Best English Riding Horse Breeds Revealed!

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Last Updated on October 1, 2022

In terms of popularity, English riding horse breeds are some of the most famous around the world. Although England is relatively small country, it boasts a diverse range of riding horse breeds. Let’s find out everything you need to know about the best English riding horse breeds!

Which Horse Breeds Originate From Britain?

There are 16 different horse breeds which are native to the British Isles. This includes Scottish horse breeds such as the Clydesdale horse and Eriskay pony, the Irish Connemara pony, and the Welsh mountain pony.

Britain has a long and proud history of equestrian activities. Horses have been used in the UK for many centuries, initially for practical purposes such as hauling heavy loads or plowing land. In latter years you are more likely to find horses that are kept for sport or leisure purposes.

Although you will find many different breeds of horse in the British Isles, many of these are native to other countries, both in Europe and around the world. Despite the influx of other horse breeds, native English riding horse breeds remain firm favourites.

Which Horse Breeds Originate From Britain

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Native English Riding Horse Breeds

Although there are 16 different horse breeds native to the British Isles, just ten of these originate from England. Here is our run down of the best English riding horse breeds:

  • Fell And Dales Ponies

Fell and Dales ponies are very similar in terms of appearance, although the Dales is slightly larger. Both of these native English horse breeds originate from the Pennine hills in northern England. They are popular breed with families as they are the perfect size to carry a child or smaller adult.

They also make fantastic driving horses and are low maintenance and easy to care for. They are famed for their characteristic black coats and long, flowing manes and tails.

  • Cleveland Bay

Although the Cleveland Bay is a draught horse breed, it’s elegant frame and light, flowing movement make it more popular as a riding horse. This horse breed has a long and proud history, originating from North Yorkshire in the Middle Ages. They are always bay in colour and have a smart, elegant appearance.

In the past, the Cleveland Bay was used as a royal coaching horse and they can still be seen on state occasions. Unfortunately, despite the efforts of Cleveland Bay breed societies, this English horse breed is now quite rare.

  • English Thoroughbred

The English Thoroughbred is one of the most famous horse breeds around the world. Although most people associate Thoroughbreds with horse racing, they also make excellent riding horses and excel in other equestrian disciplines such as show jumping, dressage and eventing.

English Riding (Horse Illustrated Guide)

English Riding Horse Breeds
  • Hackney

The Hackney is a popular driving horse, known for its flashy, high-stepping action. They were first bred in the 1700s with the intention of racing them along roads. Although Hackney horses are predominantly used for driving, they can also make good riding horses.

  • Suffolk Punch

The Suffolk Punch is a compact, powerful draft horse breed, kept in the past for farm work and hauling heavy loads. This horse breed is always chestnut in colour. Nowadays, Suffolk Punch horses are a rare breed and are normally kept for showing and public display purposes only.

  • Shire

Shire horses are another powerful draft breed that originates from England. These gentle giants take their name from the ‘shire’ counties where they were first bred, in central England. Although Shire horses are no longer required for farm work, they are still popular as show animals.

  • Exmoor Pony

Exmoor ponies come from the Exmoor area of south-west England, and are famous for their characteristic coloring. They are small and tough, and can carry both children and small adults. Wild Exmoor ponies can still be found on the open moors to this day.

  • New Forest Pony

Our final English riding horse breed also comes from the southern coast of England, and this breed still roams the New Forest area. The New Forest pony is strong and sure-footed, adept at traversing rough ground. People living in the New Forest area have automatic rights to graze their animals in the forest, although animals must be registered and receive regular health care.

  • Dartmoor Pony

Dartmoor ponies are near neighbors to the Exmoor pony, also originating from south-west England. This is a strong and athletic pony breed, likened to a smaller version of a hunter.

Summary – English Riding Horse Breeds

So, as we have learned, there are many different types of English riding horse breeds. These range from small, hardy native ponies through to strong, powerful draught horse breeds. English riding horse breeds are often the foundation stock for many other horse breeds around the world, thanks to their calm temperament and willingness to work.

We would love to hear your thoughts about the best English riding horse breeds! Are are you a big fan of a particular English riding horse breed? Or maybe you have some questions about other horse breeds from the British Isles? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!


What is an English horse breed?

There are many different English horse breeds, as the United Kingdom has a long and proud history of equestrianism. Some of the most popular horse breeds around the world originated from England, such as the noble Shire horse. The UK also boasts many native pony breeds such as Dartmoor and Exmoor Ponies.

What breed of horse is the easiest to ride?

The easiest breeds of horse to ride in terms of temperament tend to be cold blooded horses. These are placid and sensible and are unlikely to misbehave. The most popular breed of horse for beginner riders is a calm and well-trained cob type.

What is the most common horse breed in England?

There are no accurate figures regarding the population of horse breeds in England, but the most common one is thought to be the Thoroughbred. These are normally bred for racing, but they commonly go on to become riding horses as well.

How many English horse breeds are there?

There are ten breeds of horse which are native to England, and a further six horse breeds native to Wales, Ireland, and Scotland.

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