Spalding’s Guide to Breeds – The American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is BY FAR, the most beloved and versatile horse breed found in America today. Approximately 60% of all purebred horses in the U.S. are American Quarter Horses and their numbers measure in the millions. Established in the 1600’s when thoroughbreds were crossed with native, lighting fast Indian ponies belonging to the Chickasaw Indians, the name is derived from the breed's ability to sprint short distances, out racing other breeds over a quarter mile or less. Janus, a renowned TB stallion, was brought to Virginia from England in 1752 where he was bred with the Chickasaw ponies, resulting in robust, agile and compact Quarter Horse stock.

American Quarter Horse
Cavalo da raça Quarto de milha (Quarter Horse) em exposição na EMAPAAvaréSão PauloBrasil

In the 19th Century, the breed was finessed to serve the needs of the cowboys working cattle out in the West. These horses required tremendous stamina and a robust physique to venture successfully onto the Great Plains. Today, the American Quarter Horse is best known as a show, rodeo and race horse, and is one of the foremost multi-purpose breeds.

Appearance of a Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world, with more than 5 million American Quarter Horses on the register.

The horse is around 14-16 hands in height and has a thick set appearance. They have a deep chest, a thick muscular neck, rounded hindquarters, sloping shoulders, and a small head with wide eyes and small alert ears. The quarter horse has small, refined feet supporting strong muscular legs. There are two main body types for the American quarter horse: the stock type and the hunter or racing type. The stock horse type is more compact and very nimble whereas the racing/hunter type resembles the Thoroughbred more closely, sporting lean muscle and thinner legs.

>The most common coat color for the American Quarter Horse is sorrel (chestnut). Other common colors include bay, black, gray, palomino, buckskin, dun, roan, cremello and perlino. You may see white markings on the legs and face although spotted markings are not permitted by the breed society.

Temperament of a Quarter Horse

The Quarter horse is extremely intelligent. They are docile, gentle and calm, and suitable for beginners through to advanced riders. The American Quarter Horse is extremely trainable hence the versatility across so many disciplines. They are quick to learn, eager to please and enjoy working.

Some Quality Quarter Horse facts

  • The Quarter Horse is one of the most versatile breeds known due to its exceptional temperament. They are used for all areas of leisure riding, in competitive sports, especially rodeo, all forms of ranch and cow work and once again, on the racetrack.
  • "Wimpy," the first registered Quarter Horse, was born in the 1930s and sired over 150 foals!  He was a 15hh, chestnut stallion.
  • "Impressive," one of the most successful Quarter horse stallions of all time, is thought to have over 100,000 living descendants. On the show circuit, he won 31 out of 31 Blue Ribbons and had a stud fee of $25,000 at his peak.
  • Quarter horses have been used as mounted police horses due to their trainability and calm, "bomb proof," nature.
  • There is a genetic disease found in bloodlines called hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) which can lead to profound muscle weakness. It is important to have a thorough pre-purchase exam before you purchase any quarter horse.

For more information on all the popular horse breeds, visit us at Spalding on Morgan’s blog again soon.

*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons