There is no doubt that America's West was won with the help of the American Quarter Horse. Yet long after the need to drive cattle great distances to market had passed, the American Quarter Horse has continued to grow in popularity. Not only is the Quarter Horse the most numerous equine found in the United States, but the breed has surpassed all others world-wide.
The formula for the Quarter Horse's popularity is no secret. The breed's versatility makes the Quarter Horse a contender in just about every equine discipline imaginable. Quarter Horses can be found on the racetrack running at speeds that exceed 50 mph or in suburban backyards quietly munching grass and being loved by the youngest of riders. They have the aptitude to spend their weekdays working on the ranch and their weekends winning at local competitions. The American Quarter Horse is the quintessential all-around mount.
The Quarter Horse's versatility should come as no surprise. The Quarter-type horse dates back the 1600's and colonial America. After a hard day of farming, the early colonists were known to unwind with unofficial horse races. Although the English horses they used for farming were fast, the colonists in the Carolinas and Virginia soon discovered that the Chickasaw Indians had faster horses. These Indian mounts were of Spanish Bard descent and when crossed with the colonists English mounts, a sprinter-type horse was produced. This was ideal for the colonists, who usually held horse races down the main street of their small towns.
UNIQUE CHARACTERISTICS: Well-defined muscling in the hindquarters, chest, arms and gaskin
Racing was not limited to the United States, however. The sport was also gaining popularity in England and Europe. As the roots of the English Thoroughbred were being laid, a grandson of the Godolphin Arabian was imported into the United States during the 1750's. Known simply as Janus, this compact, muscular stallion stamped his progeny with the quick speed of a sprinter. His offspring also proved adaptable to working on the farm, a trait which separated them from the early predecessors of the American Thoroughbred.
As the colonist moved westward, so did these quarter-mile racing workhorses. Cowboys and ranchers quickly utilized the speed and agility of these horses when working cattle. The final genetic influence came by crossbreeding the Quarter Horse prototype with the American Mustang. These hardy, feral horses of the southwest originated from the Spanish explorers and thus are believed to have descended from the Spanish Barb. The reintroduction of Spanish blood defined the breed that came to be known as the American Quarter Horse.
The American Quarter Horse is a stocky, muscular mount that possesses quick starting speeds, superior agility and a quiet temperament. The modern Quarter Horse is still used for ranch work, but has been largely replaced by draft horses for farm tasks such as plowing or pulling a cart. Thoroughbred blood is still influential in the breed and in the development of Appendix Quarter Horses. These taller, leaner-type Quarter Horses are more visible in racing and hunter-jumper events. Due to their temperament, Quarter Horses make excellent trail horses and youth mounts.
Currently, there are several registries for the American Quarter Horse. The largest and oldest is the American Quarter Horse Association. Founded in 1940, the AQHA is the largest breed registry in the world. Originally started by a group of ranchers in Texas, the AQHA currently recognizes 17 coat colors and registers both full-blooded Quarter Horses as well as Quarter Horse Thoroughbred crosses. Since the AQHA was founded, several other registries for Quarter Horses have formed. The NQHR has been registering Quarter Horses for more than 50 years and differs from the AQHA by accepting a wider range of coat colors and patterns, including pinto.
In recent decades, the influx of Thoroughbred blood into the breed has sparked a number of "foundation" registries to organize for the purpose of preserving the bull-dog type Quarter Horse. These include the Foundation Quarter Horse Registry, The Foundation Quarter Horse Association and the National Foundation Quarter Horse Association. Each of these registries observes different rules regarding the required percentage of foundation bloodlines needed for registration. But regardless of the registry, the American Quarter Horse is a hard working, easy going mount that is loved and adored by many!
PLACE OF ORIGIN: The United States of America
AVERAGE HEIGHT: 14.3 to 16 hands
COLORS: Most solid coat colors
INFLUENCES OR ANCESTRY: The Thoroughbred, Horses of Spanish decent and Mustangs
PRIMARY USES: Racing, ranching, equine competitions, all-around family horse
IDENTIFYING FEATURES: Short, compactly muscled, agile horse with good temperament
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