A pleasure horse is a privately kept horse maintained for pleasure or casual riding, rather than competition or work. Some horse owners do choose to show their pleasure horses, in competitions which showcase the good manners and gaits of their horses, typically in a division with other pleasure horses such as Western Pleasure or English Pleasure. For new horse owners, and horse owners who are not interested in competition, a pleasure horse is the most suitable mount.
Any breed of horse can be a pleasure horse; these animals are distinguished by being extremely gentle, well mannered, and friendly, and many can exhibit a range of gaits, as well. Breeds like Quarterhorses and various ponies are commonly kept as pleasure horses, along with horses unsuitable for competition, for one reason or another, and most pleasure horses are gentle enough to be ridden by very young children and new, nervous riders.
Many pleasure horses are mixed breeds, which means that they are not suitable for breeding or competition, but this doesn't make them inferior animals. A mixed breed horse can be hardy, intelligent, sensitive, and gentle, all traits which are valued in a pleasure horse, and a pleasure horse can be a loyal friend for life. While such horses are not suitable for competition, they make great first horses for people who are interested in equestrian careers, and for life-long casual riders, they are much more suitable than horses which have been bred for work or competition.
A pleasure horse can be used for any number of things. Many casual riders enjoy trail riding, which involves taking their horses out on regional trails to enjoy nature in the company of a horse. Pleasure horses can also be used for casual driving, and they can be worked in the ring like other horse breeds, for owners who want to develop gaited horses or to work with jumpers. Some people also go camping with their pleasure horses.
As a general rule, a pleasure horse tends to be less expensive than a purebred horse or a horse bred and trained for competition. It is possible to pick up a sound and well-trained pleasure horse for the fraction of the cost of a specialized breed, making these horses especially appealing to owners who have limited financial resources. Some stables and riding groups also allow people to lease their pleasure horses, sharing the burden of ownership with a group to reduce overall stress and costs.