Are There Different Types Of Horses?

Here's what makes each kind of horse unique.

herd of horses running

You’ve probably seen horses of all different colors and patterns, but did you know there are actually a few different categories of horses based on their body types, plus a couple hundred unique horse breeds?

Keep reading to find out more about the types of horses in the world and what makes them unique.

Types of horses

There are over 200 breeds of horses with three different body-type categories: ponies, light breeds and heavy breeds.


three ponies
Eleanor Scriven/

Ponies are smaller than full-sized horses in terms of height and are stockier. Because of ponies’ sturdy builds, they often perform farm work. Their patient demeanor also makes them good for teaching beginners (like kids) how to ride.

Light breeds

spotted horse
Marie Charouzova/

Light breed horses have long, thin legs and are great for riding, jumping and herding. Some light breeds include the Appaloosa, the Arabian and the Thoroughbred.

Heavy breeds

clydesdale horse

Heavy breed horses are called draft horses. Their huge size and muscular bodies make them good at pulling and carrying objects. The Clydesdale is probably the most well-known breed of this type.

Pony vs. horse

James Hime/

Horses are often called ponies, but a pony is actually a separate, smaller type of horse. Horses and ponies are both part of the same species, Equus caballus, and they’re pretty similar.

The main difference between horses and ponies is their height. Horses are at least 14.2 hands tall (one hand equals 4 inches) at the shoulders (aka withers), and ponies are shorter than 14.2 hands.

But this isn’t really a hard and fast rule, since horses of certain breeds, like the Icelandic horse and the Fjord horse, can actually be slightly smaller than 14.2 hands while still being called a horse. One main reason for this is their body structure. Aside from being shorter, ponies are stocky with short, thick legs. Horses, on the other hand, have long, lean legs and necks.

Miniature horse vs. pony

grey mini horse
Vera Zinkova/

You might think that a miniature horse is really just a pony — but it’s actually more complicated than that.

According to the American Miniature Horse Association, horses can only be 34 inches tall at the withers to be considered miniature. So mini horses are often smaller than ponies, since ponies can be up to 14.1 hands tall.

While ponies are typically short and stocky, miniature horses have similar proportions to full-sized horses — only shrunken down. Ponies also have thick manes and tails, while mini horses have smooth hair like regular horses.

Miniature horses aren’t typically used for riding or work (unlike ponies), since they can easily be injured due to their small size. Many mini horses are good pets or therapy animals.

It can be kind of hard to tell the different types of horses apart, but one thing is for sure — they’re all pretty amazing.