If you've ever wanted a horse with cow sense, a trusted trail partner, a sprinter, or a great halter prospect, chances are you looked at the American Quarter Horse. This versatile breed of horse is known for its power and speed, but also for its great mind and good nature. The Quarter Horse has a rich history right here in America, and is regarded as the horse that built the American West.
Today, you'll find Quarter Horses trail riding, competing in show rings, working on ranches, racing, and more. It's no wonder that this incredible breed is so popular.
History of the American Quarter Horse
Though the American Quarter Horse has roots in the colonial era, it was the westward expansion of the 1800s that gave the horse breed its true shape. When these "colonial Quarter Horses" were bred with American Mustangs, descended from the Spanish horses of early settlers with a Thoroughbred bloodline, the offspring were born with a natural instinct for working with cattle. The breed also benefitted from the Morgan, Arabian, and Standardbred horse breeds. These horses quickly became the backbone of ranches throughout the American West.
Cowboys relied on the American breed and the ranch horse helped bring up farms from Texas to Oklahoma to Colorado to California and westward across the United States. The horses would work in the week and the cowboys would compete in horse racing on the weekends; a competition that eventually became known as the rodeo.
Quarter Horses are also known for their speed over short distances, or races of a quarter mile or less. Some Quarter Horses have been clocked at 55 miles per hour and Quarter Horse racing has remained a competitive and exciting industry.
Quarter Horse Characteristics
The Quarter Horse breed comes in nearly every color, the most common colors being sorrel and chestnut. Other colors include: bay, black, brown, buckskin, palomino, gray, dun, red dun, blue dun, red roan, blue roan, bay roan, perlino, cremello, grullo, and white.
Due to their muscled and compact bodies, this popular breed excels in the Western disciplines of reining, cutting, barrel racing, roping, and more, but can also compete successfully in English events such as jumping and driving. They are popular halter show horses.
The Quarter Horse Today
The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was formed in 1940, and today it is the largest breed registry in the world, with almost three million registered horses. AQHA held the first American Quarter Horse Association World Show in 1974 and inducted the first two people into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1982. Competing at the AQHA World Championship is a top goal for many equestrians who love this breed.
Today's hardy Quarter Horses are still used on ranches, but are also used as racehorses, rodeo horses, cow horses, show horses, and trail riding mounts.
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Body image via Busby Quarter Horses
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