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Low Maintenance/Durable Breeds/Types of Horses?

I’m new to this, but I’m looking for a couple of tough horses to let roam and graze the pastures of my family’s 150 acre ranch in Bonham, Texas (hot and dry climate). We live an hour away in Dallas, but we visit the ranch often and have a long-time neighbor there who uses our land for grazing his cattle and he checks on our animals.
Our old ornery Bay Quarter Horse, Joey, recently passed away. Joey did have a colic scare at one point and became overweight, but he lived a long life on our ranch.

I’ve looked into many breeds but there is limited information online. Price isn’t an issue, we just want the right type of horses for the situation.

Looking for a horse breed that:
Can handle Texas heat (temps up to 100F)
Has sturdy hooves and legs
Minimal risk of health issues
Is good for trail riding
Trots and Canters

Proper medical care, hoof care, shelter, and fresh water is a given, they just won’t be kept in stalls or supervised daily.

Other Questions:
What nutrients do horses need that a grass diet alone won’t provide? How are those provided?
What are some tips for keeping these horses at a healthy weight?
How to prevent foundering?
How often do they need to be checked on?
Should we test our grass?
Tips on a proper diet for them?
Any helpful books/articles/websites/manuals that you guys would suggest?

I know this is a lot of information, but any type of feedback is helpful!

Obviously, there are no guarantees in this life and there is individual variation among any group of horses, but Mustang certainly springs to mind. If you are up for the challenge you can take your pick of one of the wild ones for $125 (or less for the Sales authority horses) in Paul’s Valley, OK. If you want a “gentled” horse (halterable, can handle feet and load in a trailer) but want to train it on yourself (or have a trainer you know finish it), there are several “TIP” trainers in Texas. If you want a saddle-started horse, Go to one of the Mustang Heritage Foundation competitions in Fort Worth (Extreme Mustang Makeover is in just a few days, there should be a “Mustang Magic” event in January) and pick one up at the auction (that was my route). And, like any other breed of horse, there’s any number of them with various training and background that show up for sale on the secondary market or turn up in rescue programs.


Marchador horses in Brazil are still a working breed. There is an extensive show industry, but many large farms (like 10,000 hectars large) use Marchadors as their working stock.

Please ask if I can provide any more specific information.


So, you will be 1h away from 150 acres where a neighbor will check on your horses?

Exactly how will they be watered/fed daily, sheltered or gotten in for vet or farrier from 150ac?

Even a hardy breed can run into problems that require some daily supervision or injure themselves in a way that will worsen if not noticed for a day…or more.

If price is truly not an issue, perhaps hire someone to care for the hardy horses you will have on such a large acreage.

My own 3 live out 24/7/365 with access to stalls if they want.
They seldom Want.
But I am here (retired) & farmette is a mere 5ac so I have eyes on them daily.
Which was convenient when one managed to scrape his face very near an eye & I noticed a streak of blood that had me checking the injury ASAP.
If he’d have been loose on a large acreage injury going unnoticed for even a day could have had a really poor outcome.


Even cattle on large ranches get more eyes on them than what you want to provide for two horses on 150 acres. THENNNN when those horses start to go feral from lack of attention (provided they aren’t dead from Mountain Lions or crippled up from unattended injuries), Don’t ask why that happened.

my horses ran on 100 acres when I was growing up, with an old machine shed for shelter. I handled them every day and they were fed a hand full of oats just to keep them coming up to the barn, instead of thinking about bonding with the beef cattle.

good luck, as this has all the sounds and makings of a recipe for disaster for the horses.


I’d go for Mustangs that have been under saddle awhile and are around ten years old. All the youthful nuttiness is out of them and they’ll appreciate the life you’ve got to offer.

As far as the heat you’re getting about this type of horse keeping, well, here’s my 2 cents: humanity has killed many more horses by locking them in stalls & calling 1/2 acre lots “turn out” than they have letting them live semi-rough. Risks abound in horse keeping, we all do what we can with what we’ve got.


I think you should expect to pay for someone to put eyes on the horses every day.

FWIW I think a nice ranch bred QH would be perfect for what you want. Even better, if you just want horses on the land, maybe just get one horse and find someone wanting to do self-care of their own horse(s) who will take care of yours too in exchange? Then if you want to ride you can, but someone else is doing the work and the horses are being cared for regularly, for minimal to no cost.

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I feel like it’s one thing to want some semi feral horses in a field and another to want horses that are also riding horses, which the first post implied. Not to mention how annoying it will be to just find the horses when you want to ride! I’m thinking like, serious ranch style where you have to keep a horse in a corral just to go out and round them up every morning! But also I’m from the city so the biggest fields we have are 40 acres…

I would buy something local, or from the general climate belt, and that has been living on pasture. They will be adapted to the heat and conditions.

Good basic conformation goes a long way to giving a horse a healthy long life without injuries, and there is lots of variation between individuals of all breeds. Some quarter horses, some arabs, some morgans, some appaloosas, are tough as nuts and built in a way that they won’t easily break down. Some are not.

Depending on the quality of the grass, weight problems can be either loss of weight and starvation (if you have a drought or a blizzard) or obesity with complications of founder (if your grass is too rich).

If the grass is decent, there is room to move, and there is water and a salt block, I don’t doubt that most range-adapted horses would be very comfortable in the situation you describe. The question is whether they will get too comfortable, and get a bit feral with lack of handling.

I had an in my pocket mustang-type pony as a teen, and when I went to college and put her on pasture, she learned after a few years that if she didn’t want to be caught, she didn’t need to be caught. She remained an absolute sweetie as soon as you laid hands on her, but she also learned to stay ten steps away, to trot when you jogged and canter when you ran after her. The solution as I knew at the time would have been to round her up and keep her in a more contained facility again. I didn’t have the time or money for that, so I ended up just letting her have a long retirement.

If you want to turn up weekends and ride, buy a horse that is already known to adapt to that lifestyle. Some horses can stay in a pasture for a month then go for a ride and be letter perfect (my mare was like that if you could catch her). Some horses deteriorate fast without regular work. Of course the horses will not be particularly fit if you do that, so you can’t turn up and then go on a ten hour trail ride in the mountains. But you should be fine to ride for an hour or two.

It would be a good idea to arrange for someone responsible to handle them and even ride them lightly during the week just to keep them used to the idea.

My sister’s horse, also on pasture, was always easy to catch. But he realized that he didn’t need to go for a ride if he didn’t feel like it, and got very balky under saddle, including jumping a ditch back into the field from the driveway with my sister on board (no harm done). So you don’t know how the pasture life will affect them. It could be not at all, it could be hard to catch, it could be hard to catch but cranky under saddle.