8 Best Horse Breeds For Trail Riding

For many horse lovers, the hunt for the perfect trail ride horse can be overwhelming. With literally hundreds, if not thousands, of trail ride horses available. It can be hard to discern which is best for trail riding.


What Are The Qualities Of A Good Trail Horse?

Knowing what makes a good trail horse can be the difference between a happy return journey and a miserable one. Let’s take a look at the three main traits that trail horses possess, and then we’ll discuss how those traits help you determine which are the best horse breeds for trail riding.


  • Have Moderate Levels Of Speed & Stamina 

If you find yourself out in the middle of nowhere with only a fifteen-minute pace to keep you on, you’re probably not going to last too long. Therefore, don’t select horses just because they are fast or big.

Instead, look for horses that can maintain their speed for longer periods, and who have the endurance to do so. The slow and lumbering ones are usually better for longer rides. Good trail riding horses will have average speeds of eight to ten miles per hour.


  • Good Cardiovascular Qualities

This means that they will be able to move quickly and efficiently as they walk the trails. They won’t have tiring issues from the excessive movement and exhaustion, instead, these horses are well-trained to manage their stamina to complete the journey and reach their destinations soundly.


  • Decent Maneuverability

This is the ability to move around in tight corners and uneven terrains. A horse who can maintain a stable position in the saddle while out in the bush or trail will give a much more pleasant experience to the rider.

A horse that is uncomfortable in a difficult situation or that shows signs of spookiness or fear will not be a good choice for most riding sessions.


Importance Of Soundness

We often come across the term “a sound horse”. It does not refer to its whinny, but more towards the overall health of the creature. A sound horse will have a fit posture with no lameness or illness.

While feeding right is necessary, it’s important to keep the horses in a healthy fit. An overweight horse will develop difficulty walking and riding. The extra pounds will put undue stress on the joints and ligaments, hence affecting their optimal riding performance.

It’s also vital to have the horses checked regularly by professional vets to make sure they don’t endure the same hereditary illnesses [cataracts]. Which can significantly reduce a horse’s usefulness for breeding, training, riding, and reproduction.


Why Older Horses Make Better Trail Horses?

Younger horses may be fast at riding, but they are usually novice and inexperienced for trail rides. However, the older ones often offer a lot more. Not only because they have years of experience, but they are also well-trained with proper nutritional care.

Which is important to develop skills and stamina for trail riding. Older horses are often the best option for trail riding, since they are experienced and trained, they perform at a higher level than the younger breeds.


The 8 Best Breeds For Trail Riding

  • Arabian Horse

Arabian Horses are born for trail rides. Their surefootedness serves them and the rider good, down the trail. They make the perfect candidate based on their solid built and it is no surprise that the Arabian Horses are steadfast and can ride longer distances.

This breed has proven its worth by surviving in the harshness of a desert and is a champion of all steeds. They are born dark in color, but eventually, turn lighter until turning fully white.

When an Arabian Horse has turned completely white, it’s when they are full of intelligence, strength, and energy to fly in the desert winds. It’s often their beauty combined with their athleticism is that fascinates the riders.

They follow a perfect command and are much more affectionate towards the rider compared to other trail horses. But some people might argue about Arabian Horses being too spirited. But that is an opinion largely based on an individual horse, rather than the entire breed.


  • Morgan Horse

The Morgan Horse is considered to be one of the very first American Horse Breeds, dated back to the 18th century, for being refined and friendly with the riders. Morgan’s walk of grace and beauty attracts thousands of riders naming them as the perfect “Family Horse”.

These horses are typically stronger with a compact build. Morgan Horse Breeds are generally born brown in color but can have a variety of tones in younger breeds. Sometimes, The Morgan Breed Horses are also born with pinto patterns.

The secret to their strength is the good genes since they don’t pass on many health issues. Making them an exceptional heritage breed.

Morgan Horse can carry exceptional amounts of weight than any other horse. The very first Morgan Horse known as “Figure” was able to carry 400lbs of weight, without any reductions in its speed. He was never beaten by any horse over a quarter of a mile.


  • Appaloosa

Appaloosa is a very competitive equestrian sports horse breed. Appaloosa horses have always been highly prized for their sure-footedness and stamina. These hardy horses are trained for great endurance power. Making them reliable and even-tempered.

Aside from their uniquely spotted coat patterns, Appaloosa Horses have much more to offer than just looks. Appaloosas are remarkable horses with a rich history.

Original Appaloosas were bred along with other breeds such as the Quarter Horse, Thoroughbred, and Arabian Horses and were meant to be colorful mounts with sturdy bodies to endure much longer rides.

Especially to be used for the infamous Nez Perce War. They were bred in the northwest of the states by Nez Perce Indians. The horses had to travel a total of 1200 miles in just about four months, with a shortage of food and water supply, while also being used for fighting war during the journey.

The inclusion of the Quarter Horse Blood ended up passing a lot of character traits of a Quarter Horse to the Appaloosas. Plus added a unique blend to the outer coat patterns. Their coat patterns are very different than a regular paint horse.


  • The Tennessee Walker

For trail rides, most people prefer gaited horses, and the Tennessee Walker is one of the most popular gaited breeds.

They will be your perfect companion for a trail ride. Thanks to their stamina and smooth gaits. They give out a notorious walk, with no weird excessive bouncing. Moves like a rocking chair while covering a lot of ground fast without tiring.

These horses are super easy to handle and have a very calm temper so you won’t have to worry about them being spooked. These friendly horses can be ridden by kids as well.

This horse breed was intentionally bred to be a trail ride horse for the daunting Tennessee Hills. Hence, perform extraordinarily well during the trails.

Tennessee horses were used for plantation in the daytime and family carriage pulling at night. However, these days they’re prized for their smooth gaits and fast speed.


  • Irish Thoroughbred 

Thoroughbreds are the kings of the racetracks. They are usually considered as the “Hot Blooded” Horses. Their speed and agility make them a perfect candidate for a horse racing track.

However, make no mistake that the Thoroughbred Horses will not make a good trail horse. Their high spirit is often much easier to control and they last longer on the trails.

Thoroughbreds have a very smooth and long stride which makes them perfect for a well-fit gaited horse. You’re more likely to come across this breed on second-chance farms after being disqualified from the racing circuit.

They can be traced back to the three major Arabian Stallions, Byerley Turk, Darley Arabian, or Godolphin. These 3 are the main stallion foundation of the Thoroughbred Horse Breeds.


  • Quarter Horse 

The American Quarter Horse is one of the most popular horse breeds in the world. With over 3 million registered Quarter Horses just in the US. They are very popular among the English and Western riders. And the cowgirls do love them for obvious reasons.

They make a great beginner horse due to their even-temperament. They’re calm and steady during the trails. And are often safe for people of all ages.

Their sturdy build and powerful hindquarters allow them to go on for hours on end without tiring. And are able to walk through the roughest of terrains.

These horses were originally bred for speed and racing through the breeding of Thoroughbred [ a Spanish descendant horse breed ]. But the breed later evolved into an intelligent Cattle Horse due to its natural cow sense.

They’re a bit shorter than a Thoroughbred Horse and won’t get spooky when having to ride through a cattle herd.


  • Mustang

Mustangs are known for their unbreakable bond with their riders. And are a symbol of freedom. A Mustang has the intelligence to adapt, be-friend and survive in the wilderness. They have the sense to avoid other prey animals for their survival.

Mustangs can walk through some of the most difficult trails and have a wide range of sound and smell detection. A Mustang Horse always has the perfect surefootedness and confidence making them the perfect companion for a trail ride through the wilderness of nature.

As much of high spirited they are, Mustangs are relatively easier to control. They have the tenacity to move as smooth as silk avoiding rocks and obstacles along the trail, making sure that the rider is safe.


  •  Paint Horse 

All American Paint Horses are purebloods registered with either AQHA / The Jockey Club. Making it the ultimate perfect breed for a trail horse. Just like the Appaloosa, they’re always a sight to see with a great talking point about their striking coat patterns.

They’re typically easygoing and calm. They can even be social with children and other animals. Paint Horses are an intelligent breed with a gigantic mix of Quarter Horse Breed and the Thoroughbred Breed.

Paint Horses possess the combined characteristics of Quarter Horse Breeds and the speed and agility of a Thoroughbred Horse. Which makes them capable of having a mind of their own.

The strong mix of both well-performing breeds makes the Paint Horses reliable to navigate through a rough trail. They have very friendly personalities, and often connect with their rider and follow the commands seamlessly.


So, How Do You Decide?

Any of the top listed above would be ideal. You should also consider any temperament quirks that your horse may possess. A nervous horse may cause undue discomfort to the rider. While a horse that is fearful of having a rider might get aggressive.

Also, keep in mind the type of trail riding you plan to do – Western trail riding requires a horse with a headway. While flat trail riding requires a horse with a high level of confidence.

Once you have narrowed down the list of horse breeds that you like, be sure to choose one that fits your needs and style. Remember to check out the different characteristics of each breed so that you can have an idea as to what traits are better for your trail riding.