get my point. There is no one breed that is always safe, nor are there breeds who should be entirely dismissed for beginners. I agree that you should probably get a well-trained horse, but sometimes, a good solid brain is something you can work with even if the training isn't quite finished (assuming you would have help if needed though).
 

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I think you have to find a breed you like. What is most important is that you buy an older, very well trained and settled horse, and that he/she fits your personality. My first was a thoroughbred that had almost been shot by the owner. A worker brought him to the barn half starved to death. I took lessons there and when I spent time with him, I knew I was going to own him. He was 18 years old. Most people think it's way too old. He trail rode with me for 7 years, then rode my tiny children. He loved to work so much, I used to trailer him to my lessons, with my other horse, so he could come along. LOL I'd have kept him till I died if I could. He was a rare soulmate.
 
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