The Many Horse Breeds
Ask any young girl what type of horse breeds exist, a typical answer would be: unicorns, ponies, My-Little Ponies and regular horses. While two exist in stories, the imagination and toy stores, the other two are more accurate. The many breeds actually developed from man.
Curiosity and necessity for passing on certain traits lead humans to constantly cross breed horses. Strong, giant horses, such as the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, were created for long days of field work while Thoroughbreds were desired for their long legs and stamina. Ponies and horses are categorized into more than 150 different breeds and types worldwide but each country certainly has its favorite breeds.
Most of these favorites are determined by the usage of the horse. North Americans prefer the versatility of the Quarter Horse in that it exudes excellence equally in work environments and pleasure riding. As the name implies, the Quarter Horse excels at racing over a short distance – a quarter of a mile. But because of their toughness and stockiness, settlers depended on them during the movement west and ultimately became indispensable in cattle herding. Averaging heights of 14.3 – 16hh (horses are measured in hands with a hand being 4 inches), the Quarter Horse comes in any solid color and has a short and wide head with large intelligent eyes. The breed is well known for its pleasant disposition and gentleness and as a result is used in a wide variety of activities such as leisure riding, barrel racing and ranching. Other American favorites are the Morgan, Saddlebred, Mustang and Tennessee Walking Horse, all desirous for their even temperaments and smooth conformation.
Great Britain has long declared itself an expert in the horse world. Children grow up taking equestrian lessons like American children join Little League. The prized English Hackney horse is world renown as a carriage horse with its small convex head and muzzle, short legs and well-shaped feet. The English also love their draught horses, especially the Shire, Suffolk and Clyesdale. All over 16hh high, they offer a powerful display with strong intelligent heads, broad chests and beautiful wisps of fine feather at their feet – simply beautiful creatures.
Horses are prominent all over Europe. Germany adores the Oldenburg, Westphalian Hanoverian and Trakehner among others. France lays claim to the French Trotter, Camargue, Norman Cob and Percheron while Italy loves the Murgese and Maremmano.
Ireland has the Irish Draught; Sweden has the Swedish Warmblood and Denmark has the Danish Warmblood. Popular sporting events in Europe are Hunting and Cross-Country which require a horse with jumping ability, stamina and willingness to trust its rider completely. The last is not a trait taken lightly by horse people. Knowing that inside every domestic horse still beats the heart of a wild animal, to completely trust its rider is highly prized.
Not to forget the oldest and purest of all breeds – the Arab originates from the Middle East and with its beautiful physique, has contributed to the creation of many of today’s breeds. Arabs have small heads with unique floating action. It is perhaps most well known for its high spirits and silky high tail. It is the originator of the term Hot Blooded!
South America appreciates horses with a smaller build that allows for much agility. The Criollo of Argentina and the Peruvian Paso of Peru are extremely popular breeds.
Australia looks for qualities in a horse that many of the old American west horses exuded. The Australian Stock Horse has the pretty head of the Thoroughbred with the build of an Arab-Quarter horse.
Ponies are differentiated from horses in their stature. Broadly speaking a pony is a small horse meaning no higher at the withers than 14.2hh. Not all small horses are classified as ponies. Ponies should have distinctive pony characteristics such as short legs to a proportional body.
Popular for children to start learning to ride, mostly because of the short distance to the ground for the inevitable first fall for all equestrians, but also because many ponies are bred for their sweet dispositions. Perhaps one of the most beautiful ponies is the Haflinger of Austria. Haflingers are chestnut in color with an extremely long, flowing flaxen mane and tail. The Exmoor is popular in England as a child’s pony for its natural balance and fun physique as well as a wild mane! Great Britain also enjoys the likes of the Shetland, Highland, Dartmoor and Welsh Cob.
Because horses offer many distinctly different qualities, a horse exists for every need. The hard part is determining from which of the wonderful breeds suits the rider the most. However hard the decision is, it is also one of the most fun to make! What ever horse one chooses it will be a loyal companion and a true friend that will have the decency to step on your foot only occasionally and when spooked, at least dump you in a clean area.