The origins of the Quarter Horse (also called the American Quarter Horse) go back 500 years when the Spanish conquistadors brought Iberian, Arabian, and Barb horses to the southeastern US. These horses were bred with the native Cherokee and Chickasaw horses, and later the English settlers mixed them with their own Thoroughbreds, notably the stallion Janus, the grandson of the Godolphin Arabian. The resulting horses were small, tough, and fast, doubling as work animals on the farm during the week and race horses on the weekends.
The term Quarter Horse stems from the breed’s ability to sprint over a quarter of a mile ‒ the length of the makeshift racetracks in those days that were often just a stretch of road or field. As these colonial Quarter Horses headed west with the American settlers, they were crossed with feral mustangs and Native American horses, developing “cow sense” that made them popular with cattlemen on the western ranches. The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was formed in 1940 to preserve the pedigrees of these ranch horses. Thoroughbred blood is still allowed into the studbook, but first-generation crosses between TB/AQH, or between a reg. AQH and “appendix” AQH are listed in the appendix registry.
The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the US; the AQHA is the largest breed registry in the world. The 2017 AQHA Annual Report indicated that there were nearly three million American Quarter Horses registered worldwide.
The Quarter Horse can be found in two main body types: stock and hunter/racing. The stock type is a stocky, compact, well-muscled and agile horse, while the hunter type is taller with less-defined muscling, similar to a Thoroughbred. Both types have short, refined, attractive heads, strong bodies with a broad chest and powerful hindquarters. They usually stand between 14-16 hands, although hunter-type individuals may reach 17 hands.
Coat colours run the gamut from sorrel, bay, black, brown, buckskin, palomino, grey, dun, grullo, roan, perlino, and cremello. The registry now accepts all colour patterns as long as both parents are AQHA-registered.
The Quarter Horse is faster than the Thoroughbred over short distances, with some being clocked up to 55 mph (88.5 km/h).
Quarter Horses make wonderful all-around family horses, They are a popular choice for Western speed events, reining, cutting, working livestock, pleasure classes and trail riding. They also excel in English equestrian sport including hunter/jumper, eventing and dressage. There are many racetracks throughout North America that feature exciting Quarter Horse racing.
For more information, visit:
American Quarter Horse Association