Choosing a Quarter Horse

The quarter horse is considered by many to be one of the most successful breeds in the world. One of America's most popular breeds, the quarter horse was originally developed in the 17th century as a racehorse and excellent workhorse. Their natural "cow sense" is legendary.

History and Origin

In the early 1600s, English settlers in North America began importing English horses and breeding them to native Spanish based stock, brought to the New World by Spanish conquistadors. The purpose was to produce a stocky and tough all-purpose horse. Toward the end of the 17th century, as the English were becoming interested in racing, the breed became a racehorse in addition to a workhorse. With their immensely powerful hindquarters, the horse could be propelled into a gallop almost from a standing start.

When racing was legalized in colonial America in 1690, there were no tracks and few long straight stretches of road. Therefore, races were typically short, about a quarter of a mile. The most commonly used horse for these races was originally named the "short horse." The name was changed to quarter horse, for the quarter mile races in which they excel.

Later, the thoroughbred was imported to North America and quickly proved to be able to run faster for longer distances than the quarter horse. Interest in the breed as a racer quickly diminished. Thankfully, interest in the breed as a workhorse was rekindled. As people began to move to the west, the quarter horse was brought along to work cattle. It was found that the quarter horse had a natural sense around cattle and became an indispensable part of herding.

The American Quarter Horse Association was formed in 1940. Its registry is now the largest of any breed in the world with over 2.5 million horses listed.

Appearance and Size

The quarter horse has a short wide head with alert ears and a small muzzle. The chest is deep and broad and the forelegs are set wide apart. The primary characteristics of the breed are the well-muscled hindquarters.

The quarter stands 14 to 16 hands and can be any solid color.

Abilities and Personality

The quarter horse has a pleasant disposition and gentleness. They are excellent horses for schooling, trail riding and especially for children and families. The breed seems to have an innate cow sense and can anticipate the movement of cattle.

The quarter horse is not only important in cattle herding but is also a popular leisure riding horse. Today, the quarter horse participates in western style competition such as barrel racing, rodeos and racing short distances.