Horse Breeds Native to America

The Quarter Horse

One of America's most successful indigenous horse breeds is the Quarter Horse. Today the American Quarter Horse is the most popular and most common breed in the United States. There are more than 4 million American Quarter Horses registered with the American Quarter Horse Association.

The American Quarter horse was probably the first real breed developed in America. In the 17th century, thoroughbreds were being crossed with local horses, producing fast, stocky, tough animals suited for long days working cattle.

Quarter Horse - Joe HancockCredit:

The Quarter horse is named for its ability to sprint short distances (1/4 mile) at great speeds. Individuals have been clocked at up to 55mph. Farmers in the colonial days would gather to race their horses down a straight stretch of road. Their ranch horses needed to be stocky in order to work cows. They had no spare money for thoroughbreds so short match races would be held between neighbours. This led to the development of ¼ mile racing.

In 1940, and following the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), 'Quarter Horse' became the official name of the new breed.

The Quarter horse also excels at western disciplines of riding as it is compact and agile. Powerful hindquarters give it an explosive start, well suited for rodeo and gymkhana events. It was developed to work cattle on ranches and such disciplines as reining, cutting, calf roping and barrel racing come naturally to it. Its abilities are such that it also performs well in virtually any horse sport.

The Quarter Horse
Amazon Price: $24.95 $15.54 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 21, 2016)
This book was first printed in 1941
and was the first ever published about
the new breed. This is a collection of
all the early articles regarding the first
Quarter horses.

Today there is quite a range in the different types of Quarter horses. The original type is sometimes known as the 'bulldog' type, with the name coming from the heavy muscle development of the chest and hindquarters.

Subsequent crossing with the Thoroughbred has resulted in the development of a finer-boned horse so there is now a type suited for any equestrian discipline.

RopingCredit: Wikimedia

The Quarter horse has a short back and an overall compact, strong appearance. The head is short with large kind eyes and a gentle expression. He has a good wither and a deep sloping shoulder which ensures a comfortable ride. The chest is very broad and the hindquarters very muscular. The hocks have good bone and width. The cannon bones are short and the pasterns of medium length.

Quarter Horses: A Story of Two Centuries
Amazon Price: $19.95 $12.16 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 21, 2016)
The European origins and subsequent
development and use of the Quarter
Horse in the United States is covered
in this comprehensive volume.

Part of their reason for their speed and agility and their explosive start from a standstill was because of their powerful hindquarters and their relatively low height, generally not over 15 hands. Small horses were also easier for cowboys to mount and dismount when roping and branding cattle. Today the height of a Quarter horse may range from 13.2hh for a cutting horse to 17.2hh for a jumper or eventer. Classic western events mostly have horses of 15hh or under competing while those owners looking to compete in English events, hunting, jumping and eventing usually like a taller horse with its subsequent longer stride.

Originally thirteen colours were recognised with excessive white on the body being penalised. Quarter horses have an intelligent, keen mind but are easily trained, steady and obedient and thus good choices for novice riders. Quarter horses can be found in racing, show jumping, rodeos, driving and dressage. Their versatility and wonderful, calm temperaments make them sought after for police work and riding for the disabled groups. They are intelligent and kind, ideal as a horse for the whole family. But you'll probably need more than one.

Legends: Outstanding Quarter Horse Stallions and Mares (Volume 1)
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(price as of Jul 21, 2016)
Read about the mares and stallions
that have helped make the breed
what it is today.