Best Horse for Older Riders
Many activities and pastimes can become more complicated with age. Riding is a physical activity. While some horses can offer a smooth, comfortable ride, this isn’t true in every case. In fact, the natural gaits of some horses will create a bumpy experience that can aggravate sore joints, back pain, and other ailments. This doesn’t mean you have to give up riding! Here is our list of the 9 best horses for older riders.
Tennessee Walking Horse
Also known as “Walkers,” the Tennessee Walking Horse is best known for its smooth, gentle gait. This makes it popular for trail riding and other activities involving uneven or rugged terrain. They were initially bred to work the farms and plantations in the Southern US. Today, they are often seen on television and in movies, including one of the horses that portrayed The Lone Ranger’s horse “Silver.” The Tennessee Walking Horse can be seen in a wide range of coat colors and patterns, with many breeders specializing in specific colors.
A gentle and highly cooperative breed of horse, the Morgan is an easy-to-handle horse for riders of all ages and skill levels. They are highly adaptable and capable of excelling in nearly any situation. This was one of the first horse breeds developed in the United States, and it continues to be a popular choice today. They are athletic horses often used in equestrian sports and competitions, but they are also an excellent choice for those seeking a horse for companionship and pleasure riding. While the Morgan can be found in many colors, the most common are dark, solid colors like black, chestnut, and bay.
Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
As their name suggests, the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse was initially developed in the state of Kentucky as a farm and riding horse. They are gentle and easy to care for, making them a great choice for riders that want to enjoy spending time with their horse but do not necessarily want to invest a lot of time in upkeep. The breed is known for its natural ambling gait, a medium-speed gait that is smooth for the rider. This helps to reduce the risk of injury for older riders. The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is available in many colors, including black, chestnut, brown, gray, palomino, roan, champagne, and buckskin.
Small in stature, the Connemara Pony originated in Ireland. They are clever, calm, and athletic, often seen in show jumping, driving, dressage, and other equestrian sports. Over the years, many high-performing horse breeds have been crossed with the Connemara Pony, including the Thoroughbred and the Arabian. They can be found in various colors, including black, brown, bay, chestnut, grey, dun, roan, palomino, and cream. While they are strong and intelligent, they are also sound and sure-footed, making them a reliable and safe choice for older riders.
American Quarter Horse
American Quarter Horses were initially bred to work the ranch and safely navigate the rough terrains of the American frontier. The result was a reliable, sturdy, and sure-footed mount ideal for newer riders, seniors, and children. In addition to being safe to ride, they also have a level-headed and eager temperament that makes the Quarter Horse easy to train and handle. Today, they are seen in an assortment of equestrian sports and activities, including reining, team penning, barrel racing, dressage, and show jumping. They are available in a variety of solid colors, with brownish-red sorrel being the most common.
Missouri Fox Trotter
Another gaited horse known for offering a smooth and comfortable ride, the Missouri Fox Trotter was an obvious choice to include in this list. They have a robust and solid build and plenty of stamina, making them a great choice for trail riding and horse packing trips. They are also regularly used in handicapped riding programs due to their friendly, good-natured personalities and smooth gaits. The Missouri Fox Trotter is available in several colors, including black, chestnut, grey, palomino, and champagne. They may also be spotted or have white markings on their face and legs.
Originating in Iceland, as their name suggests, the Icelandic Horse is a smaller breed of horse that is sometimes mistaken for a pony. But don’t let their small size fool you. These horses have developed incredible strength and resilience to survive the harsh climate in the area. They have a thick double coat and full, coarse mane and tail to provide extra insulation in cold temperatures. The Icelandic is available in many colors, including black, chestnut, bay, dun, roan, pinto, gray, and palomino. They have a friendly and docile personality that makes them easy to handle for riders of all ages.
American Paint Horse
A popular and eye-catching breed, the American Paint Horse is a versatile horse that can be found in both English and Western riding events, including show jumping, barrel racing, combined driving, and trail riding. They are also a popular choice for modern-day farm work as well as to keep as a companion and family pet. The American Paint Horse is well-known for its calm, friendly demeanor and trainability. This makes it an excellent choice for older riders that want to enjoy a safe, peaceful riding experience. They are best known for their unique coat patterns, which can be seen in any combination of white and another color, including black, chestnut, bay, and palomino.
The tallest of the four horse breeds that make up the Welsh Pony and Cob, these tough yet lovable horses excel in any situation. They were initially bred for use on the farm and to work as military horses. Today, they can be seen participating in many equestrian activities ranging from dressage to trail riding. The Welsh Cob is a social horse with a friendly, intelligent, and trustworthy personality. The combination of their smaller size and even temperament make them a popular choice for younger riders and seniors. While they are available in many colors, the most common are black, chestnut, bay, and gray.
What to Look for When Selecting a Horse for an Older Rider
The above list is a great starting point when searching for the ideal horse for an older rider, but there is more to consider. While specific personality traits are standard in each breed, each horse is an individual and should be treated as such. For example, while the Morgan is known for its easy-to-handle personality, you may encounter a Morgan that is challenging or difficult to train. Here are a few key points to consider when searching for a horse for an older rider.
Speak with the horse’s previous owner or handler and ask questions about their temperament in different situations. They have had the opportunity to get to know this horse firsthand and will be able to provide valuable insight. The ideal horse for an older rider would be calm, gentle, and easy to handle. Generally speaking, an older rider would benefit from an adult horse that has already established its personality and has been trained. This will allow the horse lover to enjoy their time riding their new horse safely.
Often with age comes increased aches and pains. Older riders are more susceptible to discomfort or injury from a rough or overly bumpy ride. For this reason, you want to find a smooth, even gait horse. Sure-footedness is also a desired trait as it helps the horse to navigate any terrain safely. This decreases the risk of an accident.
An older rider could ride a horse of any size with the right temperament. However, many riders prefer a smaller and easier-to-mount horse at this stage in their lives. A smaller horse will also make the ride more comfortable due to the size of the saddle and the way it forces them to sit while riding. These smaller horses may not have the stride that a larger horse has, but most older riders aren’t focused on the impact this can have on competition. They are excellent horses for pleasure riding and companionship.
Unless you pay for a handler to come in and exercise your horse, it can be difficult for an older rider to keep up with the intense training and physical activity needed by some younger and spirited horses. This isn’t fair for either the horse lover or the horse. Instead, you may be better suited for a more mature horse that fits your lifestyle. Otherwise, you may be at risk of overexerting yourself in trying to keep up with your horse’s needs.
Am I Too Old to Learn to Ride a Horse?
If you are considering learning to ride for the first time later in life, you may wonder what age is suitable for learning to drive. Is there a point when you are too old to learn? The good news is that anyone can learn at any age, as long as they are in good health and possess the strength and balance needed to ride safely. If you need more clarification, talk to your doctor before getting started.
Britt Kascjak is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her “pack” which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.
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