What is a Pleasure Horse?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A pleasure horse is a privately kept horse maintained for pleasure or casual riding, rather than competition or work. Some horse owners do choose to show their pleasure horses, in competitions which showcase the good manners and gaits of their horses, typically in a division with other pleasure horses such as Western Pleasure or English Pleasure. For new horse owners, and horse owners who are not interested in competition, a pleasure horse is the most suitable mount.

Any breed of horse can be kept for pleasure.
Any breed of horse can be kept for pleasure.

Any breed of horse can be a pleasure horse; these animals are distinguished by being extremely gentle, well mannered, and friendly, and many can exhibit a range of gaits, as well. Breeds like Quarterhorses and various ponies are commonly kept as pleasure horses, along with horses unsuitable for competition, for one reason or another, and most pleasure horses are gentle enough to be ridden by very young children and new, nervous riders.

Pleasure horses are kept as pets for riding and not for show or competition.
Pleasure horses are kept as pets for riding and not for show or competition.

Many pleasure horses are mixed breeds, which means that they are not suitable for breeding or competition, but this doesn't make them inferior animals. A mixed breed horse can be hardy, intelligent, sensitive, and gentle, all traits which are valued in a pleasure horse, and a pleasure horse can be a loyal friend for life. While such horses are not suitable for competition, they make great first horses for people who are interested in equestrian careers, and for life-long casual riders, they are much more suitable than horses which have been bred for work or competition.

Pleasure horses are often kept for casual riding.
Pleasure horses are often kept for casual riding.

A pleasure horse can be used for any number of things. Many casual riders enjoy trail riding, which involves taking their horses out on regional trails to enjoy nature in the company of a horse. Pleasure horses can also be used for casual driving, and they can be worked in the ring like other horse breeds, for owners who want to develop gaited horses or to work with jumpers. Some people also go camping with their pleasure horses.

As a general rule, a pleasure horse tends to be less expensive than a purebred horse or a horse bred and trained for competition. It is possible to pick up a sound and well-trained pleasure horse for the fraction of the cost of a specialized breed, making these horses especially appealing to owners who have limited financial resources. Some stables and riding groups also allow people to lease their pleasure horses, sharing the burden of ownership with a group to reduce overall stress and costs.

Almost all horses have four gaits that come naturally: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
Almost all horses have four gaits that come naturally: walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


We just went on a trail ride at a ranch that teaches kids how to work with and ride horses. Because these horses are around kids all the time and get used a lot, they are gentle and easy to work with.

Two of our friends got to ride the 2 Percheron horses they have and they were so excited. I have never ridden a draft horse, but would love sitting up that high on a horse.

I also enjoy riding gaited horses because of their smooth, fast pace. One of my friends took a vacation to a working dude ranch and got to ride a Rocky mountain pleasure horse.

This has always been a dream of mine to ride one of these horses. They are known to have very calm temperaments and a fast, smooth gait that I would just love.


I have always loved horses and my first horse was a Shetland pony who was old and stubborn, but I was so excited about having a horse. This horse taught me a lot of lessons that I still remember today with my quarter horses.

All of the horses we own are quarter horses and we use them for pleasure. We have a camper where we haul the horses in the back, and have living quarters in the front part of the camper.

This way we can combine our love of camping and riding horses at the same time. There are several equestrian campgrounds close to us that have miles of equestrian trails to ride and explore.

Spring and fall are my favorite times of the year to ride and there is nothing like being out in the middle of nature on a horse. Our dog also loves to go with us on the trails.

Two of my mares are very old and we have had them for a long time. I would never be able to have these pleasure horses for sale. They can't be ridden much anymore, but they will live out the rest of their days in our pasture taking it easy.


I have a niece who has some very expensive show horses that she has done quite well with. Her horses are pretty spoiled compared to the pleasure quarter horses we have.

When she came for a visit, we saddled up our horses and went trail riding in our timber. Of all the years she had worked with horses, she had never done this before.

All I know is riding a pleasure horse as we like to trail ride every chance we get. We take good care of our horses, but they are not used to being in a stall or barn for most of their life.

They like to be in the barn when the weather is bad, but are usually able to graze the pasture and be outside most of the time.

Whether you like to show expensive horses, or ride them for pleasure, one thing is constant, and that is the love of horses and the joy you get from being around them.

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