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Breed Profile: American Quarter Horse
The jury is still out on whether the American Quarter Horse is the first breed to be produced on American soil. Regardless, if it wasn't the first horse to be bred here it was certainly one of the first, and its history traces back to before the earliest days of the American colonies, back to the official royal breeding farms established here by the Spanish.
Today, according to the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), there are more than 4,000,000 Quarter Horses registered worldwide, and approximately 150,000 Quarter Horse foals registered each year.
The Quarter Horse has a rich and varied pedigree, including Spanish Barbs, Colonial mid-Atlantic Quarter-Pathers, English Thoroughbreds, Andalusians, Mustangs, and Rhode Island Racing Stock, to name just a few.
While the Quarter Horse was established before the English Thoroughbred could have a significant influence on early breeding, the greatest influence on early Quarter Horses was Sir Archy, a distance horse to whom many of the greatest 19th and 20th century Quarter Horses can trace their lineage.
While Quarter Horses were initially used to race in shorter style races on the eastern seaboard, the longer, four-mile heats that came into fashion in the 1850s pushed the Quarter Horse to the sidelines while leggier horses such as the Thoroughbred prevailed. The Quarter Horse may have all but died out if settlers moving West hadn't capitalized on the strength, quickness, and athleticism that made them naturals for pulling wagons and plows, managing livestock, and doing ranch work. As cattle ranching became in indispensable industry in the United States, so did the Quarter Horse.
Quarter Horse range in height from 14.2 hands to 17 hands, and typically weigh 1,000 to 1,500 pounds. The Quarter Horse is known for its short, fine head with small, alert ears and alert eyes set wide apart. The profile of the Quarter Horse is usually straight. The neck of the Quarter Horse is well-muscled, well-formed, and a bit arched. Well-defined withers are set prominently into a short, straight back. The croup is usually strong, muscular, and rounded, and drops subtly to the haunches. The wide, deep chest and long, muscular, and well-sloped shoulders are other characteristics of the Quarter Horse. The legs of the Quarter Horse are usually solid and well-formed, with very muscular thighs, gaskins, and forearms. The joints are broad and clean. Quarter Horse feet are usually strong and sturdy, though they can sometimes be smaller than body size warrants.
The most common color for Quarter Horses is sorrel, which makes up about one-third of all registered horses. The AQHA also recognizes bay, black, brown, chestnut, dun, red dun, grulla, buckskin, palomino, gray, red roan, blue roa, bay roan, cremello, and perlino.
White markings on the face and lower legs are not only permitted, they are quite common. AQHA does not allow white above the knee or hock, and white body patches are also not allowed.
The fact that Quarter Horses started out as short-distance race horses on the East Coast, moved to the West to specialize in ranch work, and now excel in every discipline imaginable is testament to the breed's amazing versatility. While the breed is still best suited for ranch work, short distance racing, cutting, and reining, you can find Quarter Horses in the hunter jumper, dressage, park saddle, pleasure, and trail disciplines. Quarter Horses also have wonderful, willing, and calm temperaments and are good for riders of all ages and abilities.
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