9 Endurance Horse Breeds

Some horses are built for heavy draft work. Others crave the short-distance races that can be found at tracks around the world. Then there are the endurance horse breeds, which crave long-distance competition in open environments with high levels of individuality.

Endurance horse breeds must have an emphasis on strength and stamina in order for the horse to be successful. These are the most common horse breeds that are used for endurance events around the world right now.

#1. Akhal-Teke

This horse breed comes out of Turkmenistan, where they are a national treasure. The horses are specifically known for their endurance and speed. Their coats also have a unique sheen to them, which appears almost metallic at a distance. Bred in desert environments, there are an estimated 7,000 horses globally n this endurance breed.

The history of the Akhal-Teke horse comes from the local tribes that have called Turkmenistan their home for thousands of years. The tribes would selectively breed their horses, maintaining an oral studbook of sorts, and only selecting the best for breeding, raiding, and general defense. Many of today’s Russian horse breeds have been influenced by this breed.

#2. Anglo-Arabian

This horse breed is the combination of a Thoroughbred and an Arabian. Its popularity has grown to the point where it has gained its own status as an independent breed. Horses that are Anglo-Arabian must be a minimum of 12.5% Arabian in order to qualify for breed recognition. Many of today’s best endurance horses from this breed are coming out of France today.

Because there are cross-genetics involved with this breed, there are noticeable differences in size and appearance. Most Anglo-Arabians tend to be between 15.2-16.3 hands, which is a little taller than a purebred Arabian, and their coat color tends to be either gray, bay, or chestnut. Their strength and intelligence allows them to be highly competitive and versatile, giving them a sturdiness that can only come from a combination of both horse breeds.


#3. Arabian

Arabian horses have a very distinctive appearance, with a high tail carriage and distinctive head shape. Their lineage is believed to date back for more than 4,000 years, with horses spreading around the world through trade, war, and exploration. Arabian bloodlines can be found in virtually every modern horse breed.

Because Arabians were developed in desert environments, their endurance and stamina is virtually unsurpassed in the world today. They are also sensitive, but willing, so a skilled rider can maximize the competitiveness of this breed. Despite the emphasis on endurance sports, Arabian horses are also popular for recreational riding and other event options, making it one of the 10 most common horse breeds that can be found in the world today. 

This breed is relatively small compared to other breeds, with most weighing less than 1,000 pounds. Height is usually 15.1 hands or below. Although dominate white, rabicano, or sabino patterns are possible, most Arabians tend to be chestnut, black, bay, or gray.


#4. Boerperd

This endurance horse breed comes out of South Africa. Although it resembles the ancient Boer horse that was found traditionally in the region around the Cape of Africa, the older horse breed is considered to be extinct. This is because many of the horses in the region were killed during the Boer Wars that happened from 1880-1902. The Boerperd has been recognized as an individual breed since 1996, with breeder associations active since 1948.

Unlike some of the other endurance breeds, a Boerperd is relatively calm and laidback with its temperament, almost to the point of a coldblooded horse. They have 5 different gaits that are used without any interference. To qualify for breed recognition, a horse must be considered as suitable for all riders.

It is a horse that is trustworthy and affectionate, which means the endurance features can also be harnessed for driving and herding work, as well as miscellaneous farm work on the rugged terrain that South Africa tends to offer. 

#5. Criollo

This endurance horse is native to Uruguay, Brazil, and that region of South America. It is often considered to be the second-best endurance breed in the world today, just behind the Arabian. What makes this horse such a great endurance breed is the fact that it has a low basal metabolism. This allows the horse to be involved in competitive events which last more than a week in duration without the need to have supplemental feed. 

The breed itself has its foundations in the Colonial Era of the 16th century. In 1535, 100 purebred Andalusian stallions were shipped from Spain to South America. Due to the conflicts that occurred between the Spaniards and the native population, many of the horses were abandoned or released on purpose. At one point, more than 10,000 feral horses were believed to be roaming the region.

Many of these feral horses were crossed with Thoroughbreds in the 19th century, which helped to create the modern Criollo breed that is recognized today. Since the 1930s, an emphasis on creating a compact stock horse that was shorter and stronger has been in place. This has helped to increase the natural endurance of the breed as a whole. 

#6. Marwari

The Marwari horse is a fairly rare breed that originates in the Jodhpur region of India. Its appearance is quite unique, as it is one of the few breeds that has inward-turning ear tips. It is quite hardy, with a natural ambling gait. As for the endurance of this breed, it is believed to originate from the Arabian foundation horses that were crossed with native ponies.

As a formal breed, the Marwari is one of the oldest recognized breeds in the world today. Strict breeding standards have been in place for it since at least the 12th century, thanks to the efforts of the Rathores who ruled this region of Indian. Normally used as a war horse, the breed began to deteriorate in the 1930s when a lack of need, combined with poor management, almost wiped it out completely.

Since 1995, a breed society has been in place to help the breed recover. Exports have long been restricted, but from 2000-2006, limited exportation was allowed to help support the breed. Limited travel passports have been available for this breed since 2008. It comes in all common coat colors, as well as pinto.

#7. Missouri Fox Trotter

This endurance horse was developed exclusively in the United States in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri. It was prized for its stock horse qualities, especially for the unique gait that is part of its name. About 100,000 horses of this breed are in the world today, but virtually all of them are in the US. Only 600 Fox Trotters are believed to be living in Europe right now. 

Like many modern endurance horses, the Arabian influence in its initial foundation helps to give it the upper stamina levels that are needed for such a breed. Since 1982, the studbook has been closed.

Although they are a strong endurance horse, most Missouri Fox Trotters are used for their trail-riding abilities. Their gait creates a smooth ride and allows them to carry an above average amount of weight for their size.


#8. Rocky Mountain Horse

Developed in Kentucky, this breed actually originated in the Appalachian Mountains instead of the Rockies. It is a fairly recent breed, with a foundation stallion moving from the West to Kentucky to establish the breed in 1890. In 1950, another foundation stallion named Old Tobe was used to develop the modern Rocky Mountain Horse. About 12,000 horses have been registered since then.

Any solid color is accepted in the Rocky Mountain Horse registry, but chocolate horses with a flaxen mane are the preferred coat. Because of the silver dapple gene being prominent in this breed, the unique coat color makes it a highly favorable horse for many purposes, including endurance riding. 

It is a good-natured horse that is friendly and willing, with numerous gaits that allow for a smooth ride. Most horses in this breed are used for working cattle or trail riding, but there is an added emphasis on endurance events thanks to the stamina this breed tends to have. 

#9. Spanish Mustang

Developed from the Spanish horses that were brought to America during the Colonial Era, this Mustang breed is often thought to be a descendant of the now rare Colonial Spanish horse. These horses are typically feral, living freely in the western United States. The US government will round up herds and sell them to those who can prove they can work with the horse to reduce their destructive tendencies.

With more than 400 years of living in the wild in the genetics of this horse, its stamina is competitive with any other horse on this list. Although it isn’t always an officially recognized breed, its performance capabilities cannot be underestimated.

Endurance horse breeds have helped human civilizations grow and thrive instead of just trying to survive. Through endurance events, these horses can continue to enjoy what they do best.