English Horse Breeds: A Complete Guide

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Written By James King

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English Horse Breeds include the Dartmoor pony, Thoroughbred, Hackney horse, Fell pony, Shire horse, Cleveland Bay, Suffolk Punch, New Forest pony, Hackney pony, Exmoor pony, Dales pony, Highland pony, Eriskay Pony, Irish Sport Horse, Galineers Cob, Irish Draught, Kerry Bog Pony, Connemara pony, Welara, Belgian Draught, American Quarter Horse, Standardbred, Arabian horse, American Cream Draft, and more. The Exmoor Pony is one of the oldest native horse breeds in the UK, originating in southwest England and known for its reliability and hardworking nature.

The Clydesdale is also a notable British breed, competing with the Shire horse and Belgian Draft for the title of the world’s biggest horse. English riding often involves horses with high trotting action, such as the American Saddlebred. English horses tend to be big due to the influence of heavy horse breeds like the Shire.

British Horse Breeds offer a rich equestrian heritage, with each breed possessing its own unique qualities.

Native English Horse Breeds

England has a long history of horse breeding, resulting in a variety of native horse breeds that are cherished for their unique characteristics and versatility. From sturdy ponies to majestic heavy horses, each breed has its own story and purpose within the English equestrian world. Let’s explore some of the remarkable native English horse breeds:

Exmoor Pony

The Exmoor Pony is one of the oldest native horse breeds in the UK and hails from the beautiful Exmoor region in North Devon. These hardy ponies are believed to have originated over 4000 years ago and have been an integral part of the local environment and farming community ever since. Due to their strong build and endurance, Exmoor Ponies have historically been used for various tasks, including agricultural work and carrying loads on the rugged moorland. With their distinct appearance, characterized by a dense, thick mane and a winter coat that transforms into a sleek summer coat, Exmoor Ponies continue to capture the hearts of equestrians and nature enthusiasts alike.

New Forest Pony

The New Forest Pony is yet another remarkable breed that calls England its home. Originating from the New Forest area in Hampshire, they have a rich history dating back to the time of William the Conqueror. These ponies have evolved to thrive in the challenging forest environment, where they roamed freely and grazed on the natural vegetation for centuries. Their hardiness, intelligence, and excellent temperament make them versatile and suitable for various equestrian disciplines, including riding, driving, and even showing. New Forest Ponies are known for their willingness to work, gentle nature, and their ability to adapt to different environments, making them a popular choice for riders of all ages and abilities.

Dales Pony

The Dales Pony originates from the beautiful Dales region in Northern England, where they have played a significant role in the local agricultural community for centuries. These sturdy and versatile ponies were traditionally used for pulling heavy loads, working in the fields, and transporting goods across the rugged terrain. The Dales Pony is admired for its strength, intelligence, and calm temperament, making it an excellent choice for pleasure riding, driving, and even competitive disciplines. With their striking appearance, featuring a dense and flowing mane, strong body, and expressive eyes, Dales Ponies are truly a sight to behold.

Shire Horse

The Shire Horse is synonymous with power, grace, and sheer size. This breed is widely recognized as one of the largest and strongest horse breeds in the world and has been an integral part of English history and culture for centuries. Their origins can be traced back to medieval England, where they were bred for various agricultural tasks, from plowing fields to pulling heavy carts. Known for their impressive stature, feathered legs, and kind temperament, Shire Horses have become symbols of strength and elegance. Today, they are highly valued for their versatility, excelling in driving, riding, and even therapeutic programs. Whether in the show ring or working on a farm, the Shire Horse continues to leave a lasting impression wherever they go.

The native English horse breeds, including the Exmoor Pony, New Forest Pony, Dales Pony, and Shire Horse, all possess unique qualities that have made them immensely popular both in England and across the globe. Their long-standing history, adaptability, and beauty make them true treasures of the English equestrian landscape.

English Horse Breeds: A Complete Guide

Heavy Horse Breeds

The English Horse Breeds are renowned for their elegance and strength, with notable heavy horse breeds such as the Shire, Clydesdale, and Suffolk Punch. Originating from England, these majestic and powerful horses have a long history of being used for agricultural and heavy labor, making them an integral part of the English equestrian heritage.



The Clydesdale horse is one of the giants among heavy horse breeds. Originating in Lanarkshire, Scotland, the Clydesdale takes its name from the River Clyde. Known for its impressive size and strength, the Clydesdale has become synonymous with magnificent and elegant draft horses.

Shire Horse

The Shire Horse is another heavy horse breed that competes for the title of “world’s biggest horse” alongside the Clydesdale and the Belgian Draft. With its noble appearance and gentle nature, the Shire Horse has a long history in England. These horses were traditionally used for agricultural work and were prized for their ability to pull heavy loads.

Belgian Draft

The Belgian Draft is a powerful and muscular horse breed that originated in Belgium. Known for its impressive pulling ability, the Belgian Draft is often used in agricultural work and forestry. With its steady temperament and incredible strength, the breed has gained popularity not only in Europe but also around the world.

These heavy horse breeds symbolize the strength, power, and grace that horses possess. Whether it’s the Clydesdale, the Shire Horse, or the Belgian Draft, these magnificent creatures have captivated horse lovers and equestrians alike with their size and capability.


Unique Characteristics


High Trotting Action

English riding show ring competition stands out with high trotting action, executed notably by breeds like the American Saddlebred. The distinctive gait showcases elegance and precision.

Special Saddle Designs

Specifically tailored saddle designs are essential for English riding, emphasizing long, flat seats with stirrups positioned farther back. This setup enables riders to prompt elevated gaits effectively.


English Horse Breeds: A Complete Guide

Historical Perspective

The history of English horse breeds dates back centuries and is marked by a fascinating journey of evolution. From the sturdy, versatile ponies of the moorlands to the magnificent, powerful heavy horses, English horse breeds have played a pivotal role in the nation’s equestrian heritage. Over time, these breeds have adapted to various purposes, reflecting the changing needs of society while retaining their distinctive characteristics.

British equestrian heritage boasts a rich and enduring legacy that continues to influence the breeding, training, and use of horses worldwide. The development of English horse breeds has left an indelible mark on the equestrian world, with each breed embodying a unique blend of strength, stamina, and elegance. The legacy of these breeds is not only a testament to the nation’s agrarian past but also a source of pride and admiration for horse enthusiasts globally.


English Horse Breeds: A Complete Guide

Frequently Asked Questions Of English Horse Breeds

What Horse Is Native To England?

The Exmoor Pony is native to England and originated in Exmoor, known for its hardworking nature and southwest origins.

What Are The Biggest British Horses?

The biggest British horses are the Clydesdale breed, known for their size and strength. They compete with the Shire horse and Belgian Draft for the title of the “world’s biggest horse”.

What Horses Are Used In English Riding?

Popular horses used in English riding include breeds such as the American Saddlebred and related breeds, known for their high-action trotting. The saddle used for English riding has a long, flat seat with stirrups set farther back to encourage elevated gaits like the trot.

Why Are English Horses So Big?

English horses are big due to selective breeding for strength and work purposes. Larger size helped with heavy labor tasks.


The diverse range of English horse breeds reflects a rich equestrian heritage. From the majestic Shire to the versatile Exmoor Pony, these native breeds embody strength and beauty. Discover the unique qualities of British horse breeds and the history they carry.

Embark on a journey through the enchanting world of English horse breeds.

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