American Quarter Horse

American Quarter Horse

Overview
The American Quarter Horse is an American breed of horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

 that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name came from its ability to outdistance other breeds of horses in races of a quarter mile or less; some individuals 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
American Quarter Horse Association
The American Quarter Horse Association , 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...

 is the largest breed registry in the world, with more than 5 million American Quarter Horses registered.

The American Quarter Horse is well known both as a race horse and for its performance in rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

s, horse show
Horse show
A Horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and...

s and as a working ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

 horse.
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Encyclopedia
The American Quarter Horse is an American breed of horse
Horse
The horse is one of two extant subspecies of Equus ferus, or the wild horse. It is a single-hooved mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today...

 that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name came from its ability to outdistance other breeds of horses in races of a quarter mile or less; some individuals 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
American Quarter Horse Association
The American Quarter Horse Association , 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...

 is the largest breed registry in the world, with more than 5 million American Quarter Horses registered.

The American Quarter Horse is well known both as a race horse and for its performance in rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

s, horse show
Horse show
A Horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and...

s and as a working ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

 horse. The compact body of the American Quarter Horse is well-suited to the intricate and speedy maneuvers required in reining
Reining
Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits...

, cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

, working cow horse, barrel racing
Barrel racing
Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. Though both boys and girls compete at the youth level and men compete in some amateur venues, in collegiate and professional ranks, it is primarily a rodeo...

, calf roping
Calf roping
Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event that features a calf and a rider mounted on a horse. The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by...

, and other western riding
Western riding
Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West...

 events, especially those involving live cattle. The American Quarter Horse is also shown in English
English riding
English riding is a term used to describe a form of horse riding that is seen throughout the world. There are many variations in English riding, but all feature a flat English saddle without the deep seat, high cantle or saddle horn seen on a Western saddle nor the knee pads seen on an Australian...

 disciplines, driving
Driving (horse)
Driving, when applied to horses, ponies, mules, or donkeys, is a broad term for hitching equines to a wagon, carriage, cart, sleigh, or other horse-drawn vehicle by means of a harness and working them in this way...

, and many other equestrian
Equestrianism
Equestrianism more often known as riding, horseback riding or horse riding refers to the skill of riding, driving, or vaulting with horses...

 activities.

Colonial era


In the 17th century, colonists on the eastern seaboard of what today is the United States began to cross imported English Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

 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
Iberian horse
The Iberian horse is a title given to a number of horse breeds native to the Iberian peninsula. At present, 17 horse breeds are recognized by FAO as characteristic of the Iberian Peninsula....

, Arabian
Arabian horse
The Arabian or Arab horse is a breed of horse that originated on the Arabian Peninsula. With a distinctive head shape and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world. It is also one of the oldest breeds, with archaeological evidence of horses...

 and Barb
Barb (horse)
Developed on the Barbary Coast of North Africa, the Barb horse is a desert breed with great hardiness and stamina. The Barb generally possesses a fiery temperament and an atypical sport-horse conformation, but nevertheless has influenced modern breeds....

 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
Godolphin Arabian
The Godolphin Arabian , also known as the Godolphin Barb, was an Arabian horse who was one of three stallions that were the founders of the modern Thoroughbred horse racing bloodstock...

. 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 distance at which it excelled, with some individuals being clocked at up to 55 mph.

Westward expansion


In the 19th century, pioneers heading West needed a hardy, willing horse. On the Great Plains
Great Plains
The Great Plains are a broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe and grassland, which lies west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada. This area covers parts of the U.S...

, settlers encountered horses that descended from the Spanish stock Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 and other Conquistadors had introduced into the viceroyalty of New Spain
New Spain
New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain , was a viceroyalty of the Spanish colonial empire, comprising primarily territories in what was known then as 'América Septentrional' or North America. Its capital was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire...

, which today includes the Southwestern United States and Mexico. These horses of the west included herds of feral
Feral
A feral organism is one that has changed from being domesticated to being wild or untamed. In the case of plants it is a movement from cultivated to uncultivated or controlled to volunteer. The introduction of feral animals or plants to their non-native regions, like any introduced species, may...

 animals known as Mustangs
Mustang (horse)
A Mustang is a free-roaming horse of the North American west that first descended from horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but there is intense debate over terminology...

, as well as horses domesticated by Native Americans
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

, including the Comanche
Comanche
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose historic range consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas. Historically, the Comanches were hunter-gatherers, with a typical Plains Indian...

, 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 ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

es.

Development as a distinct breed




Early foundation sires
Foundation bloodstock
Foundation bloodstock or foundation stock are horses that are the progenitor, or foundation, of a new horse breed or a given bloodline within a breed. The term is also used in a similar manner when discussing purebred dogs...

 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
Traveler (horse)
Mystery surrounds Traveler , as his breeding is completely unknown. He appeared in Texas in the mid-1880s and eventually ended up as a match racehorse and stallion. Some stories have him part of a contractor's work string doing grading work on a railroad being constructed in Eastland County, Texas...

, a stallion of unknown breeding, known to have been in Texas by 1889; and Peter McCue, foaled 1895, registered as a Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

 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 ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

es, such as the King Ranch
King Ranch
King Ranch, located in south Texas between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, is one of the world's largest ranches. The ranch, founded in 1853 by Captain Richard King and Gideon K. Lewis, includes portions of six Texas counties, including most of Kleberg County and much of Kenedy County, with...

, 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
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

, 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
Arabian horse
The Arabian or Arab horse is a breed of horse that originated on the Arabian Peninsula. With a distinctive head shape and high tail carriage, the Arabian is one of the most easily recognizable horse breeds in the world. It is also one of the oldest breeds, with archaeological evidence of horses...

, Morgan
Morgan horse
The Morgan is one of the earliest horse breeds developed in the United States. Tracing back to the stallion Figure, later named Justin Morgan after his best-known owner, the breed excels in many disciplines, and is known for its versatility....

 and even Standardbred
Standardbred horse
Standardbreds are a breed of horse best known for their ability to race in harness at a trot or pace instead of under saddle at a gallop. Developed in North America, the breed is now recognized worldwide for its harness racing ability...

 bloodlines.

In 1940, the American Quarter Horse Association
American Quarter Horse Association
The American Quarter Horse Association , 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...

 (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
Wimpy P-1
Wimpy P-1 was the first registered Quarter Horse for the American Quarter Horse Association, or AQHA.-Life:He was foaled on the King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas on March 3, 1937. However, the original application listed his foaling date as April 3, 1937, and the original stud books gave his foaling...

, a descendant of the King Ranch
King Ranch
King Ranch, located in south Texas between Corpus Christi and Brownsville, is one of the world's largest ranches. The ranch, founded in 1853 by Captain Richard King and Gideon K. Lewis, includes portions of six Texas counties, including most of Kleberg County and much of Kenedy County, with...

 foundation sire Old Sorrel. Other sires alive at the founding of the AQHA were given the earliest registration numbers Joe Reed P-3
Joe Reed (horse)
Joe Reed , often known as Joe Reed P-3, was a Quarter Horse racehorse from the early days of the American Quarter Horse Association that became an influential sire with the breed.-Life:...

, Chief P-5, Oklahoma Star P-6
Oklahoma Star
For many years, Oklahoma Star 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.-Life:...

, Cowboy P-12, and Waggoner's Rainy Day P-13. The Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

 race horse Three Bars, alive in the early years of the AQHA, is recognized by the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame
American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame
The American Quarter Horse Association has created a Hall of Fame in Amarillo, Texas to honor both people and horses who contributed to the growth of the American Quarter Horse. Any one may nominate either people or horses to be considered. Nominations from the membership are due by October 1. They...

 as one of the significant foundation sires for the Quarter Horse breed. Other significant Thoroughbred sires seen in early AQHA pedigrees include Rocket Bar
Rocket Bar
Rocket Bar was a registered Thoroughbred stallion that made his mark on the Quarter Horse racetracks and as a breeding stallion.-Life:Rocket Bar was a registered Thoroughbred son of Three Bars that foaled in Arizona in 1951...

, Top Deck
Top Deck (horse)
Unraced as a Thoroughbred, the stallion Top Deck went on to become a famous sire of Quarter Horses.-Life:Top Deck was foaled in 1945 and was injured as a young foal, preventing a racing career. His sire was a grandson of Man o' War named Equestrian...

 and Depth Charge.

"Appendix" and "Foundation" horses


Since the American Quarter Horse formally established itself as a breed, the AQHA stud book has remained open to additional Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

 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, have created several separate organizations to promote and register "Foundation" Quarter Horses.

Quarter Horses today



The American Quarter Horse is best-known today as a show horse
Horse show
A Horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and...

, race horse
Horse racing
Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has a long history. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in ancient Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC...

, reining
Reining
Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits...

 and cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

 horse, rodeo
Rodeo
Rodeo is a competitive sport which arose out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain, Mexico, and later the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. It was based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and later, cowboys, in what today is the western United States,...

 competitor, ranch
Ranch
A ranch is an area of landscape, including various structures, given primarily to the practice of ranching, the practice of raising grazing livestock such as cattle or sheep for meat or wool. The word most often applies to livestock-raising operations in the western United States and Canada, though...

 horse, and all-around family horse. Quarter horses compete well in rodeo events such as barrel racing
Barrel racing
Barrel racing is a rodeo event in which a horse and rider attempt to complete a clover-leaf pattern around preset barrels in the fastest time. Though both boys and girls compete at the youth level and men compete in some amateur venues, in collegiate and professional ranks, it is primarily a rodeo...

, calf roping
Calf roping
Calf roping, also known as tie-down roping, is a rodeo event that features a calf and a rider mounted on a horse. The goal of this timed event is for the rider to catch the calf by throwing a loop of rope from a lariat around its neck, dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by...

 and team roping
Team roping
Team roping also known as heading and heeling is a rodeo event that features a steer and two mounted riders. The first roper is referred to as the "header," the person who ropes the front of the steer, usually around the horns, but it is also legal for the rope to go around the neck, or go around...

; and gymkhana
Gymkhana (equestrian)
Gymkhana is a term used in the United Kingdom, east coast of the United States, and other English-speaking nations to describe an equestrian event consisting of speed pattern racing and timed games for riders on horses...

 or O-Mok-See. Other stock horse events such as cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

 and reining
Reining
Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits...

 are open to all breeds but also dominated by American Quarter Horse. Large purses allow top competitors to earn over a million dollars in some of these events.

The breed is not only well-suited for western riding
Western riding
Western riding is a style of horseback riding which evolved from the ranching and warfare traditions brought to the Americas by the Spanish Conquistadors, and both equipment and riding style evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West...

 and cattle
Cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

 work. Many race tracks offer Quarter Horses a wide assortment of pari-mutuel horse racing
Horse racing
Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has a long history. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in ancient Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC...

 with purses in the millions. Quarter Horses have also been trained to compete in dressage
Dressage
Dressage is a competitive equestrian sport, defined by the International Equestrian Federation as "the highest expression of horse training." Competitions are held at all levels from amateur to the World Equestrian Games...

 and can be good jumpers
Show jumping
Show jumping, also known as "stadium jumping," "open jumping," or "jumpers," is a member of a family of English riding equestrian events that also includes dressage, eventing, hunters, and equitation. Jumping classes commonly are seen at horse shows throughout the world, including the Olympics...

. They are also used for recreational trail riding
Trail riding
Trail riding sometimes called horse or pony trekking is riding outdoors on natural trails and roads as opposed to riding in an enclosed area such as a riding arena. The term may encompass those who travel on horses, on mountain bikes, or on motorcycles and other motorized all-terrain vehicles...

 and in mounted police
Mounted police
Mounted police are police who patrol on horseback or camelback. They continue to serve in remote areas and in metropolitan areas where their day-to-day function may be picturesque or ceremonial, but they are also employed in crowd control because of their mobile mass and height advantage and...

 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
American Quarter Horse Association
The American Quarter Horse Association , 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...

 (which also encompasses Quarter Horses from Canada), the second largest registry of Quarter Horses is in Brazil, followed by Australia. With the internationalization of the discipline of reining
Reining
Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits...

 and its acceptance as one of the official seven events of the World Equestrian Games
World Equestrian Games
The FEI World Equestrian Games are the major international championships for equestrianism, and administered by the Fédération Equestre Internationale . The games have been held every four years, halfway between sets of consecutive Summer Olympic Games, since 1990...

, there is a growing international interest in Quarter Horses. Countries like Japan, Switzerland and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 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
American Quarter Horse Association
The American Quarter Horse Association , 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...

 is the largest breed registry in the world, with over 3 million American Quarter Horses registered worldwide.

Breed characteristics



The modern 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
Hand (unit)
The hand is a non-SI unit of measurement of length, now used only for the measurement of the height of horses in some English-speaking countries, including Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA. With origins in ancient Egypt, it was originally based on the breadth of a human hand...

 high, although some Halter-type
Halter (horse show)
"Halter" is a term used to describe a type of horse show class where horses are shown "in hand," meaning that they are led, not ridden, and are judged on their conformation and suitability as breeding stock...

 and English hunter-type horses may grow as tall as 17 hands.

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
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

.

Stock type



Reining
Reining
Reining is a western riding competition for horses where the riders guide the horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. All work is done at the lope and gallop; the fastest of the horse gaits...

 and cutting
Cutting (sport)
Cutting is an equestrian event in the western riding style where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a short period of time.-Description:...

 horses are smaller in stature, with quick, agile movements and very powerful hindquarters. Western pleasure
Western Pleasure
Western Pleasure is a western style competition at horse shows that evaluates horses on manners and suitability of the horse for a relaxed but collected gait cadence and relatively slow speed of gait, along with calm and responsive disposition. The horse is to appear to be a "pleasure" to ride and...

 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.

Halter type


Horses shown in-hand in Halter
Halter (horse show)
"Halter" is a term used to describe a type of horse show class where horses are shown "in hand," meaning that they are led, not ridden, and are judged on their conformation and suitability as breeding stock...

 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 and weighs in at over 1200 pounds (544.3 kg) when fitted for halter competition. Not only are there concerns about the weight to frame ratio on the horse's skeletal system
Horse anatomy
Equine anatomy refers to the gross and microscopic anatomy of horses and other equids, including donkeys, and zebras. While all anatomical features of equids are described in the same terms as for other animals by the International Committee on Veterinary Gross Anatomical Nomenclature in the book...

, but the massive build is also linked to HYPP. (See Genetic diseases below)

Racing and hunter type



Quarter Horse race horses
Horse racing
Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has a long history. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in ancient Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC...

 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
Show hunter
The show hunter is a type of show horse that is judged on its movement, manners, and way of going, particularly while jumping fences. The horses are shown in hunt seat style tack, and are often of Warmblood or Thoroughbred type, though a hunter-style pony is also seen in youth classes...

 type is slimmer, even more closely resembling a Thoroughbred
Thoroughbred
The Thoroughbred is a horse breed best known for its use in horse racing. Although the word thoroughbred is sometimes used to refer to any breed of purebred horse, it technically refers only to the Thoroughbred breed...

, usually reflecting a higher percentage of appendix breeding. They are shown in hunter/jumper classes at both breed shows and in open USEF
United States Equestrian Federation
The United States Equestrian Federation is the national governing body for most equestrian sports in the United States. It began on January 20, 1917 as the Association of American Horse Shows, later changed in 1933 to the American Horse Shows Association...

-rated horse show
Horse show
A Horse show is a judged exhibition of horses and ponies. Many different horse breeds and equestrian disciplines hold competitions worldwide, from local to the international levels. Most horse shows run from one to three days, sometimes longer for major, all-breed events or national and...

 competition.

Colors



Quarter Horses come in nearly all colors. The most common color is sorrel
Sorrel (horse)
Sorrel is an alternative word for one of the most common equine coat colors in horses. While the term is usually used to refer to a copper-red shade of chestnut, in some places it is used generically in place of "chestnut" to refer to any reddish horse with a same-color or lighter mane and tail,...

, a brownish red, part of the color group called chestnut
Chestnut (coat)
Chestnut is a hair coat color of horses consisting of a reddish-to-brown coat with a mane and tail the same or lighter in color than the coat. Genetically and visually, chestnut is characterized by the absolute absence of true black hairs...

 by most other breed registries. Other recognized colors include bay
Bay (color)
Bay is a hair coat color of horses, characterized by a reddish brown body color with a black mane, tail, ear edges, and lower legs. Bay is one of the most common coat colors in many horse breeds....

, black
Black (horse)
Black is a hair coat color of horses in which the entire hair coat is black. Black is a relatively uncommon coat color, and novices frequently mistake dark chestnuts or bays for black. However, some breeds of horses, such as the Friesian horse, Murgese and Ariegeois are almost exclusively black...

, brown
Seal brown (horse)
Seal brown is a hair coat color of horses characterized by a near-black body color; with black points, the mane, tail and legs; but also reddish or tan areas around the eyes, muzzle, behind the elbow and in front of the stifle...

, buckskin
Buckskin (color)
Buckskin is a hair coat color of horses; referring to a color that resembles certain shades of tanned deerskin. Similar colors in some breeds of dogs are also called buckskin. The horse has a tan or gold colored coat with black points . Buckskin occurs as a result of the cream dilution gene acting...

, palomino
Palomino
Palomino is a coat color in horses, consisting of a gold coat and white mane and tail. Genetically, the palomino color is created by a single allele of a dilution gene called the cream gene working on a "red" base coat...

, gray
Gray (horse)
Gray or grey is a coat color of horses characterized by progressive silvering of the colored hairs of the coat. Most gray horses have black skin and dark eyes; unlike many depigmentation genes, gray does not affect skin or eye color Their adult hair coat is white, dappled, or white intermingled...

, dun
Dun gene
The dun gene is a dilution gene that affects both red and black pigments in the coat color of a horse. The dun gene has the ability to affect the appearance of all black, bay, or chestnut -based horses to some degree by lightening the base body coat and suppressing the underlying base color to the...

, red dun, grullo
Grullo
Grullo is a color of horses in the dun family, characterized by tan-gray or mouse-colored hairs on the body, often with shoulder and dorsal stripes and black barring on the lower legs. In this coloration each individual hair is mouse-colored, unlike a roan which is composed of a mixture of dark and...

 (also occasionally referred to as blue dun), red roan
Roan (horse)
Roan is a horse coat color pattern characterized by an even mixture of colored and white hairs on the body, while the head and "points"—lower legs, mane and tail—are more solid-colored. The roan pattern is dominantly-inherited, and is found in many horse breeds...

, blue roan, bay roan, perlino
Cream gene
The cream gene is responsible for a number of horse coat colors. Horses that have the cream gene in addition to a base coat color that is chestnut will become palomino if they are heterozygous, having one copy of the cream gene, or cremello, if they are homozygous. Similarly, horses with a bay...

, cremello, and white
White (horse)
White horses are born white and stay white throughout their life. White horses may have brown, blue, or hazel eyes. "True white" horses, especially those that carry one of the dominant white genes, are rare...

. In the past, spotted color patterns
Cropout
A cropout, crop-out or crop out is a horse with body spots, including pinto or appaloosa spotting, or "high white" horse markings, with a sire and dam who both appeared to have been solid-colored. There are several variations in the definition, depending on the breed registry involved. There are...

 were excluded, but now with the advent of DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 testing to verify parentage, the registry accepts all colors as long as both parents are registered.

Genetic diseases


There are several genetic diseases of concern to Quarter Horse breeders:
  • Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis
    Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis
    Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis is a genetic disorder which occurs in both humans and horses, where it is also known as Impressive Syndrome. It is an inherited autosomal dominant disorder which affects sodium channels in muscle cells and the ability to regulate potassium levels in the blood...

     (HYPP), which is caused by an autosomal dominant gene linked to the stallion Impressive. It is characterized by uncontrollable muscle twitching and substantial muscle weakness or paralysis among affected horses. Because it is a dominant gene, only one parent has to have the gene for it to be transmitted to offspring. There is a DNA test for HYPP, which is required by the AQHA. Since 2007, the AQHA bars registration of horses who possess the homozygous form (H/H) of the gene, and though heterozygous (H/N) horses, are still eligible for registration, altering that status is currently being discussed. Additionally all Quarter Horses born 2007 or later that are confirmed to be descendants of Impressive must carry a note about the risks of HYPP on their registration papers. Due to HYPP, the halter classes are undergoing significant changes. Halter
    Halter (horse show)
    "Halter" is a term used to describe a type of horse show class where horses are shown "in hand," meaning that they are led, not ridden, and are judged on their conformation and suitability as breeding stock...

     classes are dominated by the Impressive bloodline. Impressive, a very prolific halter horse, brought to the stock breeds the muscle mass that is popular in halter competition today. This muscle mass is linked to HYPP, and as the condition is reduced within the breed, the style of horse in halter classes is also likely to change. Already there have been rule changes, including the creation of a "Performance Halter class" in which a horse must possess a Register of Merit in performance before it can compete.

  • Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia
    Hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia
    Hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia aka hyperelastosis cutis is an inherited autosomal recessive connective tissue disorder. It develops from a homozygous recessive mutation that weakens collagen fibers that allow the skin of the animal to stay connected to the rest of the animal...

     (HERDA), also known as hyperelastosis cutis (HC). This is caused by an autosomal
    Autosome
    An autosome is a chromosome that is not a sex chromosome, or allosome; that is to say, there is an equal number of copies of the chromosome in males and females. For example, in humans, there are 22 pairs of autosomes. In addition to autosomes, there are sex chromosomes, to be specific: X and Y...

     recessive gene, and thus, unlike HYPP, HERDA can only be transmitted if both parents carry the gene. When a horse has this disease, there is a collagen defect that results in the layers of skin not being held firmly together. Thus, when the horse is ridden under saddle or suffers trauma to the skin, the outer layer often splits or separates from the deeper layer, or it can tear off completely. It rarely heals without disfiguring scars. Sunburn can also be a concern. In dramatic cases, the skin can split along the back and even roll down the sides, with the horse literally being skinned alive. Most horses with HERDA are euthanized for humane reasons between the age of two and four years. The very hotly debated and controversial theory, put forth by researchers at Cornell University
    Cornell University
    Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

     and Mississippi State University
    Mississippi State University
    The Mississippi State University of Agriculture and Applied Science commonly known as Mississippi State University is a land-grant university located in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, United States, partially in the town of Starkville and partially in an unincorporated area...

     is that the sire line of the great foundation stallion Poco Bueno
    Poco Bueno
    Poco Bueno a brown quarter horse stallion foaled April 10, 1944. He was sired by the great Quarter horse stallion 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...

     is implicated as the origin of the disease. As of May 9, 2007, Researchers working independently at Cornell University and at the University of California, Davis
    University of California, Davis
    The University of California, Davis is a public teaching and research university established in 1905 and located in Davis, California, USA. Spanning over , the campus is the largest within the University of California system and third largest by enrollment...

     announced that a DNA test for HERDA has been developed. Over 1,500 horses were tested during the development phase of the test, which is now available to the general public through both institutions.

  • Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency
    Glycogen branching enzyme deficiency
    Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency is a genetic disease affecting horses, especially American Quarter Horses and related breeds.-Diagnosis, Symptoms, and Prognosis:...

     (GBED) is a genetic disease where the horse is lacking an enzyme necessary for storing glycogen
    Glycogen
    Glycogen is a molecule that serves as the secondary long-term energy storage in animal and fungal cells, with the primary energy stores being held in adipose tissue...

    , the horse's heart muscle and skeletal muscles cannot function, leading to rapid death. The disease occurs in foals who are homozygous for the lethal GBED allele, meaning both parents carry one copy of the gene. The stallion King P-234
    King (horse)
    King, 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 .-Life:...

     has been linked to this disease. There is a DNA
    DNA
    Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

     blood test for this gene.

  • Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy
    Equine polysaccharide storage myopathy
    EPSM or Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy is a muscle disease most commonly associated with heavy horse breeds. Common heavy horse breeds in the United States include the Clydesdale, Shire, Belgian Draft or Belgian, Suffolk Punch and Percheron. EPSM may also occur in the American Quarter...

    , also called EPSM or PSSM, is a metabolic muscular condition in horses that causes tying up
    Equine Exertional Rhabdomyolysis
    Equine exertional rhabdomyolysis is a syndrome that damages the muscle tissue in horses...

    , and is also related to a glycogen
    Glycogen
    Glycogen is a molecule that serves as the secondary long-term energy storage in animal and fungal cells, with the primary energy stores being held in adipose tissue...

     storage disorder. While also seen in some draft horse
    Draft horse
    A draft horse , draught horse or dray horse , less often called a work horse or heavy horse, is a large horse bred for hard, heavy tasks such as ploughing and farm labour...

     breeds, PSSM has been traced to three specific but undisclosed bloodlines in Quarter Horses, with an autosomal
    Autosome
    An autosome is a chromosome that is not a sex chromosome, or allosome; that is to say, there is an equal number of copies of the chromosome in males and females. For example, in humans, there are 22 pairs of autosomes. In addition to autosomes, there are sex chromosomes, to be specific: X and Y...

     recessive
    Recessive
    In genetics, the term "recessive gene" refers to an allele that causes a phenotype that is only seen in a homozygous genotype and never in a heterozygous genotype. Every person has two copies of every gene on autosomal chromosomes, one from mother and one from father...

     inheritance pattern. 48% of Quarter Horses with symptoms of neuromuscular disease have PSSM. To some extent it can be diet controlled with specialized low-starch diets, but genetic testing is advised before breeding, as the condition exists at a subclinical level in approximately 6% of the general Quarter Horse population.

  • Lethal White Syndrome
    Lethal white syndrome
    Lethal white syndrome , also called overo lethal white syndrome , lethal white overo , and overo lethal white foal syndrome , is an autosomal genetic disorder most prevalent in the American Paint Horse...

    . Although "cropout
    Cropout
    A cropout, crop-out or crop out is a horse with body spots, including pinto or appaloosa spotting, or "high white" horse markings, with a sire and dam who both appeared to have been solid-colored. There are several variations in the definition, depending on the breed registry involved. There are...

    " Quarter Horses with Paint markings were not allowed to be registered for many years, the gene for such markings is a recessive and continued to periodically appear in Quarter Horse foals. Thus, it is believed that some Quarter Horses may carry the gene for Lethal White Syndrome
    Lethal white syndrome
    Lethal white syndrome , also called overo lethal white syndrome , lethal white overo , and overo lethal white foal syndrome , is an autosomal genetic disorder most prevalent in the American Paint Horse...

    . There is a DNA test for this condition.

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