Introduction: The American Quarter Horse is one of the best-known horses in North America. This breed is by far one of the most numerous in western Canada and the United States, and is thus very likely to be seen grazing in fields. It is also probably the oldest surviving American horse breed. I believe the above left picture is of a Quarter Horse named Wimpy, and one of the horses on the right, probably the one in the lead, is the famous Quarter Horse racer, Dash For Cash. If you have any comments or suggestions, please click here.
Names: Quarter Horse; sometimes referred to as the American Quarter Horse. There is also a Quarter Pony; when I get enough information about it, I will do a separate page on it. Named after the quarter mile races it ran.
Horses have a lengthy history in America, although only comparatively recently
recognized as a breed. Originally it was bred for racing, its
ancestry being from a cross between the Spanish
horses and those imported by the
colonists. In the early 1600's, there were few racetracks of the type that
we have today. The races run by these horses were often quite short, often
just the main street of town. A quarter mile was the distance usually
raced, and so the Quarter Horse was aptly named after the quarter mile that it
The so-called Chickasaw horse was an important influence in the development of the Quarter Horse. In the 16th century, when the Spanish expeditionary forces of DeSoto and others were exploring the area of what is now Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia, they lost many of their excellent mounts to hostile Indians, especially to the Chickasaws. Mating freely with the Indians' stock, the Spanish horses transmitted their desert-blooded characteristics and there developed a desirable strain of small, agile horse that came to be called the Chickasaw.
Southern colonists, seeing possibilities in these compact, speedy animals, mated them with horses of generally European ancestry and developed a low, muscular sprinter which they ran in quarter-mile races. Known as the Quarter-Pather, or the Colonial Quarter-of-a-Mile Running Horse, this was the prototype of today's Quarter Horse. Before the racing ascendancy of the Thoroughbred, the Quarter-Pathers roused great sporting excitement on the "Race Streets" of villages and towns. There is an account of one quarter-mile race in colonial times for which the winnings amounted to more than $40,000 in gold, silver, and goods.
Subsequent breeding of these racers preserved the characteristic that made their sudden burst of speed possible: frontal weight which reduced a horse's tendency to rise up on pushing off to a start.
Breeding area and studs: USA: Texas, California, Montana. Obtained by crossing the horses originally brought to America by the Spaniards, with Orientals and Thoroughbreds.
of those first Quarter Horses were of Mustang/Thoroughbred
blood. The American Quarter
Horse Association was formed in Fort Worth, Texas in 1940 to perpetuate and
improve the Quarter Horse breed. Registration of foals in the 1960's
exceeded 60,000 a year and is increasing steadily (in 1970).
So varied are the talents of the Quarter Horse that breeders have differed as to which characteristics should be emphasized. Conformation breeders have sought to preserve the traditional low and heavy structure. Breeders of the horse for stock work have wanted less beefiness and more agility. At one time, this latter group formed under the name National Quarter Horse Association, as separate from the American Quarter Horse Association founded in 1940. The two have since joined.
A third school of thought has been that of the racing enthusiasts, whose concern is for speed. To obtain it they have bred plenty of Thoroughbred blood into the Quarter Horse racer, bringing it quite close in conformation to the Thoroughbred type. This group of breeders now forms the very important and active Racing Division of the American Quarter Horse Association.
Thus, in conformation, the Quarter Horse may be either the rangy type possessing speed, or the short, muscular type of animal able to win a tug-of-war with a steer.
Description: The Quarter Horse has an ideal combination of good looks and speed. It has a very well-balanced stance and its extremely alert responses allow it to move with speed and grace. The overall look is low, close-coupled, powerful, and heavily weighted up front. Crossbreeding with Thoroughbreds has given the Quarter Horse racer rangier conformation than the stock-horse type. This description is mostly generalized; specifics will eventually be indicated.
Action: Excellent walk. Outstanding galloping ability.
Body: Compact frame, sturdy and deep, with a compact barrel and short back; short, muscular bulk with excellent connection to the sloping, well-muscled quarters. Low set, not very long, muscular neck. Very broad, deep, and muscular chest. Hindquarters extremely well-developed, powerful, broad and muscular. Broad, muscular, long and oblique shoulders. Massive forequarters, strongly muscled thighs, low set tail. Withers prominent and lower to the ground than the croup. (One source said the withers were flat and not very marked.)
Color: Any color. Usually solid, with white markings on face and legs common. Skewbald, bay and chestnut predominate, but also all other colours.
Head: Handsome and breedy; carried rather forward in workmanlike fashion. Small, short, and broad with eyes set far apart. The muzzle is short and the jaw is very well developed. Ears small and pointed. Straight profile. Refined, short head with broad forehead and large wide eyes.
Hooves: Quite small, sound and very hard.
Legs: Very muscular. Short cannons.
Size: 15-16 hands. Stands about 15 hands. Rarely over 15 to 15.2 hands.
Temperament: Calm, cooperative, willing, and intelligent. Even temperament and faithful character.
Features: The earliest quarter-mile racers, competing over short,
rough tracks in Virginia, needed to be tough, fast sprinters, exceptionally
quick off the mark. Today's Quarter Horses are no exception. They are
durable, quick, and agile, and can turn on a
dime and be up to full speed in no time flat. Their popularity is well
deserved for they are excellent
all-round horses. At ease in the company of people and other animals
and easy to keep, it is in the nature of the Quarter Horse to give its all.
Certainly, the machine that might equal it for working cattle is
unlikely ever to be invented.
Intelligent, industrious, hardy and enduring cow pony with pronounced "cow sense." Very nimble and fast. Absolutely reliable under the saddle. A "Western Horse."
Uses: Used on ranches as a cow pony and at rodeos. Sometimes used as circus performers. Many make excellent hunters and jumpers. Some, the finer types, are still raced; all Quarter horses excel as riding horses for working stock, in all rodeo contests and in the increasingly popular Cutting Horse competitions. As Thoroughbred racing gradually became more popular than Quarter Horse racing, the Quarter Horse might have fallen by the wayside. It was soon discovered, however, what superb cattle horses they made, and over the years their cattle sense has been brought to an incredible level.
Curiosities: By the time that Thoroughbreds began arriving in North America, Quarter Horses were already well established. When Thoroughbreds were pitted against Quarter Horses for these short races, the smaller, stockier Quarter Horses, with their quicksilver starts, invariably won, much to the great chagrin of the Thoroughbred owners. Over longer distances, though, the Thoroughbred could outlast the Quarter Horse.
Profiles: Janus - considered to be one of the foundation sires of the Quarter Horse breed; a diminutive Thoroughbred imported to the USA from England in the mid-18th century (1756); see Quarter Horse Profiles. King - most famous of modern Quarter Horse sires; see Quarter Horse Profiles. Three Bars - famous racing sire; see Quarter Horse Profiles.
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