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I have one question that I know a book probably can't answer. I don't know much about the different breeds of horses. What is the best type of horse to buy? All I want is a good riding horse.

I read several of the answers and questions on the web site and you stated that it is better to have more than one horse. Which type of horses makes the best mates?

Thanks again.

- S. M.


So, what are you trying to do, get me in trouble with all the folks who figure that theirs is the best breed???? ;o)

In a way, picking a breed of horse is a lot like picking a spouse. What type of personality do you have and what do you look for in a partner?

Willy is an American Saddlebred and I love his style and spirited, yet gentle, disposition. Fanny is a registered Quarter Horse, with the agility, athleticism, and lower center of gravity typical of that breed. In spite of that, I'd still have to say that there's an even better breed.

To my way of thinking, the Morgan is the single best breed in North America, especially in terms of versatility, build and disposition. That's why most of the police horses in the U.S. have always been Morgans.

As you probably know, the Morgan began as a breeding fluke. In the 1790s, a Vermont school teacher by the name of Justin Morgan acquired a two-year-old colt named "Figure." Of unknown parentage, the unmarked bay was short - never more than about 14 hands - short-coupled, sturdy, and had a distinctively thick neck. Eventually dubbed "Justin Morgan," after his owner, that first Morgan also had a very willing, gentle spirit that became one of the breed traits. Morgans do well under saddle, in harness or the show ring, and even as draft horses. Out West, ranchers who own Morgans claim that even the Quarter Horse can't out-perform a Morgan as a cow horse.

Now that I've made all the other breed owners mad at me, I may as well finish the job by upsetting a lot of the Morgan breeders.... One thing that really upsets me is seeing Morgans that have been bred and/or trained to look like other breeds, notably Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. A "typey" Morgan is like no other breed. True, it has the short back typical of the Arabs and Quarter Horses; the shorter legs of a Quarter Horse; the gentle disposition and flare of a Saddlebred; the athletic build of a Thoroughbred or even a Belgian. The thick neck is the Morgan's hallmark. Combine all of those traits and you have a true Morgan. If you can't tell it from another breed, it doesn't have the true characteristics of a Morgan.

Okay, folks, before you start fitting me with a hemp necktie, let me return to the first point. Breed preferences are very personal. I can't quite picture myself liking another horse like I do Willy. And all breeds have their distinct strengths. If they didn't, no one would want them, and they'd quickly die off. That's why so many folks believe passionately that theirs is the best breed. Before you settle on a breed, therefore, "date" some members of that breed for a while and see if the breed's traits work for you.

When it comes to selecting stablemates, the same principle holds true. Look for a good personality mix. Gender also plays a role, of course. The best mix is two geldings (there are no hormone problems to deal with); next, two mares or a mare and a gelding. A stallion is a hazard in any combination. Only mix two stallions if you have a strong suicide complex and don't mind seeing your horses try to kill each other. Whichever combination you pick, play it safe and introduce them to each other from adjoining paddocks with a good wood fence between them, just in case the chemistry isn't right.

Happy Riding!

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