Everything You Want To Know About The Quarter Horse


There has always been a special bond between humans and their horses. This can be traced back to the days when horses were used for transport and travel and later when they were used for racing, farming, and domesticated use.

In North America, the American Quarter Horse is enduringly popular, and this is because of its many positive attributes. Quarter Horses are gentle, loyal, versatile, and friendly, and they are suitable for all levels of riders and owners.

Quarter horses are very easy to train too, which is ideal for anybody looking to race them or to keep them as family pets. If you’re looking to purchase an American Quarter Horse, we will give you everything you need to know in this article. Keep reading to learn more about this very beautiful animal. 

An Introduction To American Quarter Horses

American Quarter Horses are well-known for their beauty, stamina, and speed. They are capable of sprinting for miles on end and they are sometimes comparable to Arabians and Thoroughbreds in competition. Let’s consider some of the defining features of the American Quarter Horse as we introduce you to this famous horse breed.

Where does their name come from?

American Quarter Horses are so named because of their excellence at sprinting distances that measure a quarter of a mile or less. This isn’t to say they can’t perform speedy maneuvers over longer distances, but historically, they have often outmatched the competition during quarter distance races. The speed of the American Quarter Horse has been clocked at 55mph.

How big are they?

American Quarter Horses are comparable to Arabians in size, measuring between 14 and 16 hands. This equates to 54-64 inches. They have muscular bodies with large, broad chests, and they weigh between 950 to 1200 pounds.

The compact body of the American Quarter House makes them well suited for a variety of western riding events, including reining and calf roping. However, it also makes them suitable for a range of other equestrian activities, including show jumping, dressage, and driving. 

American Quarter Horse colors and markings

American Quarter Horses come in a variety of different colors, most commonly sorrel, which is a brownish shade of red. White markings are commonly found on their face and legs and some even have spotted patterns. 

American Quarter Horse colors include:

  • Sorrel
  • Black
  • Brown
  • Gray
  • Bay
  • White
  • Palomino (cream, yellow, or gold)
  • Cremello (cream coats with pink skin)
  • Red roan
  • Blue roan

These aren’t the only coat colors found on the American Quarter Horse. Registries will accept all colors if the parent horses were originally registered as Quarter Horses. 

The History Of The American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter Horse, as its name suggests, originates from the US, and it is the oldest surviving American horse breed. The Quarter Horse is descended from the English and Spanish horses that were used in the American colonies during the 1600s. Its unique appearance is the result of crossbreeding, as Virginia and Carolina settlers crossbred UK-imported Througoughbred horses and Chicksaw Indian Mustang ponies to come up with this now-celebrated horse. 

American Quarter Horses played a major part in the westward expansion of American pioneers, as their strong agility proved invaluable to the farmers and cowboys who needed a hardy and willing horse to transport them over rough terrain. They grew in popularity when flat racing became popular with colonists and this is how they eventually earned their name. 

Despite being in existence since the 1600s, the Quarter Horse wasn’t officially recognized until 1941. This was after one such horse became the grand champion stallion at the Fort Worth Exposition and Fat Stock Show. At this point, the Quarter Horse was given its first official registration.  

Today, there are more than 5 million Quarter Horses registered worldwide and the number continues to rise. The American Quarter Horse Association is now the largest breed registry in the world, and this is because of the continued popularity of this wonderful equine breed. 

American Quarter Horse: Breeding And Uses

American Quarter Horses are bred throughout the US and beyond but in terms of shape and size, they don’t always look the same. This is because they are bred for very special purposes, leading to different variations of the same horse. 

There are three main body types. The first is the racing and hunter type, the taller of the three, and this type of Quarter Horse is agile and smoothly muscled, closely resembling the Thoroughbred. The second is the stock horse type, which is shorter, more compact, but still well-muscled and agile. The third is the halter type, the largest of the three and this is characterized by its smaller head and heavily muscled body. 

Racing and hunter type

The racing type are bred as racehorses, with the capacity to sprint short distances at a rapid rate. They have longer legs than the stock type, with muscular hindquarters that aid their sprinting ability. The hunter type is similar but slimmer in stature to the racing type, and these are shown at hunter/jumper classes at breed shows and other horse show competition events. 

Stock type

Stock horses are bred to work with livestock, particularly cattle. Typical stock breeds are the Appaloosa and the Paint. Being smaller in stature with quick, nimble movements, they do a great job of maneuvering cattle on farms and at rodeo events. 

Halter type

Because of their heavily muscled appearance, halter horses have been compared to human bodybuilders. Like their human equivalents, they are regularly entered into competitions, and they eat a diet that encourages muscle growth.

However, there has been some concern over the weight to frame ratio of the halter horses’ skeletal system as the large muscle weight is in direct contrast to their thin and spindly legs. This has resulted in injury during some competitions, so this is something worth noting when choosing an American Quarter Horse for yourself. 

American Quarter Horse: Diet And Nutrition

American Quarter Horses aren’t particularly choosy when it comes to food but their diet does need to be properly managed. The right food will elevate their mood, improve their performance, and aid their long-term health needs. 

There needs to be a healthy balance of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, fat, and minerals in their diet, as well as plentiful supplies of water. Much of what they need can be provided through a diet of fresh grass, hay, barley, bran, and rolled oats.

Additional nutrients can be added through various supplements and concentrates. Treats are allowed, such as carrots and apples, but these need to be given in moderation. 

A number of factors need to be considered when planning the Quarter Horse’s diet:

  • Weight and size
  • Workload
  • Age

In terms of weight and size, American Quarter Horses generally eat between 1.5 and 2 percent of their body weight during the day. As they usually weigh between 800-1200 pounds, it is important to calculate the right amount of food for the horse’s diet. A 1000-pound horse, for example, would need to eat 15-20 pounds of food each day.

It’s important to include workload as a factor, as those horses that put in more work hours each week will need additional nutrients. This is partly to aid their performance and skill level and partly to make sure they stay at the recommended weight after shedding pounds during activity. Those horses that work fewer hours each week will still need their recommended dose of food a day, but overfeeding needs to be avoided for the sake of their overall health. 

Then there’s the age of the American Quarter Horse to consider.

Foals will require fewer feeds as they can get much of what they need from the mare’s milk. After developing teeth, younger horses won’t require much more than the grass or hay from the pasture.

However, adult horses will need a higher intake of nutrients to keep them sustained for work and riding. 

Signs of an improper diet include:

  • Lack of energy
  • Overweight/Underweight sizes
  • Sickness and dental problems

These problems can be avoided by making sure the horse only eats the foods that are designed for their breed. These should be fed to the horses in small portions during the day, as large meals are not advised. Treats should be given in moderation, and certain items should never be fed to a Quarter Horse at all. These include:

  • Grass cuttings
  • Hedge clippings
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet items

When these are added to the diet it can cause a mineral and nutrient imbalance, leading to health issues in the horse. Some common health problems are highlighted below.

American Quarter Horse: Health And Behavior Problems

Behavior problems are very rare in American Quarter Horses as they are generally friendly, easy to train, and eager to please. However, issues can arise when they become susceptible to illness and injury. A reluctance to exercise and a refusal to work can both be indicators that something could be wrong with the horse.

Some health conditions can be avoided by making sure the horse is given the right diet, shelter, and care. However, some are the result of genetic disorders so even with the best care in the world, problems can still arise. 

Common health problems include:

Malignant hypothermia

This inherited disease is often brought on by stress or excitement and it can induce a hyper-metabolic state in the horse. Signs of this health issue include an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, a high temperature, and muscle contracture. 

Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis

This muscular disease is caused by a genetic disorder, and it can be induced by cold, stress, heavy sedation, and an improper diet. Muscle tremors, paralysis, and collapse are the common signs of this worrying health problem.

Polysaccharide storage myopathy

Caused by a genetic mutation, this is a disorder that can damage muscle tissue and cause stiffness and pain. A reluctance to work is a common sign that a horse may be suffering from this disorder, as is sweating and a shortened stride when exercising.

An overfeeding of carbohydrates is known to induce this health problem so diet plans do need to be properly managed. 

A vet will discuss these and other health problems with you so it’s always advisable to keep up with examinations, vaccinations, etc. 

Grooming The American Quarter Horse

A regular grooming routine is part of good horse care, although it also helps to form a bond between the horse and the owner. 

The way an American Quarter Horse is groomed is little different from that of any other horse, so those who have experience with horses will already know the basics. These include the following. 

Brushing

It is important to brush the Quarter Horse before going for a ride as this will aid the animal’s comfort. Brushing will also distribute oils evenly around the body, which is essential for a healthy coat and skin. Brushing the horse after riding will also help distribute oil and it will lift the dirt and dander that has accumulated during the ride.

A soft-bristled brush is best for the face and legs, while a stiff or medium-bristle brush is advised for the rest of the horse’s body. 

Hoof and tail care

Hoof care is important as this will alleviate the chances of any infections or injuries. Hoof picks with a small brush on the end are great for a thorough clean. It’s important to detangle the horse’s tail too. This makes the tail bushier and gives the horse greater ability to swat away flies, A detangler is advised if brushing doesn’t remove the knots when grooming. 

A well-groomed horse will both look and feel good. You will appreciate the hard work you have put in when you pat the silky soft hair and skin of your horse, and your horse will appreciate the care and attention you have shown to them.

Famous American Quarter Horses

The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in Amarillo, Texas, houses various displays featuring the most celebrated Quarter Horses in the breed’s history. Photos and paintings bring them to life, and there are accounts of the people who have been instrumental in shaping this magnificent breed too. 

Some of the famous horses featured include:

Wimpy

The grand champion stallion of March 1941 at the Southwestern Exposition Quarter Horse show in Texas. It was his win that earned him the right to become the first registered Quarter Horse in American history.

Doc Bar

Born in 1956, Doc Bar was originally bred to be a racehorse, but he found more success as a halter horse, and he won nine grand champion titles. However, he was also famous as being the sire of 485 horses, many of which went on to become world champions themselves. 

Easy Jet

This sorrel stallion was born in 1967 and he went onto become a legendary figure in the American Quarter Horse World. He won nine stake races at the age of two and went on to sire 145 more stake winners. 

Buying An American Quarter Horse

The price of an American Quarter Horse is anywhere between $2000 -10,000. Adult horses are often more expensive due to their training and experience as are those that come from more well-known breeders.

While not every Quarter Horse is expensive, care does need to be taken when choosing. Those horses that are sick or that have a history of health problems will sometimes be cheaper, but you do need to remember the upkeep of them, including veterinary health bills and insurance. 

When buying a horse then, ask for documentation from the breeder or organization relating to the animal’s health history, alongside other documentation relating to where it was bred and its lineage.

Ask a vet to run a health check on the horse before buying, and make sure the breeder or organization has gone through all known regulatory checks to evidence their right to sell you the horse. 

When factoring in costs, remember to look beyond the horse itself. As we suggested, you will have to visit a vet, not only for health issues but for vaccinations too.

At a minimum, you can expect your vet bill to be around $300 a year. Boarding your horse will cost you around $600 unless you decide to shelter the animal on your own outdoor premises. There is the cost of supplementary foods to consider too, and these will be around $100 a year in total. And then you need all of the necessary equipment, including saddles, bridles, and grooming tools, to name but a few.

Needless to say, you are looking at an expense. However, the joys of owning an American Quarter Horse are many, and if you’re planning to race or show your horse, you might win back the money you have spent. 

Is An American Quarter Horse Right For You?

American Quarter Horses are ideal for families, beginner riders, and those who want to race or enter them into rodeo or halter competitions. They are easy to train, have a calm and gentle temperament, and are adaptable to the needs of their owners.

This beautiful horse will demand your care and attention but the benefits of owning an American Quarter Horse are many. We hope you make the right decision. 

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