What are the Three Main Types of Horses?

Light horses are typically used for riding.
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  • Written By: Leigh Mercer
  • Edited By: Lucy Oppenheimer
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2014
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Many different breeds of horses exist today, but there are only three main types of horses: heavy horses, light horses, and ponies. Heavy horses may also be referred to as draft, dray or draught horses. The heavy horse looks just as the name implies — heavy. The body is strong with a broad back and rounded withers, which is the spot between the horse's shoulder blades.

On a heavy horse, the legs are short and thick to aid them in pulling carts or plowing fields. Heavy horses are specifically made for heavy labor like farming. These types of horses also move with short steps and choppy movements to give them ultimate traction. Heavy horses can also be shown at fairs and horse shows. Some different breeds of heavy horses include the Clydesdale and the American Cream Draft horse.

Light horses, another of the three main types of horses, are usually used for riding purposes. Saddles can easily be fitted over the horses back, allowing for a comfortable ride. Light horses have longer bodies than a draft horse, and hardly bend their knees at all when they move.


These horses have true and false ribs, which aid in placing the saddle on the horses back. The true ribs are the first eight ribs of the horse's ribcage, which are flat so that the saddles lie just behind the trapezius muscle. The last ten false ribs are rounded rather than flat. Some different breeds of light horses are quarter horses, thoroughbreds and miniature horses, which are not to be confused with the third type of horse, ponies.

Ponies are the last of the three main types of horses. Ponies are often confused with miniature horses or baby horses, with are called foals. Ponies are unique in every way possible from a heavy horse or a light horse. They have naturally thicker manes, tails, and coats than a regular horse; and they also have smaller heads and thicker necks than any other type of horse.

Ponies are intelligent, friendly creatures with stubborn habits. Adults can actually ride ponies, although if a pony is trained by a beginner they will exhibit spoiled behavior. One breed of pony that many people may recognize is the Shetland pony.


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