What Is a Grade Horse?

girl is feeding her grade horse

If you are new to the equestrian world, you may have heard the common term “grade horse” being tossed around but aren’t quite sure what it means. Let’s delve into the definition of a grade horse and explore the different types of grade horses you may encounter.

So, what is a grade horse?

A grade horse is simply a horse that does not have a registered pedigree with a recognized breed registry. This means that the horse’s ancestry cannot be traced back through a recorded pedigree.

Because grade horses do not have a documented pedigree, they are often not eligible to participate in certain equestrian events or competitions that require a horse to be registered with a specific breed registry. However, this does not mean that unregistered horses are not valuable or capable athletes. In fact, many grade horses excel in a variety of disciplines and are beloved by their owners for their versatility and willingness to work.

Types of Grade Horses

There are many different types of grade horses, and they can vary in breed, size, and conformation. Some common types of grade horses include:

Mixed breed horses. These horses are a combination of various breeds and do not have a purebred pedigree.

Thoroughbred crossbreds. Thoroughbreds are a popular breed for racing, and many owners choose to breed them with other breeds to produce a crossbred horse. These horses may have a Thoroughbred parent, but they are not considered purebred Thoroughbreds.

Warmblood crossbreds. Warmbloods are a type of horse that is known for their athleticism and movement, and they are often used in dressage and show jumping. Warmblood crossbreds may have one or more Warmblood parents, but they are not considered purebred Warmbloods.

Draft crossbreds. Draft horses are widely known for their strength and size, and they are often used for heavy work such as farming and logging. Draft crossbreds may have one or more draft horse parents, but they are not considered purebred draft horses. Such equines resemble draft horses but officially are not such.

Advantages of Owning a Grade Horse

There are many advantages to owning a grade horse, including:

Cost. Grade horses are often less expensive to purchase than purebreds, as they do not have a documented pedigree and therefore do not command the same price.

Versatility. Because grade horses don’t have a specific breed standard to adhere to, they can be very versatile and excel in a variety of disciplines. This makes them a great choice for riders who enjoy trying different activities and sports with their horse.

Individuality. Each grade horse is unique, with its own characteristics and personality. This can make them special and rewarding companions for their owners.

Disadvantages of Owning a Grade Horse

Health concerns. Grade horses may have an unknown health history and can be more prone to medical issues as a result. It is important for grade horse owners to take extra precautions when selecting a horse, such as getting a pre-purchase exam from a qualified veterinarian.

Cost of care. Grade horses typically require more regular veterinary checks than purebreds due to the increased risk of health problems. The cost of veterinary care for grade horses can add up quickly if proper preventative measures are not taken.

Missing pedigree. Grade horses do not have any recorded pedigree, meaning their bloodlines are unknown. This can be a disadvantage for grade horse owners who want to know more about their horse’s lineage and history.

Breeding. Grade horses can be used for breeding, but any resulting offspring will also be grade. Purebreds are usually preferred by breeders who want to produce specific characteristics in their foals. Plus, purebred horses cost more.

Limited events are allowed. Some competitions are created for registered equines only, even for specific breeds. For instance, there are shows where only Quarter horses are allowed to perform.

Using a Grade Horse

Grade horses can be used in a variety of disciplines, from pleasure riding to competition-level sports such as show jumping or dressage. Grade horses may not have the same conformation or movement as purebreds. But they still possess plenty of athleticism and intelligence that make them suitable mounts for many activities. Such equines are also actively used in riding lessons for beginners.

grade horses are grazing

Difference Between Grade and Purebred Horses

The main difference between grade and purebred horses is that grade horses have an unknown parentage. Whereas purebred horses have documented lineage and traceable family lines. As a horse breed features its unique temperament, you can predict the manners of your purebred horse. Purebred horses are more expensive than grade horses, and their pedigrees often command a higher price.

In case you’re looking for a horse to partake in high-level competitions, grade horses may not be permitted. On the other hand, an unregistered horse is great for general horseback riding, pleasure riding, and trail riding – which is why they make great pets. If you want to compete with your grade equine, look for events that allow mixed breeds. Even a purebred horse may become grade in case of lost registration papers.

How Does a Grade Horse Look Like?

The physical appearance of grade horses varies widely. Grade horses can come in any variety of breeds and sizes or even be a combination of two different types. Generally speaking, grade horses tend to be stocky with strong conformation and an athletic build.

Grade horses can come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds and may have characteristics of multiple breeds or types.

One way to differentiate a grade horse from a purebred is by its physical appearance. Purebred horses tend to have more consistent and distinctive physical characteristics, such as a particular head shape, conformation, and coat color, due to selective breeding. Grade horses, on the other hand, may have more diverse or mixed physical characteristics, and may not conform to any specific breed standard.

Another way to differentiate a grade horse from a purebred is by its documentation. Purebred horses are typically registered with a breed registry and have a documented pedigree, while grade horses do not have this documentation. In some cases, grade horses may have a “brand” or other identifying marks on their body, which may indicate their ownership or origin. However, in some cases, a grade horse may not have any visible identifying marks.

How to Care for a Grade Horse

Caring for most grade horses involves providing for their basic needs, including proper feeding, grooming, tack, and shelter. Here are some general guidelines for caring for a grade horse:

  1. Feeding. Provide your grade equine with a balanced diet that meets its nutritional needs. This may include hay, grain, and possibly supplements, depending on the horse’s age, size, and level of activity. The horse must have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
  2. Grooming. Grooming your grade horse regularly helps to maintain its coat, skin, and overall health. This may include brushing, combing, and currying to remove dirt and tangles and using a hoof pick to clean out the horse’s hooves. This routine also provides an opportunity to check the horse’s body for any signs of injury or illness.
  3. Tack. The right tack, or equipment, is important for the comfort and safety of your grade horse. This may include a saddle, bridle, bit, reins, and other items, depending on the horse’s intended use. Choose tack that is well-fitted and in good condition. Check it regularly to ensure that it is still in good shape.
  4. Vet checks. Regular veterinary care is important for the health and well-being of your grade horse. This may include routine check-ups, vaccinations, and treatment for any injuries or illnesses that may arise.
  5. Farrier visits. They are also important for the health and well-being of your grade horse. A farrier is a trained professional who specializes in caring for horses’ hooves and can trim and shape the hooves, as well as apply shoes as needed.
  6. Shelter. Providing your grade horse with a safe and comfortable place to rest and shelter is also important. This may include a stable or barn or access to a pasture or paddock. The horse must have adequate protection from the elements. Make sure the shelter is well-ventilated and clean.
grade horse is eating

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I Buy a Grade Horse?

Buying a grade horse can be a great option for many horse owners. These horses are often less expensive than registered horses. But they are still capable of performing well in various equestrian disciplines. The grade horse is often considered to be more “hearty” than the purebred horse. And thus, it may require less intensive care and maintenance than its counterparts. Additionally, grade horses tend to have sounder temperaments, making them easier to handle.

How Much Does a Grade Horse Cost?

A grade horse can cost anywhere from $500 to several thousand dollars. The cost of grade horses varies greatly depending on age and condition. Factors such as temperament, training level, and breed type also play a role in determining price.

Is a Grade Horse a Good Therapy Horse?

Grade horses can make excellent therapy horses. These animals are often less temperamental and more willing to work than a registered horse. They also tend to be more willing to bond with their handlers, providing a deeper connection between horse and rider. Such horses require less maintenance and are generally easier on the pocketbook than purebreds.


A grade horse is a horse that does not have a registered pedigree with a recognized breed registry. Such horses can be a great choice for riders looking for a versatile and individual companion at a lower cost. While they may not be eligible for certain equestrian events or competitions, a well-trained grade horse can excel in a variety of disciplines and bring joy and fulfillment to their owners.