What Is A Grade Horse? (Everything You Need To Know)

What Is A Grade Horse?

These horses are horses that have very mixed parentage, or unknown parentage. They are not from a specific bloodline, and they are not crossbred horses that are aimed at creating a new horse breed or a specific combination of two horses.

Brown And White Grade Horse Eating

Grade horses are usually the result of an accidental breeding between two horses. If a broken fence, an escapee, or some other circumstances permit two horses to meet, it’s likely that the pairing will result in a grade horse. A grade horse may also occur if the father of the foal is unknown.

Alternatively, grade horses may be the result of breeding two horses who are themselves grade horses. Because no parental bloodline can be determined, the foal is a grade horse, and cannot produce registered breed horses itself when it is an adult.

As pointed out by TheSprucePets, there is a small distinction between grade horses and crossbreeds, although some people use the terms interchangeably. A crossbreed is a horse with known ancestry that is simply a mix of two characteristics, and some crossbreeds can be pretty valuable.

A grade horse often has unknown parentage, or it has been crossbred so many times that it cannot be associated with any specific breeds at all.

Grade Horse VS Purebred

So, what’s the difference between a grade horse and a purebred? A purebred horse will have a traceable lineage and will be of a specific breed, rather than a mix of many different breeds, or having untraceable lineage.

Purebred horses will usually have records kept, and they can be used in many competitions that would disqualify a grade horse. If you want to register your horse as a specific kind of breed, you must be able to prove its lineage.

To be a purebred, a horse must have been bred from other purebreds. Purebreds are very popular with some people, while other people prefer grade horses – it just depends on the person.

Think of it like mutts and purebred dogs; either can be popular and which you need likely depends on what you want it for.

If you just want a riding horse and a friend, a grade horse may be ideal, but if you want to enter your horse into competitions, you will need to own a purebred horse in many cases.


You might be wondering about the advantages of owning a grade horse. We’re going to look at the biggest pros, and then cover some of the cons.

There are many good things about grade horses, but one of the top advantages is that they rarely suffer from the diseases that can plague a purebred horse. According to TheHorse, they majorly contribute to genetic diversity and help to overcome some of the common genetic diseases, meaning they are a great option for some people.

Grade horses also cost considerably less. You could pay hundreds of thousands for a purebred horse, but at the end of the day, a horse is a horse, and many horse owners have found that a grade horse is no less capable of work than a purebred horse.

Whether your horse is a registered horse or an unregistered horse, it should still be perfectly able to perform the standard work that most horses do, although you may find that you cannot use it as a show horse.

However, for most people, mixed breeds are very able, very willing, and just as good as any other type of horse is. You’ll find many people who adore their grade horses and would not even think of owning a purebred!

Often, grade horses are considered “all-rounders” that can be taught to be good at anything. While they may not excel in an area to the degree that a purebred might, they do tend to be more adaptable and better at picking up different roles.

Because they haven’t been bred to focus their strengths in a single area, they are often better at being flexible and tend not to have such pronounced weaknesses as some purebreds have.


Of course, no animal is perfect, and there are some negatives to owning a grade horse. The biggest of these is that you don’t know what issues you might encounter with the horse.

When you buy a purebred horse, you know roughly what issues it is likely to suffer from, what it will be particularly good at, and what it will not be built for.

For example, if you want a horse that is good for transportation, what would you choose? According to TheSprucePets, your best option would be Arabian horses, which are ideal for haulage and traveling.

If you wanted a horse that was particularly good at barrel racing, HorseRacingSense suggests that you would want a Quarter Horse, which is particularly agile and very fast. These horses are also excellent for trail riding because they have superb stamina and they are very easygoing.

A grade horse comes with none of these guarantees and essentially represents an unknown. While they can be just as good as purebred horses, you don’t know in advance what they are likely to excel at, because they have not been bred with any particular strengths in mind.

Without registration papers for a horse, you don’t know what characteristics it is likely to embody. Just as some dog breeds are born racers and others are born guard dogs, some horses are fantastic at running, and others are very calm and steady.

The type of horse makes a big difference, and with a grade horse, you might get something fantastic, or you might get something stubborn, wild, lazy, or even aggressive.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that negative characteristics won’t show up in a purebred, but it is more likely to embody positive characteristics because of its breeding.

An experienced horse owner may be able to look for certain traits when assessing a grade horse, but it will still be guesswork more than anything else, which could result in you ending up with a horse that is difficult to handle.

No breed of horse is reliable a hundred percent of the time, but without knowing your horse’s bloodline, you will be less able to guess what its negative characteristics are likely to be.

Another disadvantage of owning a grade horse is that you cannot ever use it to create a 100 percent purebred horse. Even if you breed it with purebreds, it will never be a parent to purebred offspring, and according to DeepHollowRanch, the best that you can achieve is 99 percent purebred as a result.

This may not bother you, but it is worth bearing in mind when you purchase a grade horse.


You might be wondering what grade horses are generally used for. However, because these horses are not bred for any one characteristic, they can be used for almost anything.

If you have a grade horse, you should spend some time determining what its specific strengths are and how you can use these.

IHeartHorses points out that grade horses can have very varied characteristics, so when you purchase one, make sure you spend some time working with it and identifying its specialisms. Depending on what its parents were good at, these can be quite wide-ranging.

On the whole, grade horses are used for:

  1. Farm work. Because they are reasonably inexpensive, grade horses are ideal on a farm, where the workers may need multiple horses and may not have the funds for purebreds. Things like rounding up cattle, transporting workers across the fields, and making farm management easier are all important aspects of using a grade horse on a farm.
  2. Trail riding. If you have a grade horse that is gentle, calm, and has good stamina, trail riding is a great option for it.
  3. Racing. Although not all competitions will permit grade horses to compete, grade horses can be extremely fast. Not many will manage to outpace the best race horses, but you may still find that a speedy grade horse is very quick indeed, so don’t underestimate their agility.
  4. Pleasure riding. If you just want a horse that you can get on and ride, you will probably find that a grade horse is ideal. Although they can vary a lot, grade horses are often easy to train and can have very sweet temperaments.

Because these horses rarely suffer from genetic disorders, they may also be a better option for beginners and those with limited knowledge of horses.

In short, grade horses can be used for almost anything! If the horse is good at an activity, you can use it for that, but you should be aware that there are no go-to activities that all grade horses are good at because they are all such different creatures.

It’s like asking whether a mutt can run fast – it depends on its parents! By contrast, with a greyhound, the answer is almost certainly yes, just as it would be with a Thoroughbred Horse.

With grade horses, you simply can’t depend on genetics, and you need to consider each horse individually.

How Much Do Grade Horses Cost?

It will vary massively depending on the horse, its situation, and the training it has had, as well as the promise it shows in terms of various activities.

However, according to DeepHollowRanch, a grade horse should cost you between $2000 and $7000 in most situations. You will find that grade horses that enjoy particularly noticeable skills or are unusually beautiful will cost more.

Don’t buy a horse that costs suspiciously little unless you know why the price is low. Always be cautious if a price seems too good to be true.


Can You Show A Grade Horse?

Most competitions will not allow grade horses to be entered, no. You cannot compare a grade horse to others of its own kind and see whether it is more beautiful or better proportioned because there are no others to compare it with.

Some competitions may allow a grade horse to be shown, but this is rare. According to DeepHollowRanch, barrel racing, jumping, and endurance racing may allow grade horses.

Can A Grade Horse Be Registered?

No, for a horse to be registered, its parentage must be known and provable. You may not register the foal of a grade horse either.

Is A Grade Horse Bad?

No, no breed of horses is bad, and grade horses are not bad. They may not have a breed registry, but many grade horses are as good as purebred horses, and there is no reason to dismiss a grade horse unless you need assurance that the horse you are buying will be good at a specific task.

If you are looking for an all-rounder or you do not need your horse to excel at a given task, a grade horse can be just as good as a purebred, and sometimes may even perform better. Although there is a stigma about grade horses, they are just as good at purebreds, but it’s harder to predict what they will be good at.

Where Did Grade Horses Originate?

Grade horses have been around for longer than purebred horses – because they are just horses that are not purebreds, and that have unknown parents. Grade horses have probably existed across the globe for uncountable years, with wild horses breeding freely all over the place.

There is no knowing where the grade horse originated from because it is not one kind of horse. Any mixed breed can be referred to as a grade horse, and therefore grade horses come from everywhere.


Grade horse is a term that refers to any kind of horse with very mixed or unknown parentage. Even a purebred horse might be classified as a grade horse if its parentage can’t be proven, and there are grade horses all over the world.

Grade horses vary enormously in terms of ability and characteristics, so when you buy one, you don’t know what you will get. However, most people who own grade horses know that they tend to be excellent workers and they can be as skillful and powerful as any purebred horse.