What is a Sport Horse?

Marjorie McAtee

A sport horse isn't a specific breed of horse, but is a type of horse that may include several breeds. Sport horses are used for traditional equestrian sporting events, such as show jumping, eventing, combined driving, and dressage. Race horses are not typically considered sport horses. A number of horse breeds can be considered sport horses, including the Irish sport horse. Other breeds, such as Arabians or American quarter horses, are also sometimes used as sport horses.

Quarter horses are sometimes used as sport horses.
Quarter horses are sometimes used as sport horses.

A sport horse should ideally display certain qualities of temperament and physiognomy. Physically, a sport horse should be neither too heavy, like a draft horse, nor too refined, like a race horse. A sport horse generally needs a light, but nevertheless sturdy, frame to perform traditional equestrian sports. Sport horses typically share many physical features, including sloping shoulders, an uphill build, and an arched neck. Sport horses are also generally well-muscled.

Sport horses are often bred for jumping ability.
Sport horses are often bred for jumping ability.

The physical features of a sport horse should make it a graceful animal with the ability to jump well. Sport horses are usually bred for the length of their stride. Ideally, sport horses should reach forward with their hind legs when trotting or cantering. This movement generally makes for a good stride in a sport horse, and means that the horse enjoys adequate physical suspension, which can help it compete in equestrian sports. A sport horse should have tight, well-muscled lower legs for jumping, and sport horses are typically bred according to their jumping ability, as well as other qualities.

Sport horses often also share a temperament that makes them easy for trainers and riders to work with. A sport horse should ideally be able to learn quickly, and it should evince a willingness to comply with training and work at succeeding in the equestrian sports. Sport horses may vary somewhat in temperament, however, depending on the level to which the horse competes. Horses in higher level competitions are often bred with a feistier temperament, while horses used in lower level competitions are often calmer in temperament and, therefore, more easily controlled by their riders.

Many different types of horse are commonly used as sport horses. In general, the type of horse known as a "warmblood" is preferred. A warmblood horse is a type of animal that is neither physically heavy and slow, like a draft horse, nor light and quick, like a "hot blood" horse. Many warmblood horses, however, are bred from hot blood stock, such as the Arabian breed. Hot blood horses are also sometimes used as sport horses, especially in higher level competitions.

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