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Meet the American Quarter Horse

Breed Profile: American Quarter Horse


American Quarter Horse

This American Quarter Horse gelding exhibits the muscular build typical of the breed.

2005 K. Blocksdorf
American Quarter Horse in Trail Class

American Quarter Horse in a trail class competition.

K. Blocksdorf
Quarter Horse Competitive Trail Horse

The versatile American Quarter Horse is also comfortable outside of the show ring.

K. Blocksdorf

The American Quarter Horse is North America’s most popular breed and has the largest breed registry. The AQHA states there are over five million registered American Quarter Horses world-wide. The breed excels as a working, family or show horse.


Body Type:

These hardy horses are medium boned. Their heads are finely chiselled, with a wide forehead and a flat profile. Their legs are sturdy without being coarse, and their shoulders and haunches are heavy and muscular. There are a few distinct types of Quarter Horses, such as the more leggy racing stock, or the more compact reining types. Foundation Quarter Horses are bred to remain true to the original Quarter Horse type, used for cattle work on the open range.


Quarter Horses range in size from about 14.3 HH to 15.3 HH. The introduction of Thoroughbred bloodlines has contributed to an increase in height and “Appendix” Quarter Horses 16 HH and more are not unusual.


The sure footed Quarter Horse gets its name from the quarter mile races that were held by settlers. Quarter Horses are known for their ‘cow sense’. Once widely used as working cow horses they now excel at rodeo events such as reining, cutting, team penning and speed games. Their powerful haunches help with quick departs to gather a stray from a herd of cattle, or propel them around the barrels in a barrel race. Quarter Horse racing remains an exhilarating sport with tracks across North America. Speeds of up to 50 mph have been recorded during the short and intense Quarter Horse races. They are equally at home under saddle or in harness where they’re steady dispositions often make them the ideal beginner or family horse.

Color and Markings:

Quarter Horses come in a variety of solid colors, roans, palominos, greys, grullos, buckskins and duns. Color-coated horses  such as spotted coats or pintos are accepted in the AQHA registry as long as it can be proven that both the sire and dam of the horse were registered Quarter Horses. Markings like stockings, stars, strips and blazes are common.

History and Origins:

Quarter Horses are a mixture of Arabian, Spanish, and English bred horses. There are eleven foundation Quarter Horse bloodlines. These eleven families are the ancestors of all Quarter Horses around the world. Although the breed or type has been in existence since the 1600s the American Quarter Horse Registry began in 1940. The introduction of Thoroughbred bloodlines has created two distinct types of Quarter Horses. “Appendix Quarter Horses” tend to be leaner and leggier.

Unique Characteristics:

Quarter Horses are quick over short distances, sure footed and agile. They make comfortable mounts for trail riding and are dependable for all day farm work. The compact muscular silhouette of the foundation type Quarter Horse is unmistakable. With its calm, gentle and steady demeanor they are the ideal family horse or horse for the beginner rider. Because they have a steady temperment does not mean they are slow to learn however. Many Quarter Horses have natural ‘cow sense’, that makes them easy to train for ranch work, or competition such as roping and cutting. Once trained, they need very little guidance from their rider. They tend to be ‘easy keepers’ living well off of good pasture or hay.

Champion and Celebrity American Quarter Horses:

  • Wimpy was the first stallion listed in the AQHA registry.
  • Racing Quarter Horse Easy Jet proved indefatigable as a two year old winning 22 out of 26 starts. Even after having raced extensively, he remained strong and sound.
  • Impressive is infamous for passing on a condition known as Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. HYPP causes occasional seizure like symptoms. All foals known to be a descendent of a horse that carries HYPP must be tested.
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