The Quarter Horse is known as the All-American horse and
as the world's most versatile horse. Not only is it the most
popular breed in the United States, but it is possibly the
oldest horse breed in the US. Named for its amazing speed
during a short one quarter mile sprint, the fastest galloping
speed by any horse has been achieved by the American Quarter
Horse which has been clocked at speeds near 55 mph (88 km/h)
in a quarter mile or less. Their immensely powerful hindquarters
can propel the horse into a gallop almost from a standing
start, and Quarter Horse racing is becoming more popular.
The average Quarter Horse usually lives 20 years, but 35 years
is not uncommon when properly cared for.
It has been called by many names over the years: American
Quarter Horse, Foundation Quarter, Standard Quarter, Racing
Quarter, Running Quarter, Quarter Miler, Short Horse and the
cowboy's Cutting Horse.
While the breed originated in the United States and is now
distributed worldwide, its ancestry dates back to the Arabian,
Barb and Turk horses that were imported to America by early
Spanish explorers, conquistadors and traders. These were combined
into the Chickaswas breed by Native Americans to form one
side of the bloodline, with English horses and Thoroughbreds
on the other. Morgan and Standardbred horses have also been
used in the breed's development. But it is difficult to give
the exact origins because the blending of bloodlines to produce
a short-distance horse started in colonial regions prior to
the Revolutionary War. The true beginnings are believed to
have been in the Carolinas and Virginia but the principle
development was in the southwestern part of the United States,
in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, eastern Colorado, and Kansas
when in the early 1600s, settlers began importing English
horses and breeding them to the native Spanish-based Chickaswas
stock to create a tough all-purpose horse.
Of course, naming horses after people was common practice
back then and when the horses were sold their names were often
changed. This led to confusion when attempting to verify pedigrees.
Nowadays a horse's name must be acceptable to the American
Quarter Horse Association and must not exceed 20 characters.
Quarter Horse names may be reused only if certain criteria
are met as per AQHA rules.
And no particular attention was made to keep them as a distinct
breed, either. Fast horses were raced in any suitable open
space with many races being run as "match races" after a private
wager between owners or riders. Any of these fast horses that
also made good cow horses were crossed to existing mares.
Many of these mares had Spanish, Arabian, Morgan, or Standardbred
In 1889, Traveler, a horse of unknown pedigree, was shipped
to Texas in a carload of horses but it is believed that he
originated in Kentucky. Traveler was apparently not considered
valuable and at least once changed hands in a craps game.
He and his descendants were mated to some excellent mares,
and many Quarter Horses today can trace back to him along
the paternal side.
Currently there are two basic varieties of the breed. The
Foundation Quarter, Standard Quarter or old-fashioned "Bulldog"
type is the smallest, shortest, stockiest, most muscular variety,
yet extremely agile and sure-footed. Used for ranch work,
trail and pleasure riding, they average 14 to15 hands and
weigh 900 to 1,100 lbs. The Racing Quarter, Running Quarter
is taller, leaner and looks more like a well-muscled Thoroughbred
due to the added Thoroughbred genes. These average between
15 to 16 hands, weigh 1,000 to 1,250 pounds and tend to be
in solid colors with limited white markings.
American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), the largest equine
breed registry in the world, and founded in 1940, has registered
more than 5 million American Quarter Horses with the current
population estimated at 3.2 million animals.
The breed is usually recognized by a short muzzle, broad
forehead with a straight profile and large jaws. It has small
fox-like ears and large, wide-set eyes. The neck has a slight
crest. Their backs are short with good withers and a sloping
croup. The barrel is deep with well-sprung ribs and the hooves
are well-rounded, with deep open heels. The following 13 colors
are accepted by the AQHA: brown, chestnut, gray, dun, red
dun, bay, buckskin, black, grullo, red roan, blue roan, and
palomino, with sorrel being the most common and limited white
The walk, trot, canter, and gallop are the Quarter Horse's
natural gaits. Some individuals have long, leggy movements
with a lot of knee action, while others take shorter steps.
As for disposition and personality, this horse is the most
willing, laid-back, quiet and even-tempered of all the breeds,
and has a gentle nature. They are quick and agile, level-headed
and sensible, sure-footed and steady with good stamina. Their
unflappable nature has made them suitable for mounted police
units in cities. Intelligence, reliability, adaptability and
willingness to please their owners make the Quarter Horse
very easy to train in all ways. The breed seems to have an
innate "cow sense" and can anticipate the moves made by cattle
which makes them indispensable for herding and cutting.
There is one downside to the breed however, a genetic oddity
known as Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP). This is listed
as a genetic defect in AQHA's rules, along with Parrot Mouth
and Cryptorchidism. HYPP is inherited as a dominant trait
and is characterized by intermittent episodes of uncontrolled
muscle tremors (shaking, trembling or twitching) or profound
muscle weakness, and in severe cases, may lead to collapse
and/or death. To date, HYPP has been traced only to descendants
of a horse named IMPRESSIVE, #0767246.
They are indeed an all-purpose horse with uses ranging from
racing, herding, and rodeo, to show jumping, dressage, carriage
and pleasure riding.
About the Author
Crystal Eikanger writes for www.HorseClicks.com.