What Is A Grade Horse? 10 Things You Must Know About Grade Horses

There’s a reason the majority of equine life consists of grade horses. Many people don’t know the specific breed they have. Others haven’t gone for any registration and therefore their horses are considered grade horses. But are great horses any good?

What is a grade horse? A grade horse is a horse whose bloodline, parentage, registration, or pedigree is unknown or unclear. Grade does not imply breed; it describes the horse more than it describes its breed. 

Oftentimes, grade horses are crossbred to a point where it becomes impossible to determine what breed a horse belongs to.

Additionally, grade horses differ from horses crossbred in a bid to come up with a new, stronger breed of horses. Unintentional and accidental breeding results in grade horses.

You can equate calling a dog ‘mutt’ to calling a horse ‘grade.’

Grade horse Vs. Purebred: Which Is Better?

A purebred horse has a well-known parentage and pedigree. It is the opposite of a grade horse. Purebred horses grow to meet set standards and to excel at particular disciplines.

Which is better? Grade horse or purebred horse?

The answer to this inquiry depends on your preference and what you need the horse to do for you.

Some people prefer purebred horses, while others prefer grade horses.

If you are hunting for a horse for general riding and trail riding activities, an ideal pick would be a grade horse since they are cheaper than purebred horses. However, the choice is entirely yours since you can use for both general and trail riding.

A purebred horse will be ideal if you have an upcoming high-level competition since such competitions require riders to ride only registered, purebred horses.

As long as your needs and requirements are met, there is no better horse, purebred, or grade.

Advantages of the Purebred over the Grade horse

Advantages of the Purebred over the Grade horse

Purebred horses are so famous among many people and in the media. And for this reason, many people prefer purebred horses to grade horses.

Moreover, the advantages that purebred horses have over grade horses can be reason enough for preference by some individuals.

  • First and foremost, purebred horses have predictable physical traits. Predictable traits are unlike those of grade horses.

With a purebred horse, you can predict its adult size and shape when it’s still a foal. For instance, if you purchase a young Quarter horse, you can expect that it’ll grow to a height of between 14 to 16 hands.

With this physical trait predictability, you will also be able to train it accordingly for its intended purpose while it’s still young.

  • Moreover, for purebred horses, you can predict their behavior and temperament.

Each horse breed has particular behavioral manners and specific levels of temper. Thoroughbred horses, for instance, are highly temperamental and are not suitable for beginners since they become easily aggravated with unsure riders.

Since grade horses have unknown parentage and lineage, it is hard to determine their mannerisms and temperament levels.

  • Another advantage that purebred horses have over grade horses is that they are allowed for use in a wide range of competitions. A majority of high-level shows and competitions require their riders to use only purebred horses.  
  • Owning a purebred horse with registration papers is the ability to trace its ancestors. It’s entertaining to see pictures of your horse’s parents and read about their lifetime achievements!

That is something you will not achieve with a grade horse because they lack registration and ancestry information. It’s a fun thing to do, but it shouldn’t influence your decision to buy a horse.

  • Also, with purebred horses, you can predict their health pattern as they age and how to care for them properly and accordingly. The ability to predict the health of your horse is of utter importance.

This is not the case for grade horses since their pedigree is unknown.

Size of Grade Horses

Since the parentage and lineage of grade horses are unknown, then there is no particular standard size to which grade horses can grow to.

Therefore, grade horses can grow to any size and shape and with any color. Some grade horses are small and narrow in build, while others are sturdy and resemble draft horses.

However, if you have some little information on what parentages your grade horse may have originated from, you may use it to predict the sizes your horse may assume.

Otherwise, grade horses may take on different sizes and shapes.

How a Grade Horse looks like

How a Grade Horse looks like

A grade horse can assume any size, shape, and color primarily because they have unknown pedigrees and parentages.

Down below is a list of colors and patterns that grade horses can possess.

Coat colors

  • Black.
  • Chestnut ( flaxen, light, sorrel, and liver chestnut)
  • Bay ( dark, light, blood, and bay black)
  • Palomino.
  • Buckskin.
  • Albino/white
  • Roan ( blue roan, red roan, bay roan, palomino roan, and buckskin roan)
  • Gray ( white, dappled, and flea-bitten)
  • Dun ( light, dark and gray dun)
  • Perlino.
  • Grullo
  • Smokey creme.
  • Smokey black.
  • Cremello

Coat patterns

  • Snowflake.
  • Leopard.
  • Frost.
  • Blanket.
  • Spotted.
  • Blanket with spots,
  • Roan blanket.
  • Roan blanket with spots.
  • Overo ( piebald and skewbald)
  • Tovero ( piebald and skewbald)
  • Tobiano ( piebald and skewbald)

Leg and Face Marks

  • Star.
  • Blaze.
  • Stripe.
  • Interrupted stripe.
  • Whiteface.
  • Socks—coronets, pasterns, half-pasterns, cannons, half-cannons, and fetlock markings.
  • Stockings—any knee and over-the-knee markings.

Uses of a Grade Horse

Uses of a Grade Horse

Unlike purebred horses, which grow to excel at specific disciplines, you can put grade horses to use for any task. However, this trait is dependent on factors like size, temperament, behavior, ability, and type of horse.

Some uses of a grade horse include:

General Riding and Trail Riding

Since grade horses are not allowed in many competitions, they majorly serve general riding and trail riding. For general riding, you can ride them both in English style and Western-style.

Most individuals will own, train, breed, and use grade horses for trail riding.

Additionally, you can put grade horses to use for riding lessons if they are mellow enough(low temperament levels).

Barrel Racing

Barrel racing is a women’s event, where a horse-mounted rider makes a couple of sharp turns in a set pattern around three barrels.

Thus, you can use grade horses for barrel racing as well as other rodeo events since they do not necessitate the use of only registered or purebred horses.


Jumping is also another use that you can put grade horses to, and they will excel. Especially for larger grade horses that look like warm-blooded breeds.

Jumping is a trait that comes naturally to most horses, purebred and grade. Therefore, if a grade horse depicts talent in jumping, it’ll be nurtured towards it and can be used for jumping afterward.

Snowman, the famous show jumping horse and previous world jumping record owner, was a grade horse. This intriguing fact goes ahead to tell you how much capability grade horses have when it comes to jumping.

Endurance riding

Endurance riding involves long-distance rides on rugged terrains. Grade horses whose origins trace back to mustang, thoroughbred and Arabian horses can make good endurance horses.

Such purebred horses have great stamina, strength, and speed traits that can pass on to grade horses after multiple crossbreeding.

Advantages of Grade horses

  • They, in most instances, have fewer genetic health issues because they have mixed genes. For this reason, they are naturally long-lived and sturdier compared to purebred horses.
  • Grade horses can grow to be essentially all-rounded. You can use them for trail riding, general riding, endurance riding, jumping, barrel racing, as well as horse ride training.
  • Grade horses are generally affordable. However, the affordability of a grade horse is dependent on factors like size, age, level of training, physical limitations, and level of training.

Disadvantages of Grade horses

  • You may have trouble determining the age of a grade horse without registration papers. Hence, you may end up buying an older horse that will not serve you for long.
  • The fact that a grade horse is a result of mixed genes is disadvantageous as well because it may contain unknown, defective, and limiting genes from one of its parentages.
  • Grade horses can never go back to being 100 percent purebred. The closest they can get to being purebred is 99percent.


Do grade horses belong to the same breed?

No. Grade is primarily used to describe a horse that is of unknown pedigree, lineage, parentage, or registration rather than breed.

Moreover, specific purebred horses will possess certain bloodlines, characteristics, appearances, and traits. Grade horses, however, can assume any characteristic, feature, or appearance from any of its mixed breeds.

What is the price of a grade horse?

Grade horses are reasonably affordable and can cost you anything between $2,000 and $7,000 more or less.

However, pricing will depend on factors like the horse’s age, size, physical limitations, conformation, and level of training.

Grade horses, who are young, big in size, have high training levels, have no physical limitations, and have excellent conformations are more pricey.

Are grade horses bad?


Most people have the notion that grade horses are of poor quality or of little worth. This notion is, in fact, not true.

Factually, some of the most brilliant performers and companions are grade horses.

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