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19 Capable Horse Breeds For Plus-Size Riders

Gaining weight after having my first child I can totally relate to those of you who love to ride but struggle with your weight. Despite becoming overweight, the love for horses and desire to ride stays the same, which causes a problem. Many horses may not be comfortable carrying you. 

Whether you are riding in lessons, going to lease, or buy a horse, you want to ride a horse that will be able to carry you without struggling.

So what are the best horse breeds for plus-size riders? The best horse breeds for plus size riders come in a range of breeds and sizes, including some ponies. Plus size riders come in different heights as well, it wouldn’t make sense to put a 5’3 rider on a shire where their legs may not even reach halfway around the barrel. Most importantly the breeds included in this list are thicker boned, strong, and tend to have good solid hooves. 

Horses are all different. Even within the same breed, they can vary. So this list of horse breeds are generalizations of the breeds, as being best for plus-size riders. 

There are other factors to take into consideration when choosing the right sized horse for you. I am working on a blog post that will go over these factors and other considerations so that you know the best  horse for your size, which will be up very soon.

But here today we are just going over the 19 different breeds that can make good choices for plus-size riders. More breeds could be included on this list. Feel free to add breeds you think could be suitable for plus-size riders not included on this list in the comments. 

Plus Size Rider Height VS Breeds Chart

I created this chart to help make it easier to figure out what breeds may be best for not only carrying more weight but also for the height of the rider. This is very generalized as there are always exceptions to every breed and some breeds can really vary in height, and bone size.

Rider HeightHorse And Pony Breeds 
Tall Plus Sized Rider (5’10 plus)Clydesdale, Irish Draught, Percheron, Draft Cross, Cleveland Bay, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Knabstrupper
Average Plus Sized Rider (5’5ft-5’10)Clydesdale, Irish Draught, Percheron, Fresian, Irish Cob, Haflinger, Fjord, Draft Cross, Cleveland Bay, Quarter Horse, Paint, Lusitano, Hanoverian, Holsteiner, Appaloosa, Knabstrupper, Morgan
Short Plus Sized Rider (5’5 & under)Dales Pony, Highland Pony, Irish Cob, Haflinger, Fjord, Quarter Horse, Paint, Lusitano, Appaloosa, Morgan, Draft Cross

1. Appaloosa 

Place of Origin: United States

Height Range: 14-16h

Weight Range: 950-1250lbs

Colors: bay, black, chestnut, palomino, buckskin, cremello or perlino, roan, gray, dun, and grulla. Appaloosa‘s spotted coats have 6 several variations.

Appaloosas come in different sizes. This includes different heights and thicknesses.

Appaloosa’s can be a suitable size for the shorter rider as well as a rider that is average height because of the wide range in height. Generally, Appaloosa’s don’t get much taller than around 16h so they wouldn’t be the best choice for a very tall plus sized rider. 

They are often influenced by the American Quarter Horse, but because of some Appy’s having Thoroughbred and Arabian influences those horses are narrower and more refined.

This is not the best body type if you are a plus-size rider and need a more solid steed underneath you. But they’re thicker Appaloosas that have draft influence in them which would be much better suited for carrying more weight. 

Overall I think Appaloosas make good horses for all level riders. Appaloosas tend to be easy keepers and most have calm, willing personalities.

Though I think some Appaloosas may have an attitude streak in their lines, just theory right now. Personally, I have seen Appaloosas more times than once with an attitude or strong opinion and they weren’t mares, they were geldings. Let me know if you have seen the same. 

So if you are a more inexperienced rider make sure the horse’s personality is friendly and forgiving.

Appaloosas are very versatile and are seen doing both English and western riding. Most Appaloosas at least as sport horses tend to be low to mid-level horses. Appaloosas are widely used in western disciplines such as reining and cutting probably due to their similarities with Quarter Horses.

2. Cleveland Bay

Place of Origin: England

Height Range: 16-17h

Weight Range: 1200-1500lbs

Colors: Bay with black legs, mane and tail.

Cleveland Bays tend to be a good height for the average and taller rider, depending on the horse. Some horses may be a bit too short for very tall riders, however, height-wise what’s more important is the horse’s barrel size. 

Full Cleveland Bays tend to have bigger barrels than other warmblood type breeds, which will help to take up long legs of the rider. 

Tip: In order to effectively signal your aids to the horse, and balance your want a horse with the right sized barrel for your legs. 

Unfortunately, Cleveland Bays are a critically endangered breed and there are groups of people trying to revive the breed. Cleveland Bays are great for carrying plus-sized riders; they are bigger horses, however, more refined looking warmblood type compared to a draft type with thicker bones and have been known as “heavyweight hunters.” 

Originally they were carriage horses but then it was noticed that they make great riding horses. When show jumping first was established Cleveland Bay horses were some of the top breeds competing. Cleveland Bays have even been widely used to help improve certain breeds like the Holsteiner and Hanoverian, because of their quality and temperament. Cleveland Bays are generally used as English sport horses or driving horses.

Cleveland Bays could make a good breed for all level riders due to their gentle temperament and often smoother gaits.

3. Clydesdale

Place of Origin: Scotland

Height Range: 16-19h

Weight Range: 1700- 2200lbs

Colors: bay and brown, sometimes gray, black, or roan. Commonly white markings on the face, legs, and sometimes on the body.

The iconic Clydesdales are very strong horses that would have a little problem carrying most plus-sized riders. However, Clydesdales are not suited for all plus-sized riders, because of their enormous size and depending on what the rider’s goals are. 

Tall riders are best because most Clydesdales are very tall and also have enormous barrels. Average height riders on the taller end of the scale could be suitable for some of the shorter Clydesdales. 

Tip: The best fit based on the horse’s barrel would be where your legs while in the stirrups reach down at least halfway on the horse’s barrel and at the maximum with your feet in the stirrups reaching down to the bottom of the barrel but not hanging below it.

Clydesdales tend to have friendly, quiet temperaments and could make a great husband horse. Because of this breed’s temperament in general Clydesdales are suitable for all level riders, however, their gaits are not always smooth and can have some bounce to them from the high action in their movement. 

Clydesdales are not the best choice for all types of riding. Clydesdales are bred for pulling and driving. Though they can canter and jump, these are not their strong points. They have a beautiful looking trot but in the canter, they tend to struggle a bit more. So they will most likely need more work at conditioning and building the right muscles to improve the canter.

Clydesdales can jump but as many drafts are not built for jumping they may struggle with jumping which can put strain and stress on the horse and could cause soundness issues in the future. If jumping is an interest for you consider another breed or make sure you find a Clydesdale with good enough conformation to hold up for jumping.

In general, I see Clydesdales best suited for low level riding English or western, trails, and for pleasure. 

4. Dales Pony 

Place of Origin: United Kingdom

Height Range: 14-14.2h

Weight Range: Around 1000lbs

Colors: black, brown, bay, grey and roan, white markings only on the head including a star and/or a snip; stripes, and blazes. White muzzles are not allowed.

Yet another critically endangered breed.

Dales ponies are very strong, hardy, agile, and have good stamina. Despite being on the short side they can carry a good amount of weight because of their strength and build. They have sturdy legs, a well-muscled neck, strong back, loins, and hindquarters as well as a sloping shoulder.

Dales ponies would be best for shorter riders but could accommodate an average-sized rider on the shorter side of the spectrum, especially if a particular pony has a bigger barrel or girth.

Dales ponies are brave, sensible, and calm, known as confidence builders as well as sure-footed making them typically good for any level rider.

Dales ponies are used for English riding as well as all kinds of driving competitions. They are good little jumpers and can be seen in hunter/jumpers and eventing. They make good dressage ponies as well as courageous recreational trail horses.

5. Draft Cross 

Height Range: 13.3h-18h

Colors: Any color

Place of Origin: All Over The World

Most Warmbloods originally started off as Draft Crosses. Draft horses generally in the past were used for plowing or driving; pulling in some way or another. Usually, the purpose of crossing a draft horse and a light horse such as Thoroughbreds is to create a thicker boned hardier horse that still has athletic ability. A horse that is responsive but quiet and dependable.

There is a variety of breed combinations that can make a draft cross. This means that draft crosses come in all different sizes, strengths, heights. It helps to get an idea of the draft cross you would be interested in

Depending on the horse a draft cross could be well suited for a plus-sized rider at any height. Because Draft Crosses generally have a quiet temperament they can be good confidence builders for less experienced riders but athletic enough for more experienced riders.

Draft Crosses are super versatile and can go english or western. Depending on the breeding and conformation a Draft Cross can be suited for the upper levels.

6. Fjord 

Height Range: 13.1h- 14.3h

Weight Range: 800-1100lbs

Colors: Dun variations

Place of Origin: Norway

Despite the Norwegian Fjords short size they are stocky with a big barrel and can fit a shorter rider but at the same time take up an average rider’s leg length. Fjords are strong and compact and very distinct looking with their dorsal stripe going from there mane down their back to throughout their tail.

Fjords make good beginner and family horses due to their quiet friendly temperaments and the fact they rarely spook.

Fjords make good driving horses, as well as for low-level dressage and jumping. 

7. Friesian 

Height Range: 15-17h

Weight Range: 1000- 1300lbs

Colors: Black

Place of Origin: Netherlands

In the Middle Ages, the ancestors of Friesians were known to carry knights in armor. They were a light draft type. At one point Fresians almost became extinct, but in modern-day they are used as driving horses and growing in popularity as dressage horses.

Friesians are well built and strong. They have compact muscular bodies, with sloping shoulders and a long arched neck. They are known for their energetic high stepping trot. 

Friesians vary a lot in height, so it is possible to find one that is the right size for you. However, if you are really tall, your legs may be a bit too long. Fresian’s generally don’t have huge girths or barrel sizes. 

Friesians are best suited for riders with a decent independent seat or intermediate riders and up. This is not because they don’t have a great temperament because they are typically gentle and calm, but because they can be energetic and active with power gaits that can put a beginner off balance.

Friesians can be used in western riding, saddle seat, hunt seat as well as a variety of disciplines, but they excel in dressage and as driving horses.

8. Haflinger 

Height Range: 13-15 hands

Weight Range: 800- 1300lbs

Colors: White or flaxen manes, variety of chestnut coats

Place of Origin: Austria & Northern Italy

Haflingers are usually very stocky and stout although rarely you find some are on the lighter side. Some people think they look similar to Fjords because they are similar in type and build. 

Haflingers are best for shorter riders up to riders of average height. Haflingers have curious goofy personalities and are usually docile. 

They usually make good horses for any level rider. But sometimes they may have a stubborn streak, in that case, a more experienced rider would be best.

Haflingers are very versatile and tend to be low-level horses though occasionally some make it to mid-level. They are seen doing western, English, and used as driving horses.

9. Hanoverian

Height Range: 15.3h-17.2h

Weight Range: 1000-1400lbs

Colors: All solid colors, such as gray, brown, black, bay and chestnut

Place of Origin: Germany

Hanoverians are considered one of the top performing warmbloods. They are refined, have fancy movement, but still have substantial good bone density and strength. Hanoverians are known for their good confirmation and athletic ability. Though they are strong they have a lot of thoroughbred influence and most are not very stocky.

In general there are Hanovarians that would fit most sized riders. But really depends on the individual horses. 

Hanoverians have good temperaments and can suit most riders, but beginners may not be the best just because of their athletic ability.

Hanoverians are typically amazing sport horses and often used for hunter/jumper, dressage, and eventing.

10. Highland Pony

Height Range: 13h-14.2h

Weight Range: 1200lbs

Colors: Dun variations. Also grey, brown, black, bay, and occasionally liver chestnut with silver mane and tail. Some have a dorsal stripe and zebra markings on legs and shoulders.

Place of Origin: Scotland 

Highland ponies are very stocky, stout heavyweight ponies. They are known to have super solid hooves and are sure-footed. Though short Highland Ponies can carry around 200lbs.

Highland ponies though short have big bodies so they can take up a decent amount of leg. Short and average height riders can fit a highland pony, but they may be a bit short for taller riders.

Highland ponies are easy to train, excellent docile temperaments, making them a good choice for all level riders.

They are used for trail riding, fox hunting, low-level jumping, eventing, dressage, very versatile, could be used for western riding as well. They were considered farm horses for plowing and driving as well.

11. Holsteiner 

Height Range: 15.2-17h

Weight Range: 1000-1400lbs

Colors: brown, dark bay, or black, gray and chestnut.

Place of Origin: Germany

Holsteiners are very similar to Hanoverians. They were actually the foundation of the Hanoverian breed. They are strong and powerful, typically good overall conformation and usually bigger-boned than the Hanovarian. The neck is arching and muscular with a nice topline. These horses are usually nice movers and very athletic.

There are two types of Holsteiners. One is the classic type which is heavier and has larger bones and the more modern Holsteiner is more refined and lighter boned. For a plus sized rider the larger boned Holsteiner may be a better fit.

The range of sizes this horse comes in makes it suitable for some shorter riders all the way to riders that are fairly tall. 

These horses can make great horses for riders that need to build their confidence as Holsteiners tend to be quiet and sometimes a little bit lazy. Although their gaits are usually big and elastic and they have a lot of scope over fences, so a beginner learning to jump might not be ideal just because of the power in the Holsteiners movement.

Their scope and impulsion make them great jumpers. They like Hanoverians are one of the top-performing breeds in dressage, show jumping, hunter.jumper, and eventing.

12. Irish Cob 

Height Range: 14.3-15.1h

Weight Range: 1100-1400lbs

Colors: Piebald (black and white) and skewbald (brown and white). All colors are accepted though.

Place of Origin: Ireland

The Irish Cob is known to have an apple butt and beautiful feathering from the knee and hock down. They have a heavy build and are strong. They originate from lines of Shires and Clydesdales. They have a wide chest, strong neck, short back, and substantial bone mass. They are meant to be heavy carriers.

The Irish Cob would suit a shorter rider as well as an average height rider.

They have amazing temperaments, are sensible, calm, and try their best to please. Irish Cobs are great for all level riders.

Irish Cobs are low-level type horses but are versatile and can do well in any discipline at the lower levels.

13. Irish Draught

Height Range: 15.2-17h

Weight Range: 1300-1500lbs

Colors: Dun, black, chestnut, gray, brown, or bay.

Place of Origin: Ireland

Irish draughts have good bone, are strong, and able to carry plus-size riders. However, Irish Draughts are lighter than the average draft and often have more athletic ability than most draughts. 

They were developed to be strong horses to work in the fields and on farms but also be good riding horses for war times. They also were bred to be easy keepers because most people who owned horses back then didn’t have a lot of money for hard keepers.

Irish sport horses are a top-performing breed which is a cross of Irish Draught and Thoroughbred.

Irish Draughts are best suited for average and taller riders, depending on the horse’s height. 

Years back I worked and started training with an Irish Draught. He was a tank. He was 18h and at 5’8ft 170lbs, I felt like a peanut on him.  

Typically Irish Draughts are sensible, gentle, and friendly making them great mounts for all levels.

They do well as sport horses for fox hunting, driving, endurance riding, dressage, hunter/jumper, and eventing.

14. Knabstrupper 

Height Range: 14.2-16.1h

Weight Range: 1000-1300lbs

Colors: Solid to a full leopard spotted patterns; spots can be black, gray, bay or chestnut

Place of Origin: Denmark

Knabstruppers are lightweight horses similar to the Appaloosas and Baroque horses put together. They have a spotted coat like the appaloosa, the leopard spots. They are not bulky like a draft but they can have some decent bone thickness to their legs. Knabstruppers typically have a strong back, loins, a sloping shoulder, and a proportionate neck.

These horses could fit a shorter and average height rider well. There are three different body types of Knabstrupper due to different breeds being bred into the bloodlines. The sport horse, baroque type, and pony type. 

The sport horse type has European warmblood influence and excels in dressage, jumping, eventing.

The baroque type resembles more of a carriage horse and is shorter with a broader body. This type is more unflappable and steady minded. 

The pony type is a smaller version of the other two types and is known to make great children’s horses.

Knabstruppers are commonly used for farm work, dressage, show jumping, recreational riding, carriage horses, for endurance riding, and used in circuses.

15. Lusitano 

Height Range: 15.2h-16h

Weight Range: 700-1100lbs

Colors: gray, bay or chestnut, any solid color, including black, buckskin, and palomino.

Place of Origin: Portugal

Lusitanos are like Andalusians but are more nimble, energetic, and quick on their feet. They were bred for agility and strength. They have muscular bodies with some bulk. Strong thick neck, strong back, and hindquarters. They are a powerhouse. Despite not having thick boned legs, Lusitanos can be a good size for a shorter plus-sized rider or an average plus-sized rider on the shorter side. 

Lusitanos are energetic horses and can get difficult to control without regular exercise, which is why a beginner isn’t the best choice for this horse. But the Lusitano is known for having nice gaits for riding. 

Lusitanos are commonly used for bullfighting, but they also make excellent dressage and combined driving horses.

16. Morgan Horse

Height Range: 14.1-15.2h

Weight Range: 900-1100lbs

Colors: bay, black, and chestnut, gray, roan, dun, silver dapple, palomino, buckskin, cremello and perlino

Place of Origin: United States

Morgans are small but powerful horses and easy keepers. Their bodies are compact and muscular. They are not thick but instead more refined. However, they are hardy and have good solid feet. 

A Morgan would be suitable for a shorter plus sized rider, due to their smaller size and lack of substantial bone mass.

Morgans have excellent dispositions and are known to be affectionate and loyal. They have spirit and spunk and are fun horses, for most riders.

Morgans are all around and prized as very versatile horses. They can do a bit of everything.

17. American Paint Horse

Height Range: 14-16h

Weight Range: 950-1200lbs

Colors: Particular combination of white and any color: black, bay, brown, chestnut, dun, grulla, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray, or roan. Markings can be any shape or size, and located anywhere on the body.

Place of Origin: United States

Paints come in different sizes and shapes, most often depending on whether they have more Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred blood in them. Usually, Paint Horses have a western stock horse look, similar to the Quarter Horse.

It is believed the American Paint Horses originated from Arabian, Andalusian, and Barb bloodlines from when the Spanish explorers brought horses over to North America.

They are a great choice for many riders due to their pleasant personalities and willingness to please.

Depending on the Paint they can be a good size for a shorter or average height rider.

Paints are another versatile horse. Anywhere from barrel racing to combined driving to eventing. These horses might not always be top sport horses but they do well in the low to mid-levels of dressage, hunters, jumping, and eventing. They seem to excel in western riding and can do just about any sport.

18. Percheron 

Height Range: 15-18h

Weight Range: 1100-2600lbs

Colors: black, gray, chestnut, bay, roan, or sorrel

Place of Origin: France

Percherons are most commonly grey or black. Percheron draft horses and are very very strong. They have easy dispositions. They are built to pull wagons and carriages but can actually make good riding horses with the right conformation. 

They tend to have big heads and short thick necks with powerful shoulders. Despite being a draft, Percherons are probably one of the more sensitive drafts and tend to not be as lazy and dull to the aids. It is funny that one of the most sensitive draft horses is also one of the most massive horses. They range in height a good bit but they are one of the heaviest of the drafts as well.

They are usually quiet horses making them good for riders that want a responsive horse but a level headed horse at the same time.

Depending on conformation some Percherons can make good sport horses for the lower levels. Due to their good stamina and calm nature they can make good endurance and trail horses as well. And of course, driving and pulling wagons is what they are mostly built for.

19. Quarter Horse 

Height Range: 14-16h

Weight Range: 950-1200

Colors: chestnut, sorrel, black, brown, gray, bay, palomino, buckskin, cremello, perlino, white, dun, red dun, grullo, red roan, bay roan and blue roan.

Place of Origin: United States

Quarter horses are strong horses that are built and bred to carry full-sized men. Those cowboys use these horses as ranch horses, and in western competitions as well. Quarter horses are muscular with powerful hindquarters.

Although some Quarter Horses built more on the narrow side and do come with some conformation faults you want to look out for, especially in the hind legs.

A nicely conformed quarter horse with thicker bones could be a good choice for a short or average height plus-sized rider. 

They are typically calm, not easily spooked, friendly, willing and have easy to ride gaits with shorter strides. They can make good horses for any level riders with the right training.

Quarter horses are similar to Paints and though heavily used in western riding, are versatile and can do most riding sports. As a sport horse for dressage, jumping, and eventing they too are lower to mid-level horses. They make good hunter horses and English pleasure horses, as well as excellent trail horses.

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