The activities you plan to enjoy with your horse will, to a large degree, influence or even determine the breed of horse you end up buying. To spare yourself a few minor hassles–or even a major heartache–ask to see the horse’s certificate of registration early on, and make sure the owner’s name on the document matches the name of the person you’re dealing with, either directly or indirectly, through a trainer or a sales agent.

If competing in breed-specific shows isn’t your goal, you can be far more flexible in your search for a suitable teammate. While certain breeds are better suited to certain jobs, horses of many breeds are remarkably versatile and can perform well in a variety of different equestrian disciplines, including dressage, Western pleasure, English, hunt seat, and trail riding.

With that said, you’ll probably be happiest and most successful if you select a breed that has a proven track record in your chosen discipline. If you plan to ride Western, your best bet is to choose a mount of stock horse descent, such as a Quarter Horse, American Paint Horse, Palomino, or Appaloosa. If you’re interested in competing in dressage, you’ll probably be better satisfied with a horse of warmblood origin, such as a Hanoverian or an Oldenburg. If owning a horse with a smooth ride is your primary goal, you may lean toward a Paso Fino, a Tennessee Walking Horse, or a Missouri Fox Trotter. While American Saddlebreds and Morgans are known for their versatility, they’re often used exclusively as show horses. Arabians are not only excellent show horses but also competent trail horses and very competitive endurance mounts.