As horse enthusiasts, we’re blessed with an absolute abundance of different equine breeds.
Each comes with its unique qualities and charms and interesting backstory.
Selecting the 10 best horse breeds in the world from a field of several hundred is a highly subjective, and very enjoyable, exercise.
Read on as we pick a few of our personal favourites and highlight some of the magnificent breeds we’ve encountered to present 10 of the absolute best breeds in their fields.
1. Arabian Horse – Most Famous Horse Breed
- Temperament: Arabian Horses are quick learners, can be eager to please, and are renowned for their ability to bond with humans. Their lively, spirited side makes this hot-blooded breed better suited to more experienced riders.
If you were to ask an Arabian horse to name the most beautiful horse breed in the world they’d most likely point to themself. But then who can’t appreciate the magnificent flow of a fine Arabian in full stride? This handsome breed in resplendent grey, bay, chestnut, black, or roan is probably the most famous horse around the world.
Originating on the Arabian peninsula over 4,000 years ago, Arabians have captivated horse lovers for centuries.
Known for their incredible stamina, agility, heart, and spirit, they have made an indelible mark on horse racing. They’re standout performers in endurance contests and feature prominently in major international championships like the Equestrian Games and the Tevis Cup.
2. Belgian Draught Horse – Strongest Horse Breed
- Temperament: Belgian Draughts (or Belgian Draft) are imposing in stature but possess a calm and kind temperament that endears them to all who cross their path. The Belgian Draught Horse is the gentle giant of horse breeds. They are equally admired for their humble temperament and sterling work ethic.
The Flemish-descended breed is renowned as an equine powerhouse. I mean, just look a the size of them! Belgian Draught horses sometimes exceed 18 hands and 2,000 pounds. Big Jake was certified the world’s tallest horse in 2010 at nearly 20.3 hands. A Shire horse called Sampson is believed to be the tallest horse in history at over 21 hands.
Despite a pleasant personality, the Belgian Draught will display a forceful determination in the heat of competition. With their powerful legs, stocky build, and heavy bones, Belgian Draughts have smashed more than a few records in draught-pulling contests both in Great Britain and the US.
3. Andalusian – Most Beautiful Horse Breed
- Temperament: Look into the expressive eyes of an Andalusian and tell me you don’t see charm, charisma, and intelligence. For all their grace and beauty, this breed is not diva-ish. Andalusians usually have a pleasant and willing nature and can make great riding partners.
The Andalusian is a truly special horse. The breed originated in the Iberian peninsula of Andalusia in southern Spain. Andalusians were prized in Spain for centuries and are one of the most popular horse breeds in the world today.
Andalusians are mostly grey, but also step out in tones of bay, black, and chestnut. The grey coats often lighten with age to give the wearer an eye-catching pearl or silver appearance.
Known for its strong yet elegant build, the Andalusian is the definition of graceful athleticism. They’re quick studies, which makes the breed well-suited to classical dressage, trail riding, and driving.
4. American Quarter Horse – Best Sport Horse
- Temperament: Its calm temperament and natural willingness to please make the American Quarter Horse an ideal companion for riders of all levels, from passionate beginners to seasoned professionals.
Looking for a jack and jill of all trades? Look no further than the American Quarter Horse. The American Quarter Horse is one of the most versatile horse breeds. It’s also insanely popular, especially in America (no surprises there). The American Quarter Horse Association, the largest breed registry in the world, records over 3 million Quarter Horses.
The versatility of this amazing breed is reflected in its capabilities across barrel racing, cutting cattle, and eventing (dressage, show jumping, and cross-country riding), as well as a variety of work and leisure riding.
The Quarter Horse responds willingly to both English and Western Riding styles.
The breed boasts a solid build, compact frame, and powerful hindquarters. This gives Quarter Horses quite a turn of speed. A Quarter Horse has been clocked doing 55mph (88.5km/h) arguably making it the speediest of horse breeds.
5. Thoroughbred Horse Breed – Best Horse Breed For Speed
- Temperament: If you’re looking for a gentle riding horse, you’d best be careful when saddling up a Thoroughbred. These are hot-blooded spirited animals. That’s not to say you won’t find a calm Thoroughbred blood breed, but they generally aren’t first-pick horses for beginners.
Originating in England during the 17th and 18th centuries, Thoroughbred horses thrive in their millions all around the globe today. One of the most popular horse breeds at racecourses, the Thoroughbred reaches top speeds of 44mph (70.9 km/h).
This breed is the fastest over medium distances. A Thoroughbred would be a good bet in a race over 1.6 or two miles. Their rival in the speeds stakes, the Quarter Horse, might get a jump out of the gate, but a Thoroughbred charger has a good chance of galloping the competition down after the quarter-mile mark. For this reason, we rate Thoroughbreds as the fastest horse breed.
While this breed is a star performer in horse racing circles, this frisky equine is also a common choice for disciplines including dressage and eventing. It’s also a popular show jumping horse.
6. Icelandic Horse Breed – Best Horse Breed For Fun Rides
- Temperament: The Icelandic is a little gem of a horse. I say ‘little’ because Icelandics are on the smaller side – standing closer to 13 than 16 hands. What they lack in stature they make up for in can-do attitude, good sense, and sure-footedness.
This unique horse is so sure-footed it has two extra natural gaits. Besides the walk, trot, canter, and gallop, Icelandic horses also ‘pace’ and ‘tölt’. The pace is a lateral two-beat gait where the horse moves its legs on the same side of its body together, providing a smoother ride than the traditional trot. The tölt is a faster four-beat gait.
This makes these slightly smaller horses fun and interesting to ride for long distances or for leisurely outings.
Their sturdy disposition and big heart make them very adept at exploring hardy hills and vales, and other rugged countryside.
This versatile breed is blessed with a thick double coat and abundant mane which allows it to thrive in the challenging Icelandic climate.
7. Friesian Horse Breed
- Temperament: Friesians have a kind, even temperament. They’re intelligent horses that are nimble and can be readily trained. They’re quite powerful warmbloods but their docile nature makes them delightful companions.
The Friesian is one of the rarer horse breeds on our favourites list. The breed originates from the Friesland region of the Netherlands and is still found in small numbers in that country where their rarity makes them prized and expensive.
Legend has it they were used as warhorses in medieval times. They have been used as workhorses over the centuries due to their sturdy carriage, strength, and endurance.
It’s difficult to box Friesians in with traditional draught horses as they are lighter, smaller, and more agile.
The Friesian’s noble character coupled with a high leg action and floating trot makes them popular dressage mounts and pleasant riding horses.
8. Dutch Warmblood
- Temperament: Calm and friendly is an apt description of the Dutch Warmblood temperament. Whether you’re seeking a reliable partner for the show ring, a jumping horse, or a beloved companion for pleasure riding, the Dutch Warmblood is a winning combination of willingness, talent, and unwavering spirit.
The Dutch Warmblood is the Olympic gold medal of horse breeds. A breeding programme after WWII aimed at producing champion sport horses created this excellent breed with its graceful, flowing gait.
Dutch Warmbloods are considered to be among the best sport horses in the world with several Olympic golds hanging from their fine necks.
Dutch Warmbloods make superb show jumpers and really excel in dressage. Their exceptional trainability and willingness to please make these solid, elegant horses a joy to work with.
9. Morgan Horse
- Temperament: Morgans are renowned as one of the most versatile horse breeds. If you’re seeking a pleasure-riding companion, you can saddle up a Morgan confidently. If it’s a competitive sport or a stunning show horse you’re after, this breed excels in a wide range of equestrian activities.
This impressive breed has its proud origins in the United States and is the state horse of Massachusetts, as well as the state animal of Vermont and the state mammal of Rhode Island. Talk about popular (or everyone wanting a piece of you)!
The Morgan traces its lineage back to a single foundation stallion named Figure, also known as Justin Morgan. The breed was named after its progenitor, and his offspring and subsequent generations became known as Morgan horses.
Morgans typically stand between 14,1 and 15.2 hands high and possess a proud carriage and well-arched neck.
The best Morgans combine muscularity and refinement to elegant effect. Their expressive eyes can be particularly endearing.
10. Clydesdale Horse Breed – Most Popular Breed
Last but definitely not least we come to the Clydesdale. It’s fair to say this remarkable equine is our favourite of all the horse breeds – though we may be a tad biased!
- Temperament: Clydesdales are extremely friendly with a pleasant, intelligent nature that makes them easy to ride and drive. Their wonderful nature and positive energy have been successful in helping people struggling with mental health difficulties.
With a lineage of Scottish Draughts from the Clyde Valley and Flemish Stallions from Belgium, Clydesdales boast a rich genetic heritage dating back to 18th-century Scotland.
Together with the Shire horse and the Belgian Draught, Clydesdales are among the bigger horse breeds. These horses range in height from 16-18.2 hands and can exceed 2,000 pounds.
This probably explains why you won’t see a Clydesdale being saddled up for horse racing, though they can gallop up to 30mph without a rider.
These gentle giants are better equipped for heavy haulage and do extremely well in pulling competitions. They’re also popular parade and show horses where their impressive carriage and white feathered hoofs are much admired.
Strathorn Farm owner George Skinner and his mother Ruth’s drive to diversify Clydesdales as ridden horses have led to some of the most popular ridden classes at the Blair Horse Trials and the Royal Highland Show.
Strathorn took champion-ridden Clydesdale at the Blair Horse Trials in 2022 with King Edward. This was the pinnacle of George’s life dedicated to Clydesdales since the 1940s.
George also competed on his 84th Birthday at the World Clydesdale Show with his pair of Clydesdales and his drey, hand built by himself and local craftsmen. He is the honorary president of the Clydesdale Horse Society.
What are the famous Lipizzan horses known for?
Lipizzan Horses are famous for their striking white or grey coats and their dazzling performances in “high school” dressage. They perform skilled and breathtaking movements involving dancing leaps, jumps, and kicks.
What is the difference between English riding and Western riding?
In English riding, the rider takes the reins in both hands and uses them to control the speed and direction of the horse. In Western riding, the rider uses only one hand on the reins to control the horse.
What is the most famous of the spotted horse breeds?
The Appaloosa, an American horse breed, is considered the most famous spotted horse breed.