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When it comes to western riding horses, there are many different breeds that have their own unique traits. Whether you are looking to get into western-style horseback riding, or are simply a fan of horses, it can be helpful to understand the differences between these horses. Although the following is not a comprehensive list of every western riding horse, this article will break down the traits of a few common breeds.

American Quarter Horse

Officially recognized as a breed in the mid-1800s, the American Quarter Horse is the horse that built the nation. These horses are strong, sturdy, and smart. From their start, this breed was used for farm work and transportation. Additionally, American Quarter Horses shined during horse races, where they are able to outrun any horse breed during a straight stretch. In terms of look, you can find American Quarter Horses in a wide variety of colors, although sorrel is the most common color. They may also have white markings on the face and below the knees, but do not have markings anywhere else on the body.


Appaloosas may be best known as the spotted horse, due to many within this breed having a spotted coat. Some variations of this breed will have a “blanket”, which refers to a patch in and around the hip area, which may be spotted or solid. There are no completely solid Appaloosas, unless it can be confirmed that both parents were Appaloosa. The personality of an Appaloosa has been described as “fierce”, which is one reason they were used as war horses. Riders with experience may enjoy riding an Appaloosa, although their independent nature may be difficult for inexperienced riders to handle.

Tennessee Walking Horse

Originating in Tennessee, the Tennessee Walking Horse gets the other part of its name from its unusual gait. Unlike other horses, this breed keeps three of its four hooves on the ground at all times. This trait makes rides smoother than with other breeds. In fact, the Tennessee Walking Horse was initially bred to be an easier ride for farmers who had to ride over uneven ground. You can expect to see these horses in an array of colors, from blacks and browns to palominos and pintos. If you have back pain or other issues that flare up from riding, this horse is a good option to look into.

While there are many breeds of western riding horses, they vary greatly and are better suited to different tasks, as a result. Keep an eye out for part two, where we’ll look at even more breeds.