American Quarter Horse

Last updated
American Quarter Horse
Quarter Horse(REFON)-cleaned.jpg
A palomino American Quarter Horse shown at halter
Other namesQuarter Horse
Country of originUnited States
Traits
Distinguishing featuresGreat speed over short distances; short, refined head; strong, well-muscled body, featuring a broad chest and powerful, rounded hindquarters
Breed standards

The American Quarter Horse, or Quarter Horse, is an American breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name is derived from its ability to outrun 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 development of the Quarter Horse traces to the 1600s.

Contents

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. [1] 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 for the intricate and quick 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 used in English disciplines, driving, show jumping, dressage, hunting, and many other equestrian activities.

Breed history

Colonial era

In the 1600s on the Eastern seaboard of what today is the United States began to breed imported English Thoroughbred horses with assorted "native" horses. [2]

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. [3] The influence of Thoroughbreds like Janus contributed genes crucial to the development of the colonial "Quarter Horse". [4] [5] The resulting horse was small, hardy, quick, and was used as a work horse during the week and a race horse on the weekends. [6]

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. These courses were often no more than a straight stretch of road or flat piece of open land. When competing against a Thoroughbred, local sprinters often won.[ citation needed ] As the Thoroughbred breed became established in America, many colonial Quarter Horses were included in the original American stud books. [7] This began a long association between the Thoroughbred breed and what would later become officially known as the "Quarter Horse", named after the 14 mile (0.40 km) race distance at which it excelled. [8] [9] Some Quarter Horses have been clocked at up to 55 mph. [10]

Westward expansion

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.

The 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. [11] [12] 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. [13]

Development as a distinct breed

A photograph of Peter McCue, taken in Oklahoma around 1905 Petermccuewithcaudell.jpg
A photograph of Peter McCue, taken in Oklahoma around 1905

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; [14] and Peter McCue, foaled 1895, registered as a Thoroughbred but of disputed pedigree. [6] [14] [15] Another early foundation sire for the breed was Copperbottom, foaled in 1828, who tracks his lineage through the Byerley Turk, a foundation sire of the Thoroughbred horse breed. [16] [17] [18] [19]

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 required 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 in events that require speed as well as the ability to handle cattle. [20]

Sprint races were also popular weekend entertainment and racing became a source of economic gain for breeders. As a result, more Thoroughbred blood was added into the developing American Quarter Horse breed. The American Quarter Horse also benefitted from the addition of Arabian, Morgan, and even Standardbred bloodlines. [21]

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. [22] After winning the 1941 Fort Worth Exposition and Fat Stock Show grand champion stallion, the horse honored with the first registration number, P-1, was Wimpy, [23] 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. [24] 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. [25] Other significant Thoroughbred sires seen in early AQHA pedigrees include Rocket Bar, Top Deck and Depth Charge. [26]

"Appendix" and "Foundation" horses

Since the American Quarter Horse was formally established 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. [27]

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 argue that the continued addition of Thoroughbred bloodlines are beginning to compromise the integrity of the breed standard. Some favor the earlier style of horse and have created several separate organizations to promote and register "Foundation" Quarter Horses. [28] [29] [30]

American Quarter Horses today

The Quarter Horse is well-suited for the western disciplines. Barrel racing.jpg
The Quarter Horse is well-suited for the western disciplines.

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 are commonly used in rodeo events such as barrel racing, calf roping and team roping; [31] [32] and gymkhana or O-Mok-See. [33] Other stock horse events such as cutting and reining are open to all breeds but are dominated by American Quarter Horse.

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 earnings in the millions. [32] Quarter Horses have also been trained to compete in dressage and show jumping. They are also used for recreational trail riding and in mounted police units. [23]

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. [34] 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.[ citation needed ] 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. 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 nearly 3 million American Quarter Horses registered worldwide in 2014. [35]

Breed characteristics

A halter-type Quarter Horse Brauner.JPG
A halter-type Quarter Horse

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. [36]

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. [37] 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. [38]

Stock type

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. [ citation needed ]

Halter type

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).

Racing and hunter type

A Quarter Horse warming up for hunt seat competition Flexion-at-poll.jpg
A Quarter Horse warming up for hunt seat competition

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." [39] 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. [40]

Genetic diseases

There are several genetic diseases of concern to Quarter Horse breeders:

See also

Related Research Articles

Impressive was born an Appendix American Quarter Horse, who earned his full AQHA registration in 1971. He was the 1974 World Champion Open Aged halter stallion, the first such World Champion in his breed, despite carrying only 48 halter points in total. He is famous for his highly successful progeny, having sired 2,250 foals. Nearly thirty of his offspring went on to be World Champions themselves.

Poco Bueno was a brown American Quarter Horse stallion foaled April 10, 1944. He was sired by King P-234 and out of the mare Miss Taylor who was by Old Poco Bueno. Poco Bueno was named for his maternal grandsire, and the name means pretty good in Spanish. Poco Bueno is the stallion that is linked to the genetic disease Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA) in stock horses.

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 American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 1989.

Wimpy P-1 was the first registered Quarter Horse for the American Quarter Horse Association, or AQHA.

Go Man Go Quarter horse champion stallion

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 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.

Depth Charge (1941–1965) was a Thoroughbred son of Bold Venture who went on to become an outstanding sire of American Quarter Horse racehorses. He was posthumously inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame

Joe Hancock Quarter Horse stallion and sire

Joe Hancock (1926–1943) was an influential Quarter Horse sire in the early years of the American Quarter Horse Association.

Joe Reed II (1936–1964) was a Quarter Horse racehorse from the early days of the American Quarter Horse Association that became an influential sire with the breed.

Bert (1934—1956) was one of the most influential sires in the early years of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). He was posthumously inducted into the AQHA Hall of Fame.

Driftwood (1932–1960) was originally known as Speedy while he was a rodeo horse. Driftwood was known for siring rodeo and ranch horses.

For many years, Oklahoma Star (1915–1943) was known simply as the Tommy Moore Horse, after his breeder, owner, trainer and race jockey. He was an influential Quarter Horse stallion in the early days of the breed.

Peter McCue Quarter Horse and/or Thoroughbred racehorse and sire

Peter McCue (1895–1923) was a racehorse and sire influential in the American Quarter Horse Association, although he died before the AQHA was formed.

Sugar Bars (1951–1982) was a Quarter Horse racehorse and stallion who sired many Quarter horse race and show horses.

Old Sorrel, sometimes known as The Old Sorrel, (1915–1945) was a Quarter Horse stallion who was the foundation of the King Ranch linebreeding program for Quarter Horses, and the cornerstone of the King Ranch horse breeding program.

Quo Vadis was an outstanding Quarter Horse show mare as well as being an outstanding broodmare in the early days of the American Quarter Horse Association.

Barbara L Quarter horse race mare

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 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.

A Quarter Horse stallion, Billy Clegg was a sire during the early years of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

Lightning Bar Quarter Horse stallion

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.

American Quarter Horse Association American horse breed registry for Quarter Horses

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 234,627 members, over 32,000 of whom are international.

Eternal Sun Quarter Horse show horse and sire

Eternal Sun (1958–1985) was an American Quarter Horse foaled in 1958. He was a Quarter Horse race horse and an American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) show horse who competed in cutting and halter classes. He earned numerous AQHA awards throughout his career, including an AQHA Championship. He was also a sire of 908 foals, many of whom are themselves AQHA award earners and race horses. He was inducted into the Michigan Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame in 1989, later followed by his daughter, Eternal Linda. He died at the age of 27 in 1985 on Harold Howard's farm.

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Sources

Further reading