There are certain breeds of horse that are far more common than others. These are the breeds that even non-horse people know about and can recognize by name; typically, these are the horses that are seen in movies and on TV shows. The American Quarter Horse Association, for example, has registered over a million horses worldwide and is probably the most commonly seen horse breed in the United States of America. Even a large number of grade horses, those with no papers, typically have some quarter horse blood in their veins.
Other common breeds include Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Morgans, Mustangs, Paints and Appaloosas. These horses have a number of traits in common that have led to their popularity. They are all average in size, typically standing between 14.0 and 16.3 hands. They have four standard gaits (walk, trot, canter, and gallop) and typically have fairly good dispositions.
Certain horse breeds are primarily designated by their coloring. These equine breeds include, but are not limited to, Paints, Pintos, Appaloosas, Palominos, Buckskins, and Cremellos. All of these breeds have their own unique registries and qualifications that are primarily based on coat color and appearance. Most horses that are registered with a color-based breed association can also be registered with another breed association or have bloodlines that stem from a different breed.
The Palomino Horse Breeders of America registers Palomino colored (golden) horses from any breed, so long as they meet the general height and color requirements. Most Palominos have two sets of registration papers, one for the PHBA and one for another association, such as the AQHA or Tennessee Walking Horse Association.
Some color breeds are offshoots of other associations. The AQHA, for example, won't register horses that have white spots larger than a quarter on their bodies. However, these animals can be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, which accepts horses with certain bloodlines and large white spots. The Pinto Association of America will accept any horse of any breed that meets its color qualifications.
Gaited breeds are breeds of horses that have additional gaits besides the basic walk, trot, canter, and gallop. These horses literally move differently than most other breeds. Gaited horses are said to provide a smoother ride and are popular among riders with physical health problems because they do not jar riders as much.
Gaited breeds include the Tennessee Walking Horse, Missouri Fox Trotter, Peruvian Paso, Paso Fino, American Saddlebred, Standardbred, and several others.
Large Horse Breeds
Large equine breeds primarily consist of warmbloods and draft horses.
Warmbloods are performance horses whose breeding traditionally mixes smaller performance breeds with large draft horses to create large equine athletes. These horses are commonly used for jumping, dressage, and other highly athletic equine events.
Draft horses are the largest equine breeds. Draft horses are used primarily for pulling heavy loads and carts. In the days before tractors and cars were common, draft horses pulled plows and carts. They are sometimes referred to as work horses. Draft horse breeds include Clydesdales, Percherons, Belgians, and Shires. Draft horses are more than 16 hands tall at the wither and typically weigh well over a thousand pounds.
Any horse that is less than 14.2 hands tall is technically considered to be a pony. Ponies that are too tall are often not allowed to be registered as ponies, even if they have the correct bloodlines and breeding. Ponies that are too large may still be registered under color breeds or as non-breeding stock animals from time-to-time.
Pony breeds include the Shetland, Welsh, Connemara, Chincoteague, Fell, Dartmoor, Dales and numerous variations. One of the reason there are so many pony breeds is that some breeds allow horses under 14.2 hands to be registered under separate breed as a pony breed.
Pony competition in certain riding disciplines (especially hunter/jumper) tends to be very fierce, and fully grown ponies have to be measured and proven eligible for their permanent pony card before they are considered eligible to compete.
Understanding Horse Breeds
Horses of all sizes, shapes, temperaments, gaits and colors can be categorized by their traits and divided up into breeds. As breeds are combined, new breeds of horses are created. Existing breed registries often prefer registered horses be bred to one another in order to maintain and develop certain characteristics.
A horse's breed is its genetic pedigree; however, it does not make the horse. It is important to always keep in mind that non-registered horses often have many of the same characteristics and traits of registered horses. There is no guarantee that a registered horse will be a better or healthier horse than one with no papers.