20 Most Popular Racing Horse Breeds

Most Popular Racing Horse Breeds
Photo by Guillaume de Germain

Even if you’ve never had the opportunity to go to the races, there’s still a good chance you know what a Thoroughbred looks like.

In fact, of the more than 50,000 horses currently being raced professionally in the United States, almost two-thirds are Thoroughbreds.

This means that most racetracks feature this racing horse breeds prominently, from the horses running on their dirt tracks to the ones on display in their breeding centers and stables.

1. Akhal Teke Horse

A moderately sized horse, the Akhal Teke originates from a small region of what is now Turkmenistan. They are considered the fastest racing horse breeds in the world and are known for their endurance. 

Akhal Tekes tend to be very gentle and calm with an excellent temperament, making them popular among children.

They also have a brown or black coat with a star-shaped patch on their chest and four white socks.

2. Andalusian Horse

The Andalusian is a beautiful white horse with a long mane that reaches down to the animal’s chest.

The Andalusian is a large horse and can weigh up to 1,000 pounds. These racing horse breeds are highly sought-after because of their beauty, strength, and speed. 

They excel in any race and can run up to 40 miles per hour. The Andalusian has been bred since at least the 1700s by Spanish nobility as an elegant mount for men who were cavalry members. These racing horse breeds were named for their homeland, Andalusia, in southern Spain.

3. Appaloosa Horse

The Appaloosa Horse is among the most popular racing horse breeds, with good reason. These racing horse breeds are known for their flashy spotted coat patterns and gentle, intelligent temperaments.

The breed originated in the US in the 1800s when a stallion named Leopard was bred to a mare called Dapple Dandy, who had spots like an Appaloosa.

Leopard’s offspring had a similar appearance and were dubbed Leopard Appaloosas. The name was later shortened to just Appaloosa.

4. Arabian Horse

Arabian horses are known for their intelligence, endurance, and beauty. These racing horse breeds are often used as show horses in competitions and come in various colors, including black, chestnut brown, gray, and bay.

However, there is some disagreement about the origin of the Arabian horse breed–some experts believe it originated in Arabia, while others say it came from the Turkish steppes.

Arabians were bred specifically to be versatile horses that can perform well under various conditions regardless of their origins.

However, Arabian Horses are not recommended for beginners because they need special care to keep them healthy.

5. Black Forest Horse

Black Forest Horses are known for their endurance and speed and are among the most common racing horse breeds.

They have a black mane and tail, with white hair at the top of their head. They stand 14-16 hands high and weigh around 900 pounds. 

The Black Forest Horse is mainly used in long and steeplechase races. The breed originated in the Black Forest region of Germany and was developed by crossing English Thoroughbreds with German breeds like Arabians.

They are said to be some of the best horses in Europe for racing, which is why you see them often competing on the continent.

6. French Trotter

The French Trotter, or French Trot, is a horse developed in France during the late 1800s. It is sometimes said to be a cross between the Camargue Horse and Standardbred.

The French Trotter has been used as a cavalry mount, a workhorse, and, more recently, as a racing horse

It is one of the few breeds never to have been crossed with Thoroughbreds because it was bred specifically for trotting races.

The French Trotter’s body type makes them particularly adapted to trotting; they are usually chestnut with white markings on their face, hooves, and lower legs.

These racing horse breeds stand anywhere from 14-15 hands high and weigh around 850-950 pounds.

7. Friesian Horse

Friesian horses are known for their distinctive black and white coats and high-stepping, prancing gait. Often called the horse of kings, the Friesian was bred in the Netherlands during medieval times to be a war horse.

As a result, they were prized by many royals, including Napoleon Bonaparte. These racing horse breeds are prized more for dressage competitions than war.

The Friesian is an elegant breed with a long stride and a high-head carriage. In addition, they have large amounts of muscle mass that help them move with great speed. 

Their temperaments can range from being calm and docile to extremely aggressive. A true Friesian will always have a large amount of white on its face, legs, ears, and tail. The amount of white varies depending on the bloodline of each horse.

8. Hackney

Hackney horses are often used in mounted police work, driving gigs, and other uses requiring a smaller horse with plenty of endurance.

These racing horse breeds are also very versatile in sports they excel at, such as show jumping and dressage.

Hackneys are an English breed originally developed from horses imported from Sweden in the 17th century.

They were primarily bred for use as carriage horses and became popular among the upper classes because of their good temperaments and high intelligence. 

The National Hackney Horse Society was founded in 1883, and today there is still a Hackney Horse Society in England where new bloodlines are registered annually.

These days Hackneys can be found across Europe, but they remain most popular in England, where they have been bred since the 17th century.

9. Haflinger

The Haflinger is a horse breed from Tyrol, Austria. These racing horse breeds are known for their distinctive brown and white coloring and high knee action.

The Haflinger was originally bred as a carriage horse, but they are also excellent riding horses. These racing horse breeds are hardy and surefooted.

It is the national horse of Austria. Its name means Highlander in German. A Haflinger can be found at nearly every dressage competition worldwide. 

10. Hanoverians

Hanoverians are a type of horse known for their hardiness and endurance. They typically have a large, strong body with good bones and power.

Hanoverians are often used as dressage horses or in sport horse competitions because of their ability to hold a high level of self-carriage without being stiff. 

The Hanoverian is an intelligent breed with a calm disposition that is easy to train. So it’s not surprising that the breed has been used in the United States since 1978.

It is popular because it can be found at many different levels of competition and excels at all types of jumping events. 

The Hanoverian tends to be slow and careful when performing tasks due to its size. However, this does not affect its ability to maintain high stamina when performing multiple jumps or long periods.

These racing horse breeds are also relatively easy on their rider, meaning riders will stay more comfortable than other breeds with harsher gaits and bigger bodies.

11. American Miniature Horse

The American Miniature Horse is one of the oldest breeds of horse in the world and was originally bred to be a pony-size horse. Today, they are used as therapy animals, children’s mounts, and many other roles. 

They stand between 10-11 hands high at the shoulder (approximately 3.2-3.8 feet tall) and weigh anywhere from 700-900 pounds. These racing horse breeds have lived up to 30 years with good care and nutrition. 

12. Morgan

The Morgan is among the most popular racing horse breeds in the United States.

Their versatility, intelligence, and calm temperament make them a favorite. In addition, the Morgan can be used in various disciplines, making it an all-around breed. 

They are known for their ability to race at high speeds and can also be trained to jump or walk on a treadmill. Morgans are also known for their sturdy build, which makes them ideal for endurance riding events.

However, it’s important to note that Morgans tend to stand 15.2 hands tall, so if you’re looking for something taller, you might want to consider another breed. 

These racing horse breeds typically have a life span of 25-30 years. The downside of this particular breed is that they are difficult keepers and have been known to get fat quickly when not ridden regularly.

However, they’re not too expensive in terms of upkeep either, as they don’t require as much feed as other racing horse breeds.

13. Paint Horse

The Paint Horse is one of North America’s most popular horse breeds. The descendants of this breed are still used today as working ranch horses, and they have also become widely popular as riding horses. Their coloration, solid-colored or spotted coats, has led to them being known as paint horses. 

The Paint Horse is a beautiful horse with a smooth trot that can cover ground quickly over long distances. However, they require an experienced rider who will train them properly for their best performance.

These racing horse breeds need a lot of attention and care, so if you want a horse that needs your time, this might be the perfect breed.

14. Paso Fino

The Paso Fino is a popular breed among hobby horse owners and racers. These racing horse breeds have a naturally smooth gait, making them perfect for the rider looking to take their riding skills to the next level.

In addition, the Paso Fino has a high resistance to disease, which means they’re less likely to break down during training. 

This breed also has an amazing ability to recover from injury due to its low-maintenance coat and easy temperament. These qualities make the Paso Fino an excellent choice as your next racehorse!

15. Quarter Horse

The Quarter Horse is popular among jockeys and trainers because of its speed, agility, and intelligence. It was originally bred to run short distances in short periods on rough terrain.

However, these racing horse breeds are also known for their versatility; they can be used to race and show jump, go trail riding or even play polo. 

There are about 1.2 million registered Quarter Horses in the United States alone. They make great horses for novice riders, children, and anyone who wants an easy-going horse with an easy learning curve.

In addition, they’re generally considered one of the best breeds for general pleasure riding, trail riding, showing in Western Pleasure classes, and many other disciplines. 

A more affordable alternative to some other high-priced breeds, Quarter Horses can still cost anywhere from $500-$3,000, depending on what you want them trained for and whether they’re already broken.

16. Shetland Pony

Shetland Ponies, about 12.2 hands tall, are a sturdy breed with a long head and small ears. They’re also known for their jump ability, making them popular at various equestrian events.

The Shetland Pony’s origins are unclear, but they’re believed to have descended from ponies brought over by Vikings in the 9th century AD.

The breed was originally used as a child’s mount because of their smaller size and ability to survive on poorer quality food than larger horses

In recent years, however, many people have begun riding them competitively. There is no standard height for these animals, but the general rule is that all ponies must measure under 14 hands (58 inches).

17. Standardbred

The Standardbred is an American breed of horse noted for its great stamina and speed, which makes it well-suited as a harness racing horse.

The Standardbred’s origins are unknown, but in the late 1800s, breeders wanted to develop a trotting racehorse by crossing Thoroughbreds with New England pacing horses. The breed was first recognized as the Standardbred in 1878. 

Today, they are one of the most popular breeds in North America and can be found in many other parts of the world.

Standardbreds are strong and have good endurance, making them perfect candidates for harness racing or any other equine competition requiring stamina and speed, such as steeplechases, foxhunts, and polo matches.

18. Tennessee Walker

The Tennessee Walker is a breed of horse with a natural gait, developed in the Appalachian region of the United States.

They were popularized as saddle horses in the early 1800s and later used as cross-country riding horses. It is often described as having a smooth ride.

Tennessee Walkers are typically black, brown, or bay but can be any color except roan or chestnut.

These racing horse breeds usually stand 14-15 hands high at the shoulder, averaging 1500 pounds. They have short backs with well-muscled hindquarters that provide power and balance to their gait. 

Their head may have some Arabian influence, contributing to their distinctive eye shape and intelligence. So if you’re looking for an elegant yet tough horse that will always give you it is all, this is your best bet!

19. Thoroughbred

Thoroughbreds are known for their intelligence, athleticism, and speed. These racing horse breeds are known as the workhorses of the horse industry because they can excel in any discipline. Thoroughbreds make excellent show horses as well as competitive racehorses. 

They are typically seen in three basic types: English Thoroughbred, Arabian Thoroughbred, and American Thoroughbred.

The three types differ based on their physical makeup, with the English type being the tallest and fastest, while the American type is more athletic with less body fat. 

Arabians are shorter and stockier but have a reputation for being very good at jumping. The Kentucky Derby, one of the most prestigious races in America, has been dominated by English Thoroughbreds since its inception.

20. Warmblood

Warmbloods are a versatile breed of horse. They excel in dressage, show jumping, eventing, and racing.

The term warmblood refers to the fact that these racing horse breeds have more blood than cold-blooded horses. 

Warmbloods have shorter coats than thoroughbreds, making them better for warmer climates.

In addition, they are often used as carriage horses because they are easy to maintain and are well-suited for pulling heavy loads. Warmbloods also tend to be less expensive when bought from a breeder. 

This is your best bet if you’re looking for an affordable racehorse with great versatility! It’s possible to find warmbloods under $1,000 and make excellent first-time or school horses due to their ease of care.

On the downside, this may not be the best option if you live in an area where temperatures drop below freezing during winter.


The thoroughbred is the most popular racehorse breed in the world, with about 20,000 horses registered yearly.

These racing horse breeds are known for their speed and agility, which has led to them being successful competitors on the racetrack. 

The American Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred are two of the fastest breeds of horses in the world.

If you want a horse that will be successful in races but also have enough endurance to carry you on trails or long rides, then you should consider one of these breeds.

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