Types of Horses

Types of Horses

Horse "types" group horses by the general purpose for which they were used, or by a slang term used for similar horses that developed in a specific geographical area, or by temperament. Also see Horse Classification, which groups horse breeds by size  and build.

Riding Horses

Riding Horses include pleasure horses, used for ordinary recreational riding; show horses; stock horses, the “cow ponies” or ranch horses of the western United States; polo ponies; and hunters and jumpers.  Most horses used for simple leisure-time riding in the United States are of mixed ancestry.

Race Horses

Race Horses of the United States include Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, and Quarter Horses.  Horses used for steeplechases (races over obstacles) are classified as riding horses.

Driving Horses

Driving Horses are light horses or ponies that pull vehicles for purposes other than racing. Once a primary means of transportation, they are now driven mainly in horse shows, parades, and in Amish Country. Light horses in this classification are of three types—showy, powerful heavy harness horses, or carriage horses (the Hackney breed is used); graceful fine harness horses (the American Saddle Horse is most often used); and speedy roadsters (the Standardbred is commonly used). Ponies used for driving are classified as harness show ponies and heavy harness ponies.

Sport Horses

This is a general term for a type of horse bred and/or trained for use in the International and Olympic Equestrian disciplines of eventing, dressage, and jumping. In some cases it may also include hunters and horses used in combined driving.


Hunters are thin framed horses developed for hunting in heavily wooded areas and agile at jumping obstacles in their way. There are several classes of hunters. Show hunter (US), Hunter (US) or Working Hunter (US and UK): A type of horse and horse show competition judged on its movement, manners, and way of going, particularly over fences. A hunter should be graceful and keep a long frame on the flat and while jumping fences. Field hunter (US), Hunter (US, UKI): A horse used for Fox hunting. Subdivided by weight: Heavy hunter - A heavily built hunter is typically bred by crossing a Thoroughbred with an Irish Draught (in UK) or any other suitable draft horse breed (in US). Also known as a  Clumper. Light hunter - Show hunter (British): A competition for horses that are shown on the flat, who do not jump.


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Bronco, or bronc

Bronco, or bronc, is a term used in the United States, northern Mexico and Canada to refer to an untrained horse or one that habitually bucks. It may refer to a feral horse that has lived in the wild its entire life, but is also used to refer to domestic horses not yet fully trained to saddle, and hence prone to unpredictable behavior, particularly bucking. The term also refers to bucking horses used in rodeo “rough stock” events, such as bareback bronc riding and saddle bronc riding.

Cayuse horse

Cayuse is an archaic term used in the American west, usually referring to a feral or low-quality horse or pony.

In British Columbia, the variant word cayoosh refers to a particular breed of mountain pony with shorter legs and large hindquarters, typically also of Indian husbandry.

The origin of the word is a Native American adaptation of the Spanish caballo, with the -s ending a noun form in Salishan languages. A variant adaptation, kiuatan, with a Sahaptian -tan ending, is the main word for “horse” or “pony” in the Chinook Jargon, although cayuse or cayoosh was also used in some areas. For this reason, some horses owned by Native American people were dubbed “cayuse,” often with derogatory intent.

Cob horse

The term continues to be widely used to describe this type of horse in the United Kingdom, but less so in North America. In the United States, the term “cob” is primarily used to describe the Welsh cob, and in the sizing of bridles for horses, designating a smaller size that will fit not only the Welsh cob, but also many Morgans, Arabians, some American Quarter Horses, and other horses with short, triangular-shaped heads.

Destrier Horse
Medieval horse types
The Courser and other types of medieval horses