Quarter Horses ~ American Quarter HorseFamily: Equidae Equus caballusPhoto Wiki-Commons: Courtesy Preston & Carolyn Buff
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The Quarter Horse got its name by being the fastest horse to run a quarter of a mile sprint!
The Quarter Horse is one of the oldest American breeds. The history of the Quarter Horse begins in Virginia in the early 17th century when American settlers obtained horses from the Chickasaw Indians. These wild horses were descendents of the horses brought to America by the Spanish explorers. They were then crossed them with imported English ‘running horses'. These horses were well- suited to the needs of the early colonials, everything from pulling, hauling, and as riding horses.
The Quarter Horse began to move westward with the pioneers. Its speed and agility made it known as a great cow pony. It is said that the Quarter Horse is able to ‘stop on a dime' from a full gallop. Their stocky build with muscular hindquarters made them ideal sprinters, and they began to dominated short-distance racing. Quarter Horse racing has continued in the western United States and is still alive today.
The first Quarter Horse registry, the American Quarter Horse Association, was founded by Robert Denhard in 1940. Today there are more than 3 million registered horses, making it the largest breed registry in the world. With its long history and development in the United States, the American Quarter horse could be considered as one the native American horses.
The Quarter Horse is a light horse breed. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or 'other'. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the 'other' classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. The 'other' types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
The horse class the American Quarter Horse fits into the stock type class.
The origins of the Quarter Horse begin in Virginia in the early 17th century when American settlers obtained horses from the Chickasaw Indians, who were descendents of the horses brought by the Spanish explorers, and crossed them with imported English ‘running horses.' These ‘running horses' may have been Irish Hobbies from western Ireland and the now extinct Galloways from northern Britain.
The early Quarter Horses were well- suited to the variety of tasks required by colonial life: they were used for farm work, hauling goods, pulling carriages, and as riding horses. Their stocky build with muscular hindquarters made them ideal sprinters, and they began to dominated short-distance racing.
As long-distance racing became more popular with the rise of the Thoroughbred, quarter-mile sprints were no longer held in the eastern states. The Quarter Horse began to move westward as pioneers moved west, and its speed and agility made it known as a great cow pony. It is said that the Quarter Horse is able to ‘stop on a dime' from a full gallop. Consequently, Quarter Horse racing continued in the western United States and is still alive today.
The Quarter Horse does not have clear lines back to its ancestors and has been mixed with other horses by ranchers who were not interested in the pedigrees of their horses. It was not until the early 1900's that the first serious attempts to trace the Quarter Horse's origins were made. There are 12 principle Quarter Horse families and the two most important founding sires of the breed are Janus, an imported English horse who died in 1780, and Sir Archy, the son of the first English Derby winner Diomed.
The Quarter Horse is generally fairly short (15-16 hands) and compact. They are very muscular, especially the hindquarters, which are the source of the horse's great power for sprinting. They have a short head with a flat profile and a short, muscular neck. The underline (belly) is longer than the back, and the cannon bones are short.
Quarter Horses are known to be easy keepers and maintain weight on a fairly low amount of feed. A diet of grass hay with minimal vitamin and mineral supplements is usually sufficient. It is important to not overfeed your Quarter Horse as they tend to become easily overweight.
The breed does equally well in pasture or in a barn or box stall. Like the mustang, ancestors of the Quarter Horse were free roaming wild horses in the Americas, lending to their being a hardy breed with simple nutritional requirements.
Quarter Horses dominate the sports of cutting, reining, and gymkhana with their agility and speed. They are used by ranchers to drive cattle and are great Western Pleasure horses. They are also used for English Pleasure and jumping.
Although it is not very common, there is a genetic disease in the Quarter Horse bloodlines from the sire Impressive called hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) that leads to uncontrolled muscle twitching or profound muscle weakness. In severe cases it may lead to collapse and/or death. Before buying a horse, make sure he is tested for HYPP.
The American Quarter Horse is readily available throughout the United States.
Maria Costantino, The Handbook of Horse Breeds, Barns and Noble, 2004
Author: Sandra Lloyd