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Best Horse Breeds For English Riding

Horses come in a variety of breeds, just like dogs and cats. Thus, some horses suit specific tasks and jobs better than others. Draft horses, such as Percherons, are powerful and are perfect for heavy pulling work. But a Percheron would make a terrible showjumper. So what breeds are good for English riding?

Best breeds for English riding include Dutch Warmblood, Trakehner, Irish Sport Horse, and Oldenburg. Some breeds suit specific English disciplines better than others. For example, Friesians make excellent dressage horses for novice riders but are not ideal for showjumping.

Not all acclaimed breeds in English riding disciplines are suitable for novice riders.  A Trakehner, for example, is not an ideal choice for a beginner. However, a Trakehner is a brilliant choice for those competing at elite levels. Due to their size, a Welsh Cob is often not seen at the higher levels due to riders being too big.

5 English Riding Breeds for Novice Riders

Which breeds best suits novice English riders is hotly debated. However, the FEI recommends seven breeds:

  • American Quarter Horse
  • Connemara
  • Friesian
  • Icelandic (gaited)
  • Morgan
  • Tennessee Walking Horse (gaited)
  • Welsh Cob

The FEI list leaves out many popular choices for novice English riding, including Appaloosa, Anglo-Arabian, and Thoroughbred. Many factors influence individual decisions, including what breeds are easy to obtain in your part of the world.

Also, the FEI includes two wonderful gaited breeds, Icelandic and Tennessee Walking Horse. Unfortunately, as brilliant as they are, they require extra training to compete in dressage and showjumping. This can be difficult for a beginner. There are dressage events designed explicitly for gaited horses, however.

For now, let’s take a closer look at the five non-gaited FEI suggestions.

American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is an easy keeper and one of the fastest horse breeds. As most novice riders can only afford one horse, this breed’s all-around abilities make them a solid choice. Best of all, their agreeable temperament, forgiving nature, and eagerness to please make them a pleasure to ride.

People enjoy American Quarter Horses for lower level dressage because they are intelligent horses that learn quickly and don’t mind endless repetition for training. These horses are also quality jumpers, thanks to their strength, agility, and speed. These horses are generally “brave,” too.


The Connemara is a native Irish bread between 13 to 15 hands,  thus suitable for smaller riders. In addition, they are sturdy, intelligent, and considered sensible, making them an excellent choice for riders new to the sport.

They are a versatile breed that is considered excellent jumpers for their size and also have a build that makes them favorable for dressage. But it is their affectionate and gentle temperament that makes them so enjoyable to work with and ride.


The Friesian is a Dutch breed that has a history as a warhorse due to their sturdy and muscular build, fortitude, and endurance. Despite a war background, they are generally easy to work with and sweet.

Friesians can jump but are not bred for jumping. However, many do enjoy it and can compete at lower levels. But it’s the dressage and show where their grace and beauty shine. While they are recommended for beginners in dressage, these horses do compete at elite levels. This makes them a brilliant horse to “grow” with a rider.


The Morgan horse always comes highly recommended for beginner riders as they are such a kind and courageous breed. This versatile breed loves to work hard and is eager to please. They are also a muscular build that doesn’t come with a lot of high maintenance issues.

That said, Morgans do compete in dressage at high levels. This makes them wonderful for riders looking for a horse that can grow with them. They are also one of the top loved breeds for showjumping and eventing. An incredible all-rounder.

Welsh Cob 

Welsh Cobs are a Great Britain breed, and they are perfect for smaller riders, standing at around 13 hands. But small size does not equate to a small personality; these horses were used in war.

These hardy horses are not limited to lower levels of competition.  However, their agility makes them an excellent all-around choice for a beginner rider who wants a pony to do dressage and showjumping.

5 English Riding Breeds for Intermediate Riders

The following are popular breeds for intermediate English riders, although some are seen at the elite levels.

  • Lusitano
  • Holsteiners
  • Irish Sport Horse
  • Selle Français
  • Westphalian


The Lusitano is a Portuguese breed initially used for war and bullfighting. However, the breed proved themselves at the Tokyo Olympics in a variety of events. Their muscular and well-formed bodies make them wonderful to watch, and they have admirable movement.


The Holsteiner is a German breed that stands 16 to 17 hands. While well known in the dressage world, the breed has also performed well in top showjumping competitions. In addition, the breeds’ wiliness to work makes them a favorite for many riders.

Irish Sport Horse

The Irish Sport Horse is a modern all-around breed that stands between 15 to 17 hands and is used in dressage, eventing, and showjumping. While favored for upper levels of competition, they are an easy breed to work with, making them accessible to younger riders, too. But they are not a docile choice and require a lot of exercise.  

Selle Français

The Selle Français is a French breed that loves to jump. Their friendly and patient temperament, however, lends them to working with riders below the elite level. This energetic horse can compete in dressage and cross country, too, making it an excellent choice for eventers. 


The Westphalian is a German warmblood breed and was once popular in the cavalry. This breed stands 15.2-17.2 hands and is favored for both dressage and showjumping at elite levels. Its excellent temperament means a beginner rider might be able to ride one, provided they’re tall enough.

5 English Riding Breeds for Elite Riders

The following five breeds are incredibly popular at the elite levels, although not unusual to see intermediate levels too.

  • Belgian Warmblood
  • Dutch Warmblood
  • Hanoverian
  • Oldenburg
  • Trakehner

Belgium Warmblood

The Belgium Warmblood is a modern breed that stands between 16-17 hands. The breed is well known in the jumping world, ranked 4th in the FEI WBFSH  World Ranking list. However, they have proven to excel at dressage, too, making them desirable for eventing.

While Belgium Warmbloods have a wiliness to learn, their strong personality and intelligence, combined with their sheer strength, can make them a bit much for beginner riders.

Dutch Warmblood

The Dutch Warmblood is an acclaimed breed that stands around 16 hands. The breed competes at top levels in dressage, showjumping, and eventing, along with other events, such as carriage driving. While their brilliant temperament makes them suitable for riders at all levels, although their price tag is rather exclusive.


The Hanoverian is a German warmblood breed frequently showcased at the top levels of dressage, showjumping, and eventing. They typically stand between 15.3 to 17.2 hands and are known for their athleticism, boldness, and strength. While they have a lovely nature, their power makes them a tricky choice for a beginner.


The Oldenburg is a German breed that stands between 16 to 17.2 hands. This breed has won Olympic medals and World Championships both in dressage and showjumping. Its height and sheer power make them better suited to more experienced riders, never mind their typical price.


The Trakehner is a well-shaped breed with elegant lines that stands between 15.1 to 16.2. They are highly acclaimed for their athleticism and excel at the elite level in English riding disciplines such as dressage and showjumping. While they have an agreeable nature, their sheer power often makes them ill-suited for novice riders.

Anrie Diedericks

I've been around horses since I was 6 years old and started competing at the age of 9. Horses are my greatest passion and I am thrilled to be able to share my 23 (and counting) years of experience and knowledge with you.

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