Day 1 activities for slt champ camp

Have you ever wondered what the most popular horse breeds are with riders in the United States? We were curious too!

There are so many different horse breeds that we could literally write a book on the subject! Horses are bred for every purpose, and come in all shapes, colors and sizes - but here are the top 12 most common.

We are sure you'll recognize some, but you may not know them all!

Start your first day of camp with the SLT Champ Camp video overview of top horse breeds!

Top 12 Breeds

  • 1. Quarter Horse

    Far and away the most popular breed in the United States, the Quarter Horse's name is derived from its lightning fast speed at distances a quarter mile or less. Some Quarter Horses have even been clocked at speeds up to 55 mph!

    Known today not just as a racehorse, Quarter Horses excel in rodeos, as ranch horses, and as show horses. Their strength and size make them ideal candidates for all disciplines, while their quick minds make them favorites in western events with live cattle. Intelligent, yet kind and even-tempered, Quarter Horses are the mount of choice for thousands of amateur and professional riders alike.

  • 2. Thoroughbred

    Best known as the breed used mainly in horse racing, Thoroughbreds are known for their agility, speed and spirit. These all-around athletes can trace their pedigrees all the way back to the 1600s! Centuries of careful breeding has resulted in the fastest horse in the world.

    Many Thoroughbreds that have raced go on to second careers, and some are bred for sport, instead of racing, use. They excel in eventing, show jumping, dressage, fox hunting and more. They are also used to improve other breeds of horses - their light, athletic frames and abilities have been used in Quarter Horses, Standardbreds, Anglo-Arabians and Warmbloods.

  • 3. Paint

    The Paint horse combines the conformation of a western-type stock horse with the pinto spotted coat pattern. A favorite of both horse and non-horse people alike because of their striking good looks, Paints are not only about their color.

    In order to be considered a Paint, a horse's parents (sire and dam) must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, or the Jockey Club (the group for Thoroughbreds). These standards ensure that the Paint is a type of horse, with specific characteristics, not just a color pattern. Within the APHA, there are two registrations - regular, for patterned horses, and solid, for horses with plain colored coats.

    Paints are used today in a variety of disciplines, most commonly Western events, but as all-around athletes, they can be found frequently in English arenas as well.

  • 4. Miniature Horse

    Miniature Horses are another crowd favorite. Defined, and adored, because of their small stature, they are a popular pet for all equestrians and as a first horse for many young children. These tiny equines measure 34-38 inches tall at the wither.

    Developed in Europe in the 1600s as pets for nobility, they came to be used as workers in coal mines until the mid-1900s. Today they are used as pets and show horses, with classes including halter, in-hand hunter and jumper, driving, liberty, trail, showmanship and costume classes. They are also frequently used as therapy animals for the ill, disabled and elderly.

  • 5. Draft Horses

    Drafts are a type of horse, and within this type, there are many breeds. Drafts are large horses, bred to be working animals performing hard tasks like plowing and farm labor. They are known not just for their strength, but also for their patience and docile temperaments, which have made them popular as riding horses in modern times.

    Common breeds of drafts include: Clydesdale, Belgian, Percheron, Shire and Suffolk Punch. Nowadays, they are commonly crossed with lighter breeds, such as Thoroughbreds, to create a medium-boned riding horse with the unflappable personality known to drafts. They are frequently used as foxhunters, husband horses, trail horses and sport horses.

  • 6. Tennessee Walker

    A breed of gaited horse developed in the southern US for use on farms and plantations, the Tennessee Walker is a popular riding horse due to its calm disposition, smooth gaits and sure-footedness.

    A common mount for equestrians suffering from back issues, because their smooth gaits are less concussive to the rider's back, the Tennessee Walker has three main paces - the flat walk, the running walk, and the canter. The running walk is a four-beat gait with the same pattern as a regular, flat walk, but it is significantly faster - a flat walk moves at 4 to 8 mph, where a running walk moves at 10 to 20 mph. Some Walkers can perform other lateral gaits such as the rack, stepping pace, fox trot and single-foot.

    Today Tennessee Walkers are used as show horses in saddle-seat, for endurance riding and for trail riding.

  • 7. Arabian

    Originally from the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabian is one of the most recognizable horses in the world, with their distinctive head and high tail carriage. They are also one of the oldest breeds, with evidence existing back 4,500 years in the Middle East. A versatile breed, Arabians are known for their speed, refinement, endurance and strong bone. They spread worldwide through trade and during wartime, and their bloodlines can now be found in nearly every modern breed of horse.

    Arabians are muscled, powerful and sturdy, intelligent and spirited. They dominate endurance competitions, and are supreme show horses, used in saddle seat, western pleasure, hunt seat, dressage and more. They are also fleet-footed racehorses.

  • 8. Standardbred

    An American breed best known for their harness racing ability, where they compete at the trot or pace, Standardbred bloodlines can be traced as far back to 18th century England. Trotters perform the normal two-beat diagonal gait, moving up to 30 mph. Pacers move with a two-beat lateral gait and can move slightly faster than trotters. Both pacers and trotters can travel a mile in less than 2 minutes!

    Solid, well built horses with agreeable dispositions, Standardbreds are used post-racing as pleasure and occasionally show horses, as they tend to be good jumpers. They are also gaining popularity in endurance circles. Their tendencies to be people-pleasers and easy to train make them a barn favorite.

  • 9. Warmblood

    Warmbloods, like draft horses, are a type, not a breed. Originally, they were a cross between a "hot" horse, like a Thoroughbred or Arabian, and a cold"" horse, such as a draft, to create a riding horse more refined than the "cold" blood, but larger and calmer than the "hot" bloods.

    Modern-day warmboods are more specialized, purpose bred as competitive show horses in a variety of disciplines, mainly jumpers, hunters, eventers and dressage horses. Common breeds of warmbloods are: Holsteiner, Oldenburg, Westphalian, Belgian Warmblood, Hanoverian, Dutch Warmblood, Trakhener, and more. Each registry has their own breed criteria that the horses must meet to be included.

  • 10. Saddlebred

    Often referred to as the "Horse America Made", the Saddlebred is descended from the riding horses used during the American Revolution, known for their bravery and endurance. Famous war horses include General Lee's Traveller, General Grant's Cincinnati, General Sherman's Lexington and General Jackson's Little Sorrell. A breed registry was created all the way back in 1891!

    Known for their sense of presence and style, plus their spirited, yet gentle, disposition, Saddlebreds are popular show horses, and are even known as the "peacock of the horse world". Saddlebreds compete mostly in five divisions: Five-Gaited, Three-Gaited, Fine Harness, Park, and Pleasure. They are judged on performance, manners, presence, quality and conformation. Three-Gaited Saddlebreds show at the walk, trot and canter, and Five-Gaited show at those, plus the slow gait and the rack.

  • 11. Appaloosa

    The Appaloosa is an American horse breed known for its fun and colorful spotted coat pattern. Developed by the Nez Perce people in the Pacific Northwest, most of the stock was lost after the Nez Perce War in 1877, after which the breed fell into decline, until the Appaloosa Horse Club was formed in 1938.

    Named the official state horse of Idaho, The Appaloosa is best known as a stock horse used mainly in western riding disciplines, though its versatility allows it to be used as an English type as well.

    Unlike the Paint, who has specific breed requirements along with color ones, the Appaloosa has a wide range of body types because the primary factor for registration is color. Any horse with mottled skin plus one other core trait can be registered as an Appaloosa, however the foundation type of Appaloosa was a tall, narrow-bodied, rangy type that was athletic and hardy.

  • 12. Morgan

    The Morgan is one of the earliest American breeds, and they served many purposes in 19th century American history, where they were used as coach horses, for harness racing, as calvary horses during the Civil War and as riding horses. Their genealogy can be traced back to the foundation sire, Justin Morgan (formerly Figure), who was born in 1789.

    A Morgan should be compact and refined, with strong legs, an elegant head and strong muscling - visually appearing to be a strong and powerful horse. They are well known for their versatility, and as such are used in many disciplines, such as dressage, western pleasure, endurance, stock horses, driving and cutting.

    Notably, the book Justin Morgan Had a Horse, by Marguerite Henry, was a fictional account of Figure and Justin Morgan. It won a Newbery Honor Book award and was later adapted into a movie by Walt Disney Studios.

activity: breed word search

Challenge yourself with a puzzle to familiarize yourself with different horse breeds. Find the top 12 breeds that can be read forward or backward in horizontal, vertical, or diagonal positions.



Spend some time curled up with a great horse book! Check out our reading list ideas here

Have you visited our Kids Corner? Check out additional fun activities here

Want to learn even more about the top horse breeds? Check out these additional resources, please note links will take you to external web sites.

Learn more about the history of Quarter Horses from the American Quarter Horse Association: Read Now

Watch a video about one of the most famous thoroughbreds, Man O War, from Kentucky Derby Museum Derby Academy: Watch Now

Find out more about the different Paint Horse patterns from American Junior Paint Horse Association: Read Now

Watch a story about Miniature Horses offering equine therapy from PBS: Watch Now

Learn more about Draft Horses from the International Museum of the Horse virtual exhibit: View Exhibit Now

Find out more about the different color variations of the Tennessee Walking Horse from the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' & Exhibitors' Association: View Now

Discover the magic of the Arabian horse from the Arabian Horse Association: Read Now

Learn more about Standardbreds and the differences between trotters and pacers from the International Museum of the Horse virtual exhibit: Read Now

Understand the difference between Hot, Warm, and Cold Blooded Horses from Horses and Foals: Learn Now

Watch a video about the history of Saddlebreds from the American Saddlebred Association: Watch Now

Find out more about the different Appaloosa spotting patterns from the Appaloosa Museum: Read Now

View amazing photos of Morgan horses featuring a diversity of disciplines from the American Morgan Horse Association: View Now

Bonus! The International Museum of the Horse has a Breeds of the World exhibit: Visit the Exhibit Now

  • Published:
  • Updated: 7/24/2020: 9:46:44 AM ET
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