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Horses: The Most Popular Types

Breed, color and type: the frontiers in horse classification


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Friday, 26 de September 2008

Horses: The Most Popular Types
Throughout the centuries, horses have been performing different tasks in various areas: hunt, agriculture, circus and leisure. These jobs don’t require a specific breed, since they can be done by horses of distinct breeds. Thus, type is the name given to the group of horses that show aptitude for these tasks, while the breed is determined by a group of physical and psychological characteristics, registered in a studbook, and it is based on lineage. This means that we know that we will get a horse of a specific breed if we cross a stallion and a mare of the same breed. But to produce a horse of a specific type, it is often used different breeds.

There is also another classification based on color, or colorbreed. Sometimes the unusual coloration of a horse is more appealing than his breed, which is the case of Palominos, for example. Since horses of different breeds and consequently different appearances can have this coloration, this is considered a type rather than a breed.

Types according with the function


A Hunter type of horse varies a lot in appearance, since it doesn’t has any specification about height, weight or color. This type was developed by the English, but soon they started to be produced around the world. With the adaptation to different lands, this type of horses became less and less alike. Yet, these animals should be well balanced, with deep chests and powerful hindquarters. They should also have endurance, courage, patience, speed and some aptitude for jumps. It’s important that the horses allow a comfortable ride and that they are able to carry the weight of the rider for long periods of time, and keep up with the pace of the hunt. The Irish are famous for their hunters. Although there isn’t a recipe for producing these horses, the most frequently used breeds are: Thoroughbred, Cleveland Bay and Irish Draught.


This type of horse shouldn’t be mistaken with breeds that have “Cob” in the name, like the Welsh or the Norman Cob. The horses of this type are calm and confident, good with children and elderly people, and even people with disabilities. They aren’t particularly fast horses, but they are strong and athletic. The mane is usually cut short to display his beautiful arched neck. The short legs and the wide chest give him a robust appearance. These horses generally come from England or Ireland.

There are two exhibitions classes for cobs: lightweight, horses that pull up to 90 kg, and heavyweight, over 90 Kg. There is also a third class, working Cob, in which horses must do a course jumping fences, much like hunter’s style.


The Hack is a horse of supreme elegance. Very popular amongst the aristocracy of the 19th century, the Hack was bred to be beautiful rather than fast. The hack is generally a hot-blooded horse: Thoroughbred or crossed with Thoroughbred. The Hack should have no faults in conformation, presence, temperament and training – it should also be a comfortable ride. At shows, the judges ride the horse to display his abilities. It can be seen in any solid color. Because of their beauty and noble temperament, they became known as the aristocrats in the equine world.

Polo Pony

Until 1919, horses used in polo couldn’t be over 144 cm, thus being ponies. After de abolition of that rule, it was introduced Thoroughbred blood, making the Polo Pony taller. But the name Pony had already stuck and despite the horses used in Polo today are 150 to 155 cm, they are still called Polo Ponies. Short horses are still used. These horses are able to endure an extremely physical sport, fast and thought: Polo. It is believed that this sport was born in Persia, 2500 years ago, but it was only introduced in the Occident in the 19th century. Today, Argentina is considered the best producer of Polo Ponies in the world.

A Polo Pony needs to be fast in the field: sprint, slow down and turn very quickly, but also keep the balance and be gentle enough to allow the rider to hit the ball.



Known by his golden coloration, Palominos are in high demand. The mane should be white, cream or silver, the eyes are brown or black, and there might be white in the lower part of the legs. The production of Palominos is extremely complex, since there’s only a 50% chance of getting a Palomino from a Palomino x Palomino mix. This color can appear naturally in different breeds, especially American ones – Morgan, Quarter Horse, Saddlebred – but it can be also found in the Welsh Mountains.

In Spain, they are also known as “Isabella”, since the Queen Isabella promoted this type of horses, during Middle Age. It is believed that the name of this type is related with Juan de Palomino, to whom Cortés gave a horse with this coloration.

Although these horses have one of the most beautiful colorations, Palominos need to be more than beauties, since conformation shouldn’t be neglected.


Although this type is related with the breed Paint Horse, Pintos are any horse that presents a specific coloration, while to be a Paint Horse, the lineage sometimes is more important than the coat’s color.

The Pinto must have one of the following patters:
  • Tobiano – White round marks in the neck area and chest that can reach the flanks. The head should be dark but it can have white markings, like the ones found in simple colorations. The legs should be white and the tail is usually bicolor;
  • Overo – The horse is more dark than white and it has irregular markings, some bigger than others, that are more concentrated in specific areas. The white markings shouldn’t cross the withers and the tail. The head is white with dark markings. At least one of the legs should be dark. These horses may have blue eyes.
  • Tovero – Combines the characteristics of both colorations.

The Paint Horse can have one of those colorations, but it can also present a solid color. To be a Paint Horse, the animal should be Paint Horse x Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse or Paint Horse. If in any of these cases the horse presents a solid coloration, he is accepted as a Paint Horse as well.
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