what is a quarter horse

What is a Quarter Horse? [American Quarter Horse]

The Quarter Horse is a breed of horse with North American origins. This breed was designed for versatile needs to include working and racing. The Quarter Horse is one of the most popular, common, and versatile horses in the world. The Quarter Horse derives its name from being the fastest horse in a quarter of a mile.

What is a Quarter Horse
What is a Quarter Horse?

Origin of the Quarter Horse

The history of the Quarter horse goes back to Spanish Barb horses that were cross-bred by the Chickasaw Indians with English stock horses. This breeding is believed to go back as early as 1611 according to the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

What are Quarter Horses Used For?

Quarter Horses are a very versatile breed and participate in a wide variety of activities.

  • Race Horse
  • Barrel Racing
  • Rodeo Performer
  • Cutting Horse
  • Show Horse
  • Work Horse
  • Ranch Horse
  • Pleasure Riding Horse
What are Quarter Horses Used For
What are Quarter Horses Used For?

Quarter Horse Racing

When English settlers began colonizing North America, they brought with them the entertainment of horse racing. They began trading for horses owned by the Chickasaw Indians because the horses appeared to be faster than the English horses.

Breeding horses to meet the needs of the ‘work of settlement’ and the ‘speed for racing’ began. Later, a Thoroughbred horse was imported from England. 

The Thoroughbred stallion and the mares that were bred from the Chickasaw horses, which are referred to as Colonial horses, produced a fast horse that still maintained value for those moving west that needed working horses.

As settlers moved west, they discovered the wild Mustang horse. They bred the Mustang with the crossbreed of the Thoroughbred and Colonial and developed the Quarter Horse.

The Quarter Horse gained its name from the quarter mile races they ran in, proving to be masters of short distance racing.

As the Thoroughbred horse became more popular amongst the wealthy, working settlers needed a working horse. The horse racing culture and entertainment did not end though. 

Working settlers still raced their horses on the weekend. These needs for a working horse and entertainment horse made the Quarter Horse extremely popular amongst the working class.

Working Ranch Horse

The Quarter Horse was known for its speed, but also for its ability to work. While many horses were bred specifically for racing, the men moving the American settlement west needed a working horse for the rest of the week.

The weekend races motivated the breeding of a fast horse, but the weekday work motivated the breeding of a muscular horse. The fast-sprinting horse would gain the name “Steel Dust” after a Quarter Horse that became famous in Texas.

Working Ranch Horse
Working Ranch Horse

Steel Dust was known for his cattle herding speed. His popularity in the West led to cattle ranchers and cowboys seeking out to continue breeding the qualities of Steel Dust. 

This led to them calling horses with the same qualities, bred from the same lineage, “Steel Dust” and it became a favorite breed among western settlers.  

American Quarter Horse Registry

In the early 1900’s William Anson noticed specific traits of these country horses and began writing articles about this type of horse. Inspired by Anson, a man named Dan Casement took an interest in how these traits made up a type of horse.

In the late 1930’s Robert Denhardt, at the direction of his friend Paul Albert, began looking into the lineage of “Steel Dust.” Over the course of three years, Denhardt researched the type of horse that had yet to be established as a breed. 

This research led to his inspiration for starting an association specific to this type of horse called the American Quarter Horse Association.

In 1940 the association had its first meeting and the standard for a Quarter Horse was set. The ability “to run a quarter of a mile in 23 seconds, or show that the yare capable of Quarter Horse performance under ranch conditions.”  

The first horse registered in the American Quarter Horse Association was in 1941. The horse, Wimpy, was titled the Grand Champion at a stock show in Fort Worth.

Quarter Horse Characteristics

Quarter Horses are known for their versatility. There is a wide range of characteristics that make up the Quarter Horse breed. They are a moderately sized horse with a distinct appearance. Their greatest characteristics are their speed and strength.

Quarter Horse Size

Quarter horses are typically around 14.3 and 15.1 hands. 1 hand is about 4 inches, which makes the size of the horses around 4.7 feet and 5.03 feet. 

The measurement of the horse starts at the ground and goes up to the ridge between the horse’s shoulder blades. Some Quarter horses that have been bred with a focus on racing could be taller.  

Quarter Horse Weight

The weight of a Quarter Horse is around 1,100 pounds and 1,300 pounds.

Quarter Horse Traits

Quarter Horse Traits
Quarter Horse Traits

Quarter Horses are muscular horses with a wider stature than typical racing horses such as Thoroughbreds. They are known to have a relatively short neck and a somewhat smaller head. 

The most noticeable difference is perhaps the large and muscular hindquarters of the horse.

Quarter Horse Colors

There are 17 recognized colors for Quarter Horses. The variety of colors is another reason they are one of the most popular horse breeds. 

The 17 colors recognized by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) are as follows: 

  • Bay 
  • Black 
  • Brown 
  • Sorrel 
  • Blue 
  • Roan 
  • Grullo 
  • Bay Roan 
  • Red Roan 
  • Chestnut 
  • Red Dun 
  • Dun 
  • Palomino 
  • Gray 
  • Buckskin 
  • Cremello 
  • Perlino 
  • White.

Quarter Horse Speed

It’s no secret that Quarter Horses are fast. They got their name from their sprinting speed over a quarter of a mile. They were bred for speed.

How fast is a Quarter Horse? There are claims that Quarter Horses have been clocked doing 55 miles per hour!

Some people make claims that Thoroughbred horses are the fastest breed, while other people claim the fastest breed is actually the Quarter Horse. These claims come from the difference in how speeds are clocked over the duration of a race. 

“All Quarter Horses must be able to run a quarter-mile in twenty-three seconds or show that they are capable of Quarter Horse Performance under ranch conditions.”

– AQHA Executive Committee meeting minutes from April 22, 1940

Thoroughbreds typically run longer races, while Quarter Horses run shorter races of a quarter of a mile or less.

A study reviewed several races of three breeds of horses, the Quarter Horse, the Thoroughbred, and the Arabian.

The “Racing speeds of quarter horses, thoroughbreds and Arabians” study concluded that Quarter Horses did have faster average speeds than the other two breeds. There are sprinters!

Quarter Horse Temperament

Quarter Horses are one of the most popular horses in the world. Their temperament makes them a great horse for many uses.

The Quarter Horse was bred to give it the qualities that made for a great working and racing horse. The temperament of a Quarter Horse is mild and calm. They are a fast and strong horse that is relatively easy to train.

Quarter Horse Temperament
Quarter Horse Temperament

They are gentle and intelligent, making them a great breed to keep as part of the family for companionship. They are considered a warm-blooded horse because they are not as aggressive as horses that are considered hot-blooded, such as the Thoroughbred.

Types of Quarter Horses

Quarter Horses are a breed with two common types.

  • Racing Quarter Horse
  • Stock Quarter Horse

Many of the characteristics are the same for both types since they are the same breed, but there are some differences.

Racing Quarter Horses

This type of Quarter Horse may be slightly taller or on the higher end of the height average for Quarter Horses. The neck might be slightly longer, and the body may appear slightly slimmer.

The Quarter Horse will still be muscular and have large hindquarter muscles. The coloring will remain consistent with the Quarter horse recognized colors. Racing Quarter Horses are commonly used in racing and the English show category.

Working Hunter Horse

The Racing Quarter Horse can also be referred to as the Hunter Quarter Horse.

Working Hunter Horse
Working Hunter Horse

Stock Quarter Horse

The Stock Quarter horse is also referred to as the Bulldog Quarter horse because of its stocky and compact appearance. The Stock Quarter horse remains in the average or low average for height of Quarter horses.

The muscles are more defined on a Stock type, compared to the smooth appearance of the Racing type. Just like the Racing type, the stock type also has the same color appearance recognized by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

The Stock Quarter horse is commonly used in Western show categories and for ranch work.

Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred

Two of the most popular horse breeds include the Quarter horse and the Thoroughbred horse. Both are commonly used for racing and were bred for speed.

They share some similar features, such as kind eyes and muscular stature. Still, there are many differences between the two horse breeds.

Is a Quarter Horse Faster Than a Thoroughbred?

Possibly the most popular question is “which horse is faster?” The answer is it depends on how long the race is.

Quarter Horses reach higher speeds over a shorter distance, which makes them phenomenal sprinters.

Thoroughbreds have great speed over longer distances, but their top speeds still come up short to the Quarter Horse.

Both horses are known for their speed and contributions to the sport of horse racing. Each breed has long lines of champion horses. But, when it comes to speed, the Quarter Horse reaches higher speeds than the Thoroughbred horse.

What is a Quarter Horse?

Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred Appearance

The Quarter Horse is a stockier, more compact horse than a Thoroughbred. The two types of Quarter Horses do have some differences in appearance.

The Racing Quarter horse shows more resemblance to the Thoroughbred than the Stock Quarter Horse.

Colonial Horses

The Thoroughbred horse was crossbred with Colonial horses (early American Colony horses) when creating the Quarter horse. Thus it makes sense that Quarter Horses would bear some resemblance to Thoroughbreds.

The Quarter horse has more defined muscles and a more muscular hindquarter. Thoroughbred horses have a more slender and smooth appearance.

Quarter Horses tend to be shorter than Thoroughbred horses, though their average heights are close. The Quarter Horse average height is 14.3 to 15.1 hands, with some reaching 16 hands.

The Thoroughbred average height is 15.2 to 17 hands.

Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred
Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred

Thoroughbred vs Quarter Horse Temperament

One of the biggest differences in these horse breeds is their temperament. Quarter Horses have a very mild and calm temperament.

Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, are considered hotblooded because of their feisty behavior. Many people suggest that inexperienced owners not purchase a Thoroughbred without a professional trainer.

Quarter Horses are great family pets and easy to train. Their temperament is great for new and inexperienced horse owners.

Quarter Horse vs Arabian

Despite sharing some DNA in their lineage, Arabian horses and Quarter Horses have a lot of differences.

How Fast Can an Arabian Horse Run?

Arabian horses were known for their speed and were crossbred to create the speedy Thoroughbred. However, the Quarter Horse is still faster than the Arabian.

Arabian horses are said to be able to run at a top speed of about 40 miles per hour (MPH). If you recall, the Quarter Horse has been clocked at an amazing 55 miles per hour (MPH).

Arabians are known for keeping speed over long distances and have great endurance. While the Quarter Horse is known for their sprinting and short distance speeds.

What do Arabian Horses Look Like?

Arabian horses have a height range of 14.1 to 16.1 hands. They can be slightly shorter than the Quarter Horse.

Arabian horses are slimmer and have a lower weight average of 800 to 1,000 pounds. This is a noticeable difference when compared to the average weight of Quarter Horses, which is 1,100 to 1,300 pounds. So they are smaller in weight.

Arabian horses have a slight curve in the front of their face whereas Quarter Horses have a straight face.

The other noticeable difference is in the neck. The Arabian horse has a curved neck, while the Quarter Horse has a much straighter appearance.

What do Arabian Horses Look Like
What do Arabian Horses Look Like?

Hot Blooded Horse Breeds (Arabian vs Quarter Horse)

Arabian horses, like Thoroughbred horses, are considered hot-blooded. They can be difficult and aggressive but are one of the calmer tempered breeds of the hot-blooded horse breeds.

Quarter Horses are considered warm-blooded because they are much calmer than hot-blooded breeds. Both the Arabian and Quarter Horses are considered as being good for beginners because they are easier to train and have a calm manner.

Facts About Quarter Horses

They are the most versatile horse breed being bred for cattle herding, ranching, and racing.

Quarter Horse Shows

Quarter Horse lovers are known to use the phrase, “Excellence That Shows” to describe their beloved animals. This could be in part that Quarter Horses are widely used as show horses.

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) has five show categories.

  1. Western
  2. English
  3. Halter
  4. Walk-Trot
  5. Equestrians with Disabilities.

AQHA Classes

The American Quarter Horse Association sanctioned shows have a large variety of classes which include the following.

  • Showmanship
  • Western Pleasure
  • Working Cow Horse
  • Barrel Racing
  • Ranch Riding
  • Over Fences Class
  • Hunt Seat Equitation
  • Western Riding
  • Roping
Facts About Quarter Horses
Facts About Quarter Horses

Famous American Quarter Horses

You could probably say that the most famous quarter horses are the stallions with the best bloodlines that are enshrined in the The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum. These include:

  • Wimpy – Grand Champion of the 1941 Fort Worth Fat Stock Show. Wimpy was recorded as number one in the  American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) stud book.
  • Old Sorrell – Grandfather of Wimpy! Bought in 1915, Old Sorrell is the patriarch of all the King Ranch’s famous Quarter Horses.
  • Mr. San Peppy – Another King Ranch horse. Twice won the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Open World Champion in 1974 and 1976 and also the 1976 AQHA World Cutting Champion.

NOTE: The King Ranch in southern Texas has played a major role in Quarter Horse history.

American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum

There is a museum dedicated to the Quarter Horse breed called The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum. Enshrined are famous Quarter Horses as well as people that contributed at a high level to the development of the breed.

The Museum is located in Amarillo, Texas.

Appendix Quarter Horse

An “Appendix” Quarter Horse is simply a cross between a registered quarter horse and a registered thoroughbred. 

Fun Facts About Quarter Horses

There are 2.3 million registered Quarter Horses in the United States! It is said they are the second most popular breed of horse.

The official state horse of Texas is the American Quarter Horse!

Quarter Horses have ‘cow sense’. An innate ability to outguess what a cow is thinking.

American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse is recognized as the first breed of horse developed in ‘the New World’.

John Thomas

pet lover

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