Dude Ranch Horses - Which breed do you prefer?

BY Jody Dahl | Sun 09 Jun, 2013

Dude Ranch Horses - Which breed is your preference for riding? Perfect horse, perfect dude ranch vacation?!

A dude ranch vacation to one of our ranches is bound to have you up and away on one of our gorgeous working horses. Whether your trip is to New Zealand or New Mexico, you will be spoilt for choice with all the different types available at Top50 – if you want sporty, spotty, exotic or elegant, one of our ranches has the horse for you! So how do you pick the perfect pony for your perfect horseback riding holiday? Simple! Just follow our blog below for all the info you’ll need.

Red Horse Mountain Ranch, Idaho, USA
Photo: Red Horse Mountain Ranch, Idaho, USA

Quarter Horse 

Find them at Alisal Ranch, California; Chico Basin Ranch, Colorado and at all of our USA, Canada and Mexico-based ranch vacations

Chico Basin, Colorado, USA
Photo: Chico Basin Ranch, Colorado, USA

Born and bred in the USA, the Quarter Horse is a little horse with a big heart. Standing at between 14.3hh and 15.3hh, and bred to withstand long days under the saddle, they also hold a surprise secret weapon: extreme speed - the Quarter Horse is the fastest horse in the world across a distance of a ¼ mile, even beating the super-quick Thoroughbred! Compact, well-muscled and boasting a calm personality, they also possess a low center of gravity which means they make excellent cow ponies. They can quite happily turn on a sixpence! Look out for striking sorrels, roans and red duns, but you won’t see any white Quarter Horses…


Find them at Beaumont High Country Experience, New Zealand; Lazy EL Ranch, Montana

Beaumont High Country Experience, ranch, new zealand
Photo: Beaumont High Country Experience, Southland, New Zealand

Considered to be the ultimate sports horse, the agile, speedy and spirited Thoroughbred originated in England. Originally a cross between Turkish and Arabian horses, over hundreds of years it has become synonymous with stamina and speed – it’s the fastest of all the breeds! Thoroughbred influence can be found in every discipline; mainly racing, showjumping, hunting and dressage. Sometimes crossbred to make new breeds or to improve existing ones, they have been influential in the creation of our trusty American Quarter Horse, Standardbred, Anglo-Arabian, and various warmblood breeds. Thoroughbreds average over 16hh and may be any color.


Find them at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge Montana; Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, British Colombia Canada

Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, British Columbia, Canada
Photo: Clayoquot Wilderness Resort, British Columbia, Canada

Striking to look at and understandably one of the most popular breeds in the United States, the stunningly spotty Appaloosa was honored with the title of ‘Official State Horse of Idaho’ in 1975. Boasting a wide variety of leopard and blanketed designs, they must have a mottled muzzle, striped hooves and eyes with a white sclera to be crowned a true Appaloosa. Over the years, several different horse breeds have influenced its development and they are best known as a stock horse, used in a number of western riding disciplines. You can expect your ‘loosa to be anything from 14hh to 16hh, making them an awesome ride for children and adults!

Draft Cross 
​Find them at Elk Mountain Ranch, Colorado; Hideout Guest Ranch, Wyoming

Elk Mountain Ranch, Colorado
Photo: Elk Mountain Ranch, Colorado, USA

If you’re a fan of big and beautiful, powerful yet peaceful, then the Draft Cross is the horse for you! These gentle giants are a result of crossing purebred draft horses with Thoroughbreds, Paints – you name it! Whether you want to upsize your pretty paint pony or combine speed with sensibility, one thing you can be sure of with a Draft Cross is his kind, gentle disposition. Extremely versatile and hardy, they make the perfect trail horse, work horse and even show horse! Today they average around 16.3hh to 19hh, however it’s not the size of their height that matters, but the size of their heart – they are so gentle and loveable.

American Paint Horse 

Find them at Free Rein, British Colombia, Canada; Badger Creek Ranch Colorado

Badger Creek ranch sunset, colorado
Photo: Badger Creek Ranch, Colorado, USA

If another colorful coat pattern tickles your fancy, then why not try the American Paint Horse? Not just a pretty face, in order to be a ‘true’ Paint, there are strict breeding guidelines that must be adhered to. Some Paints are patchy, some are solid – it’s the breeding that matters over the coloring. Standing at 15hh to 16.2hh these colorful creatures can vary personality-wise. For example, if your Paint is bred with Thoroughbred lines then he may be more highly strung than if bred with a Quarter Horse for example. This makes them a wonderfully varied breed and you’re sure to be in for a nice surprise!

Tennessee Walkers 

Find them at Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, British Colombia Canada

Echo Valley Ranch Tennesse Walker
Photo: Echo Valley Ranch and Spa, British Columbia, Canada

Up for trying new things? Then hop on a Tennessee Walking Horse! Famous for their flashy, four-beat ‘running walk’, riding one of these horses will give you a truly authentic American riding experience – they were originally bred in the Southern States of America to carry plantation owners around their land. Although rarely seen in any of the sport horse disciplines, despite being rather glamorous, this breed is perfect for and popular in trail riding due to their smooth gait, hardiness, stamina and easygoing personality. They are also seen in Western riding disciplines and in harness. Standing at 15hh to 17hh these riding horses possess a charming, calm disposition and are sure to give you a good ride.

Argentinian Criollo

Find them at Estancia Ranquilco, Neuquen, Argentina; Rancho Las Cascadas, Mexico

Estancia Ranquilco, Neuquen, Argentina Criollo
Photo: Estancia Ranquilco, Neuquen, Argentina

If you’re after a smaller ride, standing at around 14.3hh the Argentinian Criollo may be the horse for you! But don’t underestimate its size – the Criollo is tough, hardy, muscular, strong, and famous for its endurance capabilities and ability to survive harsh conditions. Native to Uruguay, this little powerhouse is a willing worker and a sensible sort, however when bred with a Thoroughbred makes a fantastic polo pony. Look for duns with black linings down the spine which is the most popular color, however palomino, blue or strawberry roan and grays can be found. Perhaps more aloof than some of the other breeds, what they possibly lack in personality is made up by the fact they will try so hard for you.




Find them at Latigo Ranch, Colorado; Majestic Dude Ranch, Colorado

Latigo Ranch, Colorado, USA
Photo: Latigo Ranch, Colorado, USA

If you’re looking for a new equine friend then the answer lies in the Arabian or Arab horse. These horses have had a long affinity with man, originating in the deserts with the Bedouin people, making them incredibly personable and trusting. Just what you want from a horse that’s taking you on an incredible journey! The Arab’s intelligence, energy and gentle disposition are just a few of its qualities – the large lung capacity and incredible endurance mean that they are ideal for most disciplines, including Western riding. Standing at 14.1hh to 15.hh, the Arab is small, but as all the pictures we’ve ever seen show: perfectly formed.

- Jody Dahl


TAGS: dude ranch horses, horse breeds, arabian horse, quarter horse, thoroughbred, appaloosa, draft cross, american paint horse, tennessee walkers, argentinian criollo, french saddle horse, anglo-norman cross, paso peruano

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