25 Most Popular Horse Breeds Loved the World Over
There is something mystifying about a horse that captures us. Even the most well-trained horse still has a sense of wildness about them that tugs at our heartstrings. And horses have a beauty that is almost unearthly — which is obviously why they often appear in fairytales and legends.
While all horse breeds are beautiful, most horse lovers have a breed of horse that stands apart for them. Something about them draws them in, and when that happens, we horse people get pretty passionate about “our breed,” whether we own one of these beauties or not!
So, what are the most popular horse breeds that have captured more hearts than others? Since there is no overarching association that can tell us the numbers of registered horses, we asked horse experts what they thought and then turned to social media to see what breeds people are talking about the most. Here are 25 of the most popular horse breeds, ranked by popularity — is your favorite one of them?
25. American Saddlebred
Physical appearance: High-stepping knee action, medium-boned, refined head
Height: 15 hands (60 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)
Known for: Show, pleasure riding, driving
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #americansaddlebred 66,798
How It Ranks in Popularity: American Saddlebred
The American Saddlebred was developed in the U.S. as a hardy horse with easy riding gaits. This was the horse you took out sidesaddle for an afternoon ride in the park to learn the gossip from the other ladies!
Owners of the breed love them for their temperament, stamina and strength.
Bottom Line: American Saddlebred
American Saddlebreds are incredible under saddle but also go well under cart, with high-stepping gaits that are flashy and draw attention.
Some American Saddlebreds are gaited as well, making them great for riders with back issues.
Physical appearance: Compact, muscular, medium-boned
Height: 14.2 hands (58 inches) – 16 hands (64 inches)
Known for: Dressage, jumping, eventing,
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #lipizzaner 71,905
How It Ranks in Popularity: Lipizzaner
The Lipizzaner (or Lipizzan) was made famous by the Austrian Riding School in Vienna, where they perform “airs above the ground” and other haute ecole dressage movements. The school has traveled the world, sharing these beautiful “white” horses and their incredible athleticism.
The story of how the breed almost went extinct in World War II added to their romantic look, and movies and books on the story helped make them known to even non-horse people.
Bottom Line: Lipizzaner
Born black, almost all Lipizzaners are actually grey, fading to various shades of “white” as they age. Owners love them for their incredible minds and athleticism.
They excel at anything their owner asks, especially dressage, jumping and eventing.
Physical appearance: Compact, medium-boned, hardy
Height: 14 hands (56 inches) – 16 hands (64 inches)
Known for: Endurance, western, trail
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #mustanghorse 85,601
How It Ranks in Popularity: Mustang
The Mustang is a group of horses that runs feral in the United States. Their ancestors are the horses that claimed their freedom during the early days of Spanish colonizers, so most have Spanish horse blood.
Natural selection has created a hardy breed that can withstand all kinds of landscapes and climates, with the intelligence needed to survive in the wild.
Bottom Line: Mustang
There is nothing like photos of wild mustangs, but it’s also incredible to see the bond they form with their owners. And it’s this bond that makes them so popular with many: Once you have a Mustang’s trust, they will try anything for you.
They are popular in many disciplines, especially trail, endurance and western sports, including gaming and cattle work.
22. Tennessee Walking Horse
Physical appearance: Long hip and shoulder, with a short back and croup; head is refined with small ears.
Height: 14.3 hands (59 inches) – 17 hands (68 inches)
Known for: Show, trails, lessons
Instagram hashtags by the numbers: #tennesseewalker 76,326, #tennesseewalkinghorse 66,872
How It Ranks in Popularity: Tennessee Walking Horse
The Tennessee Walking Horse is a gaited breed, developed in the United States.
Like other gaited breeds, it is praised and sought after for its smooth gaits.
Bottom Line: Tennessee Walking Horse
People with back trouble often find they can ride one without pain. They are also known for their calm dispositions.
Owners find them perfect for the show ring or riding down the trail.
Physical appearance: Compact, strong, medium-boned
Height: 15 hands (60 inches) and above
Known for: Dressage, driving, jumping
Instagram hashtag by the numbers:#andalusianhorse 160,672
How It Ranks in Popularity: Andalusian
Often used or referenced in movies, the Andalusian is a striking horse that makes taking Instagram-worthy photos easy.
Owners of the breed, which originated from the Iberian Peninsula, love them not just for their incredibly good looks, but also for their ability to learn, athleticism and intelligence.
Bottom Line: Andalusian
Andalusians excel at many sports, particularly dressage, driving and jumping.
20. Morgan Horse
Physical appearance: Compact with a short back and an expressive head
Height: 14.1 hands (57 inches) – 15.2 hands (62 inches)
Known for: Show, trails, lessons, endurance, therapy
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #morganhorse 149,078
How It Ranks in Popularity: Morgan Horse
Developed in the U.S. the Morgan Horse is a breed with ties to one horse, Figure, owned by Justin Morgan.
They are popular for their athleticism and ability as an all-around horse, excelling in many disciplines.
Bottom Line: Morgan Horse
Morgans are powerful with “spirited” high-action gaits that make them stand out in a show ring.
Many love the Morgan for their intelligence and good disposition, which makes them a great children’s horse, too.
Physical appearance: Large-boned, agile, powerful
Height: 15.1 hands (61 inches) - 18.1 hands (73 inches)
Known for: Driving, pulling
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #percheron 178,124
How It Ranks in Popularity: Percheron
This French breed of draft horse is easily recognizable as one of the non-feathered draft breeds. Percherons have been used in developing other draft breeds, like the Ardennes and Vladimir.
Enthusiasts enjoy them for their intelligence and willingness to work.
Bottom Line: Percheron
Powerful but calm, Percherons are known for being adaptable. Their powerful looks make them Instagram-worthy, even to non-horse people, which only adds to their popularity.
Today, they are still used for driving and pulling, and others have found them able-bodied mounts, even for jumping!
18. Gypsy Horse
Physical appearance: Thick body with large bones and a refined head; ample feather (hair on feet), mane and tail
Height: 10 hands (40 inches) – 16 hands (64 inches)
Known for: Show, trails, lessons, dressage, driving, therapy
Instagram hashtags by the numbers: #gypsycob 208,258, #gypsyvanner 167,642, #tinkerhorse 100,894
How It Ranks in Popularity: Gypsy Horse
The Gypsy Horse is Instagram-worthy gorgeous! Known by many names throughout the United Kingdom where it was developed, the Vanner name was popularized in America in the mid-1990s when the breed made its debut stateside.
Since then, they have steadily gained in popularity. Honestly, the breed has so many names that it should maybe be higher on this list if you add up all the Instagram hashtags, but our experts are keeping it here.
Bottom Line: Gypsy Horse
Gypsy Horses are popular not just for their stunning looks — coming in a rainbow of colors, with full manes and tails and feathered legs — but also for their incredible disposition.
They are wonderful for children and excel at any discipline, as @MeridaTheBitless proves. She is a Gypsy mare that competes in western and English pleasure, jumping, in-hand events, mountain trail, mounted archery, tricks and is learning driving and sidesaddle!
17. Connemara Pony
Physical appearance: Sturdy with a compact body, deep chest and round ribcage
Height: 13 hands (52 inches) – 15 hands (60 inches)
Known for: Show, dressage, hunting, driving, endurance
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #connemarapony 229,792
How It Ranks in Popularity: Connemara Pony
The versatile Connemara Pony was developed in Ireland.
The product of the harsh landscape, they are a hardy breed that many riders find appealing due to their courage, agility and temperament.
Bottom Line: Connemara Pony
According to the American Connemara Pony Society, “The Connemara has a special kindness, a huge heart and an ability to bond with their human handlers that is unique. Born out of poverty, the Connemara evolved from an unusual blend of natural selection and human need.”
They are popular in all kinds of sporting events and are enjoyed by adults and children alike.
Physical appearance: Large-boned, tall, feathered feet
Height: 16 hands (64 inches) – 18 hands (72 inches)
Known for: driving, pulling
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #clydesdale 226,177
How It Ranks in Popularity: Clydesdale
It’s possible the Clydesdale is more popular with non-horse people than it is with riders, as their numbers are dwindling. But this rare breed is known the world over thanks in large part to the Budweiser Clydesdales.
Owners love them for their calm disposition and quietness. In fact, they may appear downright lazy!
Bottom Line: Clydesdale
While they were bred and used for pulling plows and driving, Clydesdales can be ridden and make a steady mount for parades, trail and show.
Their calm temperament was one of the reasons they were used to create breeds like the Drum and the Gypsy. Hopefully, more people will take note of this breed to help save their numbers.
15. Paso Fino
Physical appearance: Fine build, powerful shoulders, gaited
Height: 13 hands (52 inches) - 15.2 hands (62 inches)
Known for: Shows, trail, endurance, driving
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #pasofino 259,303
How It Ranks in Popularity: Paso Fino
The Paso Fino is a gaited breed that was developed in South America from Spanish horses brought over by the colonizers. The breed is popular for its smooth gaits, including the classico fino, paso corto and paso largo.
Individual horses vary when it comes to their talent for these gaits. They are a higher energy breed, with lovely movement and expressive eyes.
Bottom Line: Paso Fino
Paso Finos also come in a range of beautiful colors, with thick manes and tales. Some are even blessed with a “tiger eye,” a diluted eye color only found in the Puerto Rican Paso Fino. Their elegance definitely makes them a stunning sight.
Enthusiasts say they are athletic, sure-footed and have the ability to do a variety of sports, from endurance to working cattle.
14. Norwegian Fjord Horse
Physical appearance: Compact but powerful body with thick bones, short thick neck and a large head; known for their black-and-white-striped mane
Height: 13 (52 inches) – 15.2 (62 inches) hands
Known for: Show, trails, lessons, driving, therapy
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #Fjordhorse 308,282
How It Ranks in Popularity: Norwegian Fjord Horse
Developed in Norway, the Fjord Horse may be rarer than many on this list, but its popularity is definitely warranted. Not only are they usually a steady-type mount that “anyone can ride” from kids to adults, but their unique appearance also makes them definitely Instagram-worthy!
Many not familiar with the breed think the mane must be dyed, but they are actually born with the three sections of mane split in two colors, with a darker color on the outside and a white stripe down the middle.
Bottom Line: Norwegian Fjord Horse
Due to their calm demeanor, Norwegian Fjord Horses make very popular therapy horses.
They excel at most sports and can be found competing in dressage, driving, pleasure, and even jumping, gaming and cow work.
Physical appearance: Long and lean body, powerful shoulders,medium-boned
Height: 14 hands (56 inches) - 17 hands (68 inches)
Known for: Cart racing, driving, jumping
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #standardbred 261,707
How It Ranks in Popularity: Standardbred
Another breed developed in the U.S., the Standardbred rose to popularity due to its success as a cart racehorse. They are also called “trotters” or “pacers,” referring to the gaits they use when racing.
Standardbreds have an incredibly quick and smooth trot, and some also pace, with the ability to pace a mile in 1 minute, 50 seconds. To give you an idea of how fast that is, Secretariat ran the mile, in a full gallop, in 1:33.40.
Bottom Line: Standardbred
But racing isn’t the only reason the Standardbred is popular. They are also seen competing in jumping, dressage and other driving sports as well as carrying their owners down the trail.
They have a calm disposition and are known for being easy to train.
12. Miniature Horse
Physical appearance: Well-balanced miniature version of a full-sized horse, with petite legs, head and ears
Height: Up to 34 inches
Known for: In-hand showing, driving, therapy
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #minihorse 374,632
How It Ranks in Popularity: Miniature Horse
The Miniature Horse really needs no explanation as to why it’s so popular. Non-riders, horse lovers and equestrians alike find these adorable “littles” irresistible.
Not to be confused with ponies, Miniature Horses should look like a replica of a small horse, many of them look very Arabian-like.
Bottom Line: Miniature Horse
Although their backs are not made to carry weight, Miniature Horses are strong pullers and do well in cart. They often have quirky personalities and are adept at learning in-hand tricks, which makes them perfect for Instagram fame.
Want to see a Mini Horse paint? Check out @TonySmallsPaints!
11. Welsh Pony
Physical appearance: Several body types exist as well as different height classes
Height: 12.2 hands (50 inches) – 13.2+ hands (54+ inches)
Known for: Show, hunting, dressage, driving, lessons
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #welshpony 446,747
How It Ranks in Popularity: Welsh Pony
The Welsh Pony has developed a name for itself as a wonderful sport pony, being able to carry children and small adults in the eventing, dressage, driving and jumping rings.
This pony is also known as being agile on the hunt course or down the trail.
Bottom Line: Welsh Pony
Welsh Ponies are especially known for having a good disposition that makes them great with kids.
Plus, their intelligence makes them easy to train for whatever skill you wish to pursue.
10. Shetland Pony
Physical appearance: Comes in three different body types, from the older stouter body type (Foundation,) to the more refined Classic, to the ultra-refined Modern type
Height: 7 hands (28 inches) – 11.2 hands (46 inches)
Known for: Show, driving, in-hand disciplines, dressage, jumping
Instagram hashtag by the numbers:#shetlandpony 556,968
How It Ranks in Popularity: Shetland Pony
The Shetland Pony has certain notoriety in the horse world. There are those that love them … and those that hate them.
They are known for having a “pony-tude,” and while some find them intelligent and fun to work with, others give them not-so-nice nicknames, including replacing the “e” with an “i” in their name.
Bottom Line: Shetland Pony
Despite its temperament, the Shetland Pony is definitely widely known in the horse world, and they have taught many young enthusiasts how to ride (and also how to fall!).
They are intelligent and, with proper training, can excel in the show ring in-hand, under saddle and driving.
Physical appearance: Powerful and athletic body, big bones, feathered feet
Height: 14.2 hands (58 inches) – 17 hands (68 inches)
Known for: Dressage, driving
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #friesian 559,022
How It Ranks in Popularity: Friesian
It’s possible we have Hollywood to thank for the popularity of the Friesian.
It is by far the most-used horse breed in movies, due to its looks — almost always pitch black, with a thick flowing mane and tail and feathered feet.
Bottom Line: Friesian
Enthusiasts of the Friesian, however, know it’s more than just a movie star. Developed in the Netherlands, Friesians are intelligent, athletic and graceful, making them wonderful mounts for those wishing to do many sports, in particular dressage, jumping and tricks.
They also excel under cart, with gorgeous action that is a pleasure to watch.
Physical appearance: Loud coat patterning, comes in a wide range of body types
Height: 14 hands (56 inches) – 16 hands (64 inches)
Known for: Showing, cow work, dressage, lessons, trail
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #appaloosa 678,794
How It Ranks in Popularity: Appaloosa
Developed in America, the Appaloosa was popular with the Native Americans before it became an official breed.
Their colorful coat pattern is due to the Lp gene, which other breeds carry as well, though it’s not as common in other breeds as it is in the Appaloosa.
Bottom Line: Appaloosa
Aside from their looks, the Appy, as they are sometimes called, rose to popularity due to their athleticism and versatility.
Today, you can find Appaloosas in all sports and are often ridden by children.
7. American Paint Horse
Physical appearance: Medium-boned athletic body; most have white markings on their coat, though solid (no white) horses occur as well
Height: 14 hands (56 inches) – 16+ hands (64+ inches)
Known for: Show, trail, gaming, cow work, lessons
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #painthorse 938,400
How It Ranks in Popularity: American Paint Horse
It shouldn’t be a surprise that another flashy horse breed, the American Paint Horse is also a favorite among equestrians and horse lovers.
Before it was even a breed, horses with splashes of color were revered by the Native Americans, and some of these would help develop this breed we know and love today.
Bottom Line: American Paint Horse
Having Quarter Horse blood in them as well, the Paint is not just a pretty face. They are athletic and excel at any discipline or sport, which has helped them keep their popularity.
Paints often have a calm temperament and make good children’s horses, adding to the appeal.
Physical appearance: Big-boned, athletic
Height: 15 hands (60 inches) and up
Known for: Eventing, jumping, dressage
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #warmblood 910,252
How It Ranks in Popularity: Warmblood
The Warmblood is the only horse on this list that is not a breed but a group of horses. There are many breeds of warmbloods: Hanoverian, Dutch Warmblood, Oldenburg and Belgian Warmblood, to name a few.
The name “warmblood” comes from the breeding of the horse, which is the combination of a cold-blooded breed, such as a type of draft, and a hot-blooded breed like an Arabian or Thoroughbred.
Bottom Line: Warmblood
The resulting crosses are known for being calm, intelligent and athletic.
They have gained in popularity over the years as amazing performance horses, especially in eventing, jumping and dressage.
5. Icelandic Horse
Physical appearance: Compact body, rectangular in shape, with fine legs and head
Height: 12 hands (48 inches) – 14.1 hands (57 inches)
Known for: Showing, endurance, dressage, jumping
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #icelandichorse 964,021
How It Ranks in Popularity: Icelandic Horse
The Icelandic Horse is an unusual one for many reasons. For one, they are thought to be one of, if not the only, pure horse breed because Iceland has carefully guarded the breeding of these amazing horses for centuries.
It’s also the only horse breed that has one governing association with one set of standards and competition rules for the entire world. Add in the fact that once an Icelandic leaves Iceland it can never return, and you have an interesting horse with an interesting history!
Bottom Line: Icelandic Horse
Part of the popularity of this small horse (do not call it a pony!) is the smoothness of the ride. Icelandics are gaited, meaning they have gaits a normal horse does not, and they are incredibly smooth to ride.
The extra gaits are called tolt and pace. The tolt is a very fast, smooth four-beat pace similar to a trot. The pace, sometimes called a flying pace, is when the hooves on one side of the horse touch the ground at the same time. It’s as fast as a full gallop and as smooth as glass.
Physical appearance: Stocky build, with short but strong legs and neck
Height: 13 (52 inches) – 15.2 (62 inches) hands
Known for: Show, trail, dressage, driving, jumping, lessons, therapy
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #haflinger 986,031
How It Ranks in Popularity: Haflinger
There is nothing like a cute, sturdy pony-type, and the Halfinger has the corner on that market. Big enough for adults to ride but maintaining that cute “pony look,” the Halfinger is popular for its calm temperament.
You will find many of them being used in therapy programs and for sports like mounted archery where a steady steed is a must. Being an easy keeper, meaning they don’t need to eat as much as some horses to maintain a good body weight, attracts them to owners as well.
Bottom Line: Halfinger
Halfingers were developed in Austria in the 19th century, making them a fairly new breed compared to some.
Chances are their popularity will only continue to grow as more and more people learn about them.
3. Arabian Horse
Physical appearance: Refined build, with small bones, a short back, arching neck and well-sculpted face
Height: 14 hands (56 inches) – 15.2 hands (62 inches)
Known for: Show, trails, endurance
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #Arabianhorse 1.1 million
How It Ranks in Popularity: Arabian Horse
The Arabian is an old pure breed that has been around long enough to solidify its popularity.
Bred in the deserts of Arabia, the breed spread quickly, as people traveling to Arabia fell in love with the gorgeous look of the breed, not to mention its endurance and intelligence.
Bottom Line: Arabian Horse
Today, the breed is known for myriad things — almost anything you do with a horse, you can do with an Arabian.
You can find them racing, cutting cows, doing dressage or out on the trail.
Physical appearance: Tall, athletic, refined
Height: 15 hands (60 inches) – 17 hands (68 inches)
Known for: racing, jumping, dressage
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #thoroughbred 2.3 million
How It Ranks in Popularity: Thoroughbred
A breed that traces itself back primarily to the Godolphin Arabian, the Thoroughbred is popular the world over by horse owners and enthusiasts alike due to the prominent racing industry.
However, Off-The-Track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) are extremely popular and versatile as well.
Bottom Line: Thoroughbred
Thoroughbreds are often seen competing in jumping and dressage or keeping their owners safe on the trail.
In fact, #OTTB on Instagram has more than 1.1 million posts, proving the Thoroughbred is just as popular off the track as it is on it.
1. American Quarter Horse
Physical appearance: Medium boned, athletic, semi-refined head
Height: 14 hands (56 inches) – 16.2 hands (66 inches)
Known for: Show, gaming, cow work, trails, lessons
Instagram hashtag by the numbers: #quarterhorse 2.3 million
How It Ranks in Popularity: American Quarter Horse
The American Quarter Horse is popular due to its calm temperament and versatility. They were created in America, originally for racing the quarter mile (hence the name) and for ranch work.
This breed can excel in just about anything you put them to — from racing and western pleasure to cow work and dressage.
Bottom Line: American Quarter Horse
American Quarter Horses can even teach the kids how to ride!
They also come in a range of sizes and colors that can fit almost everyone’s tastes, so it’s not surprising they have a large following in the world, earning them this top spot.