Know Your Horses: Learning About the Champs on the Tracks
  • # Keiba blog
Do you love horse races? Find out more about racehorses and other breeds popular across the world!

Before cars and other vehicles were invented, horses were the ones who kept our ancestors company in the past. For about 5,000 years of our history, they have been included in our greatest moments, even in wartime. They were not only used for travelling and fighting but also for aesthetic purposes. 

In different myths such as Asian, Greek and Roman, horses were treated as holy beings or gods. They have been regarded as beautiful and graceful creatures as they ran for miles across various terrains. The animals were even seen as symbols of power and wealth as horses were taken as war prizes in the past. 

When wild horses were domesticated, this created a lot of changes to the species of horses and our society. Different species were trained and bred to do certain activities or sports. This led to the horses that we have today.

Let us look at the horse racing pedigree of the champs we have learned to love.




There are different kinds of racehorses which compete in various race events every year. As mentioned before, most breeds are grown and trained for a special reason or certain races. In this guide, you’ll get to understand and know which kinds of horses play in your favourite races. 

There are also other kinds of horses which are not commonly used for races. They will also be discussed below.



The Dubai World Cup, the 2,000 Guineas Stakes and the Kentucky Derby are only three of the big races for thoroughbred horses. They are also used in the following events:

  1. Show Jumping
  2. Dressage
  3. Show Hunting
  4. Eventing
  5. Rodeo
  6. Polo

Thoroughbred horses measure about 157 to 173 cm tall. They have a long neck, lean body and toned legs. Another thing that makes them perfect for racing is being warm-blooded— horses with a feisty character or spirit. 

To create unity and fairness in games, horses are divided based on their ages. A horse is given a birthday wherein horses from two hemispheres age differently. In the north, horses are a year older on the first of January while southern horses age during August 1st.

They were reproduced in the 1600s to 1700s when mares were bred with stallions. The females came from their country while the males were imported from foreign lands. There were three main stallions used for breeding in the past: Godolphin Barb, Darley Arabian and the Byerley Turk. 

Now, this breed has become an entirely new species from their main ancestors. As they are raised for racing, conditions and genes are still considered when breeding these species. For example, horses with great track records are often used for breeding after they are retired from races. 

These horses are very colourful with colours ranging from chestnut, grey and to palomino. 


Purebred Horse

Although it is easy to say that thoroughbreds are the same as purebred horses, that is definitely not often the case. The species is only an example of purebred horses. Purebred is a category for those that have been bred from two horses of the same species. 


Autre Que Pur-Sang

Although not a thoroughbred, you may see the Autre Que Pur Sang (AQPS) in some races. Bred from thoroughbreds with saddle horses and other local breeds, these are the main horses that are used in jump races in France. 


Celebrity Horses

As they are often used in the biggest races of the land, some have found fame over other horses. Check out the following names and find out what they are to the racing community!

  1. Seabiscuit
  2. Secretariat
  3. American Pharoah
  4. Nijinsky
  5. Phar Lap
  6. Man o’ War
  7. Red Rum
  8. Makybe Diva



One of the oldest breeds of horses through time. The Arabian horses may be one of the main ancestors of most species alive today. Faithful to their name, they originate from the Arabian Peninsula and were transported as draught horses during times of war. 

Their long lives and use is based on their characteristics. Used in harsh climates and settings, they were trained for long-distance trekking and carrying heavy loads. This can still be seen in the horses’ notable stamina for races. 

When the horses were bred for racing, Arabian ones were also picked as a vital species for reproduction. As explained earlier, they are also one of the three main types of horses that bred thoroughbreds.

Arabian horses are easily identified because of their features. They have wedge-like heads and wide foreheads compared to other horses. Their eyes and nostrils are wide although their muzzle is comparatively small. They also have an arched neck, a long coup and a high tail carriage. 

Because of their stamina and fitness for long-distance travels, they are mostly used in endurance races and sports. They are also seen as icons of wealth and power and are displayed in shows. 

  1. Arabian Racing
  2. Halter
  3. Dressage
  4. Showmanship
  5. Competitive Trail
  6. Ride & Tie
  7. Mounted Orienteering



Developed in North America in the 1700s, they were initially bred for harness races. This is as the species is characterized by big and strong shoulders and hindquarters. 

The use of a number of other breeds such as Norfolk Trotters, Canadian Pacers, Thoroughbreds, Morgans and Hackneys in their reproduction sets the group aside from thoroughbred and purebred horses. 

Although they were initially bred for a muscular and larger physique, standardbred horses also have long bodies. There are two kinds of this breed as used in horse racing: the pacer and trotter. They are also used in harness racing and other equestrian sports. 

  1. Cattle Work
  2. Hunt Seat Riding
  3. Show Jumping
  4. Reining
  5. Horse Shows
  6. Pleasure Riding
  7. Trail Riding
  8. Horse-Drawn Carriages


American Quarter Horses

Used in many sports and events, the species is most popular in the United States (hence, the name). Although other countries use other breeds of horses in racing, America has this uniquely popular horse. In fact, the American Quarter Horse Association alone has five million registered horses in the region! 

The horse is mostly popular in competitive quarter horse racing where they race to a distance of ¾ of a mile. Aside from maintained stamina, the species is fitted to the race because of its agility and speed in short distances. 

Compared to other horses, the American Quarter Horses have shorter heads. They are very muscular with round and strong hinds. They can be 140 to 160 cm long. They also come in a variety of colours, unlike other horses. 

  1. Racehorse
  2. Show Horse
  3. Rodeo Horse
  4. Ranch or Draught Horse


Hot, Warm and Cold-blooded Horses


All mammals like horses are warm-blooded creatures scientifically. That is why you may be confused about these terms. However, we have special terms to denote the temperament, origin and other factors in the horses. 


Hot-blooded Horses

These horses came from the Orient and are closely related to the first kinds of horses tamed and raised by humans. Examples of these are the Akhal-Teke, Arabian horse, Barb, and Thoroughbred horses. 

Horses that are considered to be ‘hot’ are often with high spirits and confidence. As they respond well to training and challenges, they are the ones used in speed races and sports. 


Cold-blooded Horses

Contrary to being cold in nature, these horses are actually ones which are very gentle and docile. Because of their nature, they are often used to help farmers in the field, transport goods and other kinds of manual labour. In the present, cold-blooded horses are now also paraded in horse shows. 

These types of horses are also very strong since they are initially bred to carry through hard tasks. Although they can have shorter hinds, these horses are very muscular and big. Hence, a common nickname for them is gentle giants. 

The class includes breeds such as Clydesdales, Percherons, and Shires.


Warm-blooded Horses

As the product of cross-breeding ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ horses, they have qualities from both categories. They were initially created from draught horses bred with Arabians or Thoroughbreds. Through this, they created athletic yet calm horses. The horses are mainly used in shows and performances because of their temperament.


Other Types of Horses


There are more than 300 types of horses in our world today. Here are a few types and species of horses that are famous for their unique characteristics. Horses mentioned below are not limited to horse racing, although they are used in special races in some places. 



Hailed as the official horse breed of Vermont, the Morgan is a beautiful and toned horse. The breed came from a single sire named Figure, a bay stallion. 

With strong hindquarters and gait, the species was previously used for clearing and taking care of farmlands. Morgan horses have also been used for pulling coaches, harness racing and in the cavalry of the American Civil War. 

Today, they are used as driving and riding horses. The horse rides quite smoothly despite rocky or difficult terrain and is graceful enough for shows. 



Another beautiful horse, the Appaloosa species is iconic for its spots and specks of natural colours. They have certain patterns such as spots, snowcap, leopard, and mottled. Their hues are due to them being bred for hunting and battles. They are said to have come from wild horses bred with some of the major horses used for racing such as Thoroughbreds, Arabians and Standardbreds. 

Presently, the animal is used for herding, pleasure riding, long-distance trail riding, and more. If you are a fan of English and Western races such as barrel racing and pole bending, you can see some events catered only for the breed. 



Even when not used in official horse races, ponies are a popular breed. Although there are some exceptions, the term commonly refers to adult horses that reach only up to 142 cm or less. 

Because of their height, they are often used as horses for young children. 


Gaited Breeds

These are horses that are primarily bred for slow and comfortable rides. Despite the expected comfort, they are trained to go to at least an intermediate speed. Walking and mountain horses are examples of this. 

This breed is often chosen by older people or anyone else looking for a smooth and gaited ride. 


Tennessee Walker

This walking horse is well known for its four-beat and beautiful walk. They were originally used as draught horses before being recognised for their smooth gait and graceful footing. 

Aside from being used in pleasure activities and trail riding, the horse is popular on shows and performances. There are also two kinds of horses depending on their leg movement: the flat-shod and performance. 

The first one walks with regular and flat horseshoes while the other one walks with a certain movement known as the Big Lick. 


Grade Horses

These are horses that come from no certain breed. They do not belong to distinguished pedigrees because of this fact. However, they can be as fine, fast and loyal as other horses too. Another good thing in grade horses is how they do not have diseases that are left when breeding horses as purebreds. 


Draught Breeds

Draught breeds are cold-blooded horses. This refers to their temperament as very gentle yet large studs. They are not easily scared and are fitted for the harsh cold climate. Like racehorses, draught breeds have different species

Because of this, they are bred to be toned and muscled. However, they are not often used for racing. Most of the time, they are used as partners in farms and transportation. 



This breed comes from the old province of Perche, France which is now divided to Orne, Eure-et-Loir, Sarthe, and Loir-et-Cher. They were initially used in the wars and then for agriculture. They are known for their intelligence and capability when working. 



Also known as the White Marble Horse, this draught horse is known for its grey colour. The Boulonnais used to have a variety of colours before they were bred into the modern type. There are still some chestnut and black kinds of this breed. 

They are used for heavy work in farms, markets and cities. Horses of this breed can also be grown for their meat.