The American Quarter Horse, or Quarter Horse, is an American breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name came from its ability to outdistance other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less; some have been clocked at speeds up to 55 mph (88.5 km/h). The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States today, and the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world, with almost 3 million living American Quarter Horses registered in 2014.
The American Quarter Horse is well known both as a race horse and for its performance in rodeos, horse shows and as a working ranch horse. The compact body of the American Quarter Horse is well-suited to the intricate and speedy maneuvers required in reining, cutting, working cow horse, barrel racing, calf roping, and other western riding events, especially those involving live cattle. The American Quarter Horse is also shown in English disciplines, driving, and many other equestrian activities.
|American Quarter Horse|
A palomino American Quarter Horse shown at halter
|Other names||Quarter Horse|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Distinguishing features||Great sprinting speed over short distances; short, refined head; strong, well-muscled body, featuring a broad chest and powerful, rounded hindquarters|
In the 17th century, colonists on the eastern seaboard of what today is the United States began to cross imported English Thoroughbred horses with assorted "native" horses such as the Chickasaw horse, which was a breed developed by Native American people from horses descended from Spain, developed from Iberian, Arabian and Barb stock brought to what is now the Southeastern United States by the Conquistadors.
One of the most famous of these early imports was Janus, a Thoroughbred who was the grandson of the Godolphin Arabian. He was foaled in 1746, and imported to colonial Virginia in 1756. The influence of Thoroughbreds like Janus contributed genes crucial to the development of the colonial "Quarter Horse". The breed is sometimes referred to as the "Famous American Quarter Running Horse". The resulting horse was small, hardy, and quick, and was used as a work horse during the week and a race horse on the weekends.
As flat racing became popular with the colonists, the Quarter Horse gained even more popularity as a sprinter over courses that, by necessity, were shorter than the classic racecourses of England, and were often no more than a straight stretch of road or flat piece of open land. When matched against a Thoroughbred, local sprinters often won. As the Thoroughbred breed became established in America, many colonial Quarter Horses were included in the original American stud books, starting a long association between the Thoroughbred breed and what would later become officially known as the "Quarter Horse", named after the 1⁄4 mile (0.40 km) race distance at which it excelled. with some individuals being clocked at up to 55 mph.
In the 19th century, pioneers heading West needed a hardy, willing horse. On the Great Plains, settlers encountered horses that descended from the Spanish stock Hernán Cortés and other Conquistadors had introduced into the viceroyalty of New Spain, which today includes the Southwestern United States and Mexico. These horses of the west included herds of feral animals known as Mustangs, as well as horses domesticated by Native Americans, including the Comanche, Shoshoni and Nez Perce tribes. As the colonial Quarter Horse was crossed with these western horses, the pioneers found that the new crossbred had innate "cow sense", a natural instinct for working with cattle, making it popular with cattlemen on ranches.
Early foundation sires of Quarter horse type included Steel Dust, foaled 1843; Shiloh (or Old Shiloh), foaled 1844; Old Cold Deck (1862); Lock's Rondo, one of many "Rondo" horses, foaled in 1880; Old Billy—again, one of many "Billy" horses—foaled circa 1880; Traveler, a stallion of unknown breeding, known to have been in Texas by 1889; and Peter McCue, foaled 1895, registered as a Thoroughbred but of disputed pedigree.
The main duty of the ranch horse in the American West was working cattle. Even after the invention of the automobile, horses were still irreplaceable for handling livestock on the range. Thus, major Texas cattle ranches, such as the King Ranch, the 6666 (Four Sixes) Ranch, and the Waggoner Ranch played a significant role in the development of the modern Quarter Horse. The skills needed by cowboys and their horses became the foundation of the rodeo, a contest which began with informal competition between cowboys and expanded to become a major competitive event throughout the west. To this day, the Quarter Horse dominates the sport both in speed events and in competition that emphasizes the handling of live cattle.
However, sprint races were also popular weekend entertainment and racing became a source of economic gain for breeders as well. As a result, more Thoroughbred blood was added back into the developing American Quarter Horse breed. The American Quarter Horse also benefitted from the addition of Arabian, Morgan, and even Standardbred bloodlines.
In 1940, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was formed by a group of horsemen and ranchers from the southwestern United States dedicated to preserving the pedigrees of their ranch horses. The horse honored with the first registration number, P-1, was Wimpy, a descendant of the King Ranch foundation sire Old Sorrel. Other sires alive at the founding of the AQHA were given the earliest registration numbers Joe Reed P-3, Chief P-5, Oklahoma Star P-6, Cowboy P-12, and Waggoner's Rainy Day P-13. The Thoroughbred race horse Three Bars, alive in the early years of the AQHA, is recognized by the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame as one of the significant foundation sires for the Quarter Horse breed. Other significant Thoroughbred sires seen in early AQHA pedigrees include Rocket Bar, Top Deck and Depth Charge.
Since the American Quarter Horse formally established itself as a breed, the AQHA stud book has remained open to additional Thoroughbred blood via a performance standard. An "Appendix" American Quarter Horse is a first generation cross between a registered Thoroughbred and an American Quarter Horse or a cross between a "numbered" American Quarter Horse and an "appendix" American Quarter Horse. The resulting offspring is registered in the "appendix" of the American Quarter Horse Association's studbook, hence the nickname. Horses listed in the appendix may be entered in competition, but offspring are not initially eligible for full AQHA registration. If the Appendix horse meets certain conformational criteria and is shown or raced successfully in sanctioned AQHA events, the horse can earn its way from the appendix into the permanent studbook, making its offspring eligible for AQHA registration.
Since Quarter Horse/Thoroughbred crosses continue to enter the official registry of the American Quarter Horse breed, this creates a continual gene flow from the Thoroughbred breed into the American Quarter Horse breed, which has altered many of the characteristics that typified the breed in the early years of its formation. Some breeders, who argue that the continued infusion of Thoroughbred bloodlines is beginning to compromise the integrity of the breed standard, favor the earlier style of horse and have created several separate organizations to promote and register "Foundation" Quarter Horses.
The American Quarter Horse is best known today as a show horse, race horse, reining and cutting horse, rodeo competitor, ranch horse, and all-around family horse. Quarter Horses compete well in rodeo events such as barrel racing, calf roping and team roping; and gymkhana or O-Mok-See. Other stock horse events such as cutting and reining are open to all breeds but also dominated by American Quarter Horse. Large purses allow top competitors to earn over a million dollars in these events.
The breed is not only well-suited for western riding and cattle work. Many race tracks offer Quarter Horses a wide assortment of pari-mutuel horse racing with purses in the millions. Quarter Horses have also been trained to compete in dressage and can be good jumpers. They are also used for recreational trail riding and in mounted police units.
The American Quarter Horse has also been exported worldwide. European nations such as Germany and Italy have imported large numbers of Quarter Horses. Next to the American Quarter Horse Association (which also encompasses Quarter Horses from Canada), the second largest registry of Quarter Horses is in Brazil, followed by Australia. In the UK the breed is also becoming very popular, especially with the two Western riding Associations, the Western Horse Association and The Western Equestrian Society. The British American Quarter Horse breed society is the AQHA-UK. With the internationalization of the discipline of reining and its acceptance as one of the official seven events of the World Equestrian Games, there is a growing international interest in Quarter Horses. Countries like Japan, Switzerland and Israel that did not have traditional stock horse industries have begun to compete with American Quarter Horses in their own nations and internationally. The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States today, and the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world, with over 5 million American Quarter Horses registered worldwide.
The Quarter Horse has a small, short, refined head with a straight profile, and a strong, well-muscled body, featuring a broad chest and powerful, rounded hindquarters. They usually stand between 14 and 16 hands (56 and 64 inches, 142 and 163 cm) high, although some Halter-type and English hunter-type horses may grow as tall as 17 hands (68 inches, 173 cm).
There are two main body types: the stock type and the hunter or racing type. The stock horse type is shorter, more compact, stocky and well-muscled, yet agile. The racing and hunter type Quarter Horses are somewhat taller and smoother muscled than the stock type, more closely resembling the Thoroughbred.
Quarter Horses come in nearly all colors. The most common color is sorrel, a brownish red, part of the color group called chestnut by most other breed registries. Other recognized colors include bay, black, brown, buckskin, palomino, gray, dun, red dun, grullo (also occasionally referred to as blue dun), red roan, blue roan, bay roan, perlino, cremello, and white. In the past, spotted color patterns were excluded, but now with the advent of DNA testing to verify parentage, the registry accepts all colors as long as both parents are registered.
A stock horse is a horse of a type that is well suited for working with livestock, particularly cattle. Reining and cutting horses are smaller in stature, with quick, agile movements and very powerful hindquarters. Western pleasure show horses are often slightly taller, with slower movements, smoother gaits, and a somewhat more level topline – though still featuring the powerful hindquarters characteristic of the Quarter Horse.
Horses shown in-hand in Halter competition are larger yet, with a very heavily muscled appearance, while retaining small heads with wide jowls and refined muzzles. There is controversy amongst owners, breeder and veterinarians regarding the health effects of the extreme muscle mass that is currently fashionable in the specialized halter horse, which typically is 15.2 to 16 hands (62 to 64 inches, 157 to 163 cm) and weighs in at over 1,200 pounds (540 kg) when fitted for halter competition. Not only are there concerns about the weight to frame ratio on the horse's skeletal system, but the massive build is also linked to hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) in descendants of the stallion Impressive (see Genetic diseases below).
Quarter Horse race horses are bred to sprint short distances ranging from 220 to 870 yards. Thus, they have long legs and are leaner than their stock type counterparts, but are still characterized by muscular hindquarters and powerful legs. Quarter Horses race primarily against other Quarter Horses, and their sprinting ability has earned them the nickname, "the world's fastest athlete." The show hunter type is slimmer, even more closely resembling a Thoroughbred, usually reflecting a higher percentage of appendix breeding. They are shown in hunter/jumper classes at both breed shows and in open USEF-rated horse show competition.
There are several genetic diseases of concern to Quarter Horse breeders:
Agile (1902–after 1912) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse that was the winner of the 1905 Kentucky Derby. Agile won the Sapphire Stakes as a two-year-old and the Phoenix Stakes as a three-year-old.
Agile won the Kentucky Derby against two other competitors, Ram's Horn and Layson, in one of the smallest racing fields since Azra won in 1892.
Following the death of Capt. Samuel S. Brown, his son Frank bought Agile for $5,700 in the July 1906 dispersal sale of the entire racing stable. The last record of Agile racing was in a November 1907 claiming race at the Aqueduct race track in New York, where he finished dead last.Agile sired three registered Thoroughbred offspring, the fillies Lady Eloise (1913), Chancy M (1915) and Katie Strand (1913) out of Texas bred mares. Lady Eloise is the third dam of American Quarter Horse Champion, Woven Web, who was also a sibling of Assault.In 1912, Agile was owned by T. Polk of San Antonio and was used as a carriage horse by the family.American Quarter Horse Association
The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), based in Amarillo, Texas, is an international organization dedicated to the preservation, improvement and record-keeping of the American Quarter Horse. The association sanctions many competitive events and maintains the official registry. The organization also houses the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum and sponsors educational programs. The organization was founded in 1940 in Fort Worth, Texas and now has nearly 350,000 members.American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame
The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum was created by the American Quarter Horse Association, based in Amarillo, Texas. It honors people and horses who contributed to the growth of the American Quarter Horse.Barbara L
Barbara L (1947–1977) was an American Quarter Horse that raced during the early 1950s and often defeated some of the best racehorses of the time. She earned $32,836 (about $310,000 as of 2019) on the race track in 81 starts and 21 wins, including six wins in stakes races. She set two track records during her racing career. After retiring from racing in 1955, she went on to become a broodmare and had 14 foals, including 11 who earned their Race Register of Merit with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). Her offspring earned more than $200,000 in race money. She died in 1977 and was inducted into the AQHA's American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2007.Bullet (mascot)
Bullet is the name of the horse that is ridden by the "Spirit Rider" at Oklahoma State University-Stillwater football games and other special events. The current Bullet is a black American quarter horse gelding. Bullet was introduced as an Oklahoma State tradition in 1984 by the late Dr. Eddy Finley as part of the Spirit Rider Program. Finley, a graduate of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, was said to have been inspired by the Red Raiders' Masked Rider when creating the Spirit Rider tradition. Bullet gallops out onto the football field at Boone Pickens Stadium, ridden by the Spirit Rider carrying an orange OSU flag, during the pre-game performance by the Cowboy Marching Band and after every Cowboy touchdown. The current Bullet is the fourth horse used in the OSU Spirit Rider program, and the third horse to be named Bullet.
The first Spirit Rider horse, a black mare named Della, was owned by John Beall Jr., who served as the original Spirit Rider at OSU. When Beall left OSU, the university decided to keep the tradition alive. In 1988, the school bought its own black horse and through a contest put on by the school newspaper, The Daily O'Collegian, and won by OSU Senior Scott Townsend, "Bullet" was adopted as the name of the horse. In 2003, Bullet I was retired and OSU broke in another black horse to roam the sidelines. Bullet II died shortly before the beginning of the 2005 football season and was replaced by a third Bullet. Bullet III was retired during halftime of the OSU WVU game November 17th, 2018. Bullet IV was also introduced during halftime.
In addition to riding Bullet during football games, the Spirit Rider is charged with the task of taking care of the horse, such as cleaning Bullet's stall at the OSU Equine Center, feeding and exercising Bullet every day and bathing Bullet three times a week.
In 2001, Bullet was one of three finalists for the MD Barns Silver Spur Award presented by the American Quarter Horse Association. The award honors American Quarter Horses that have made a significant impact on the lives of others and created a favorable perception of the breed.Chicado V
Chicado V (1950 – February 1972) was a Champion Quarter Horse race horse foaled (born) in 1950, and considered one of the outstanding broodmares of her breed. She was bred by Frank Vessels of Los Alamitos, California, and trained by Earl Holmes.
Chicado V started only six times because knee problems cut short her racing career. However, she won her first two starts while breaking or equaling track records, and was given the title of co-Champion Quarter Running Two-Year-Old Filly by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) in 1952. The next year she ran her last four races, winning once and setting one more speed record. After her last race, in December 1953, she was retired from the track to become a broodmare, and had nine foals. Two of her offspring were named Champion Quarter Running Horses, and all her foals had a total of seven stakes race wins. One of her daughters, Table Tennis, went on to become a noted broodmare herself, as did Table Tennis' daughter Rapid Volley and granddaughter Perks. However, three of Chicado V's sons—Triple Chick, Three Chicks, and The Ole Man—were her best known offspring; all three became leading sires and are the main cause of her fame. She was inducted into the AQHA's American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2006.Doc Bar
Doc Bar (1956–1992) was a Quarter Horse stallion that was bred to be a racehorse, became an outstanding halter horse, and in his sire career revolutionized the cutting horse industry.Easy Jet
Easy Jet (1967–1992) was an American Quarter Horse foaled, or born, in 1967, and was one of only two horses to have been a member of the American Quarter Horse Association (or AQHA) Hall of Fame as well as being an offspring of members. Easy Jet won the 1969 All American Futurity, the highest race for Quarter Horse racehorses, and was named World Champion Quarter Race Horse in the same year. He earned the highest speed rating awarded at the time—AAAT. After winning 27 of his 38 races in two years of racing, he retired from the race track and became a breeding stallion.
As a sire, he was the first All American Futurity winner to sire an All American Futurity winner, and went on to sire three winners of that race, and nine Champion Quarter Running Horses. Ultimately, his ownership and breeding rights were split into 60 shares worth $500,000 each—a total of $30 million. By 1993, the year after his death, his foals had earned more than $25 million on the racetrack.Garrett's Miss Pawhuska
Garrett's Miss Pawhuska (1946–1975) was a Quarter Horse broodmare who produced eight foals, three of which would become world champion race horses. When she was a yearling, she was sold by her owner, although he had not really planned on selling her. He felt he had to because one of his employees had told a customer the filly was for sale.
Garrett's Miss Pawhuska's official race record lists her with six wins in six starts, but it is incomplete and is missing some earnings as well as some races. After racing for two years, she retired to become a broodmare and died in 1975 at age 29. Her son Vandy's Flash was the first gelding to be named a World Champion Quarter Running Horse. She was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame.Go Man Go
Go Man Go (1953–1983) was an American Quarter Horse stallion and race horse. He was named World Champion Quarter Running Horse three times in a row, one of only two horses to achieve that distinction. Go Man Go was considered to be of difficult temperament. While waiting in the starting gate for his very first race, he threw his jockey, broke down the gate, and ran alone around the track; he was eventually caught and went on to win the race. During his five years of competition until his retirement from racing in 1960 he had 27 wins, earning more than $86,000 (approximately $769,000 as of 2019).
Neither of Go Man Go's parents raced. His sire (father), the Thoroughbred stallion Top Deck, was bred by the King Ranch. His dam (mother) hailed from Louisiana; Go Man Go is thought to have gained his swiftness on the track from her. For the first years of Go Man Go's racing career, his owner faced difficulty in registering him with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), a matter that remained unresolved until 1958.
Go Man Go went on to sire two All American Futurity winners and seven Champion Quarter Running Horses. He was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, as were two of his offspring. His daughters also produced, or were the mothers of, a number of race winners, including the Hall of Fame members Kaweah Bar and Rocket Wrangler. The director of racing for the AQHA once compared his impact on Quarter Horse racing and breeding to that of Man o' War in Thoroughbred racing, or that of human athletes such as Ben Hogan and Babe Ruth.King (horse)
King (1932–1958), often known as King P-234, was an outstanding early Quarter Horse stallion who influenced the breed throughout the early years of the American Quarter Horse Association (or AQHA).Leo (horse)
Leo (1940–1967) was one of the most influential Quarter Horse sires in the early years of the American Quarter Horse Association (or AQHA).Lightning Bar
Lightning Bar (1951–1960) was an American Quarter Horse who raced and subsequently became a breeding stallion. He was bred by his lifelong owner Art Pollard of Sonoita, Arizona, and was the offspring of Three Bars, a Thoroughbred, and Della P, a Quarter Horse mare from Louisiana, then noted for the breeding of sprint horses. Lightning Bar raced ten times, achieving four victories and four other top three finishes. His racing career was cut short by illness after only one year, following which he spent two years as a show horse. As a breeding stallion he sired seven crops, or years, of foals, among whom Doc Bar was the best known. In 1960 Lightning Bar died of an intestinal infection at the age of nine. He was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Association's (AQHA) Hall of Fame in 2008.Miss Meyers
Miss Meyers (1949 – March 1963) was an American Quarter Horse racehorse and broodmare, the 1953 World Champion Quarter Running Horse. She won $28,725 (equivalent to about $269,000 as of 2018) as well as 17 races. As a broodmare, she produced, or was the mother of, the first American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Supreme Champion, Kid Meyers. She was the mother of three other foals, and was inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame in 2009.Peter McCue
Peter McCue (1895–1923) was a racehorse and sire influential in the American Quarter Horse Association (or AQHA), although he died before the AQHA was formed.Poco Pine
Poco Pine (1954–1974) was an American Quarter Horse stallion and breeding stallion. He earned 50 Grand Championships in his showing career and after his death was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Association's (or AQHA) AQHA Hall of Fame in 2010. Two of his descendants have also been inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame. 37 of his offspring earned an AQHA Championship during their own showing careers.Stock horse
A stock horse is a horse of a type that is well suited for working with livestock, particularly cattle. The related cow pony or cow horse is a historic phrase, still used colloquially today, referring to a particularly small agile cattle-herding horse; the term dates to 1874. The word "pony" in this context has little to do with the animal's size. though the traditional cow pony could be as small as 700 to 900 pounds (320 to 410 kg) and less than 14 hands (56 inches, 142 cm) high.Such horses are characterized by agility, quickness, and powerful hindquarters. They are usually noted for intelligence and "cow sense," having an instinctive understanding of how to respond to the movement of cattle so as to move livestock in a desired manner with minimal or no guidance from their rider. Such horses are used both as working animals on livestock ranches or stations, and are also seen in competition where horses are evaluated on their ability to work cattle.
The term may refer to any of the following:
A horse used for ranch work or for competition based on the movements of a working ranch horse, including:
rodeo, particularly calf roping and team roping
working cow horse
An outdated term for reining or working cow horse competition.
Any breed used for ranch or cattle work in the United States, or work on cattle stations in Australia, including:
Australian Stock Horse
American Quarter Horse
American Paint Horse
Carolina Marsh Tacky
Florida Cracker Horse
Any other breed of horse used for western riding, ranch work or for stock horse types of competition.
Any breed or type of light riding horse of a phenotype that includes a powerful build with heavily muscled hindquarters that appears suitable for work as a stock horse. This includes some representatives of a variety of breeds and crossbreeds. Among breeds with stock horse-type representatives include:
Pony of the Americas
A famous sire of Quarter Horses, Three Bars was a registered Thoroughbred racehorse before going on to become a member of the American Quarter Horse Association's (or AQHA) American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1989.Top Deck (horse)
Unraced as a Thoroughbred, the stallion Top Deck (1945–1965) went on to become a famous sire of Quarter Horses.