Horses have long fascinated humans, and much of our history is intertwined with these noble steeds. From essential comrades in war to taking the family to church, horses served us for thousands of years. With the advent of mechanized transportation, however, horses moved into a different role: that of a companion and partner.
In many ways, horses are similar to dogs. As with our canine companions, there are numerous breeds and types, which means they come in many different sizes and colors, some more suitable for horseback riding than others. Of course, many horses are also the result of two parents of different breeds or types, similar to a “Heinz 57″ puppy.
Horses are also similar to dogs in that they have unique personalities. Some are “in your lap” friendly, some are clowns, and others are more aloof. They have individual likes and dislikes, including what kind of treats they prefer and where they like to be petted. For example, many horses don’t like to be touched on the face.
When you first meet a horse, the owner will tell you more about that particular horse’s personality. In general, horseback riding lesson horses are quiet and gentle—just right to help you get over any initial concerns and gain confidence in the saddle. Be sure to listen to the owner or instructor. They know the horse and will guide you in a safe manner.
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It’s only natural that specific breeds of horses are better suited to specific “disciplines,” the term used by horse people for the various equestrian specialties. For example, Quarter Horses, Paint Horses, and Appaloosas are often referred to as “stock” breeds because they’re most commonly known for herding livestock and similar ranch chores.
Arabian and Morgan horses are recognized for their beauty, strength and spirit. American Saddlebreds are among the “peacocks” of the horse world, best known as fancy show horses. Thoroughbreds are racehorses you’ll see at events such as the Kentucky Derby. Outside of horseback riding, Standardbreds are “harness horses” that race at a trot or pace, pulling a racing cart with a driver.
Of course, it’s also possible to find horses of any breed, as well as horses that are a result of crosses between breeds, that excel at a particular discipline. Thoroughbreds, for example, also excel at jumping. Arabians are prized for their stamina, making them popular for competitive trail and endurance riding.