Quarter Horses – A Definitive Guide

Quarter horses, the most popular breed in the world with over 3,000,000 registered at the American Quarter Horse Association, are widely-known in the equine industry. Everyone who has an interest in horses has surely heard of this breed. But do you know how this beautiful breed came into existence and how it became one of the most well-known and well-loved horse breeds in the world?

Other breeds like Thoroughbred, initially overshadowed quarter horses in the early 19th century because they have more endurance. However, this breed soon rose and gained popularity when it became a favourite among cowboys and ranches due to its natural cow-sense and good-natured disposition. If you’re looking to get to know more about quarter horses, join us as we discover their history, excellent qualities, eye-pleasing colours and uncover some facts about them.  

Origin of Quarter Horses

American quarter horses descended from native horses of Spanish origin and English horses used in American colonies that were imported to Virginia in the 1600s. They were also crossed with other local breeds like the Chickasaw horse, and is known for having Thoroughbred blood. Other influential sires who helped build this breed include Steel Dust (b. 1843), Peter McCue (b. 1895) and Janus which were brought to Virginia in 1756. 

It was bred for performance, and because of its excellent performance in quarter-mile races, agility and natural cow-sense, it became a top favourite among settlers. Because of its inherent speed, it became useful for cowboys, farmers and those who needed reliable transportation over rough terrains. Although the breed initially existed in the 1600s, the American Quarter Horse Association was only established in 1950. However, it has become the largest horse breeder’s organization in the world with 2.5 million registered horses in its studbook and registry by the late 20th century. 

Fun fact: Did you know how the quarter horse got its name?

Quarter horses can out run other horse breeds in quarter mile races that, hence the name quarter horse. 


Average Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds (431 to 544 kg)

Average Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

Body type: Muscular body, compact appearance, deep chest, small head with a broad forehead and flat profile

Used for: Farmworks, leisure and horse shows

Average Life Expectancy: 25 years

Is the quarter horse a Warmblood?

American quarter horses are descendants of hot-blood breeds along with Appaloosas and Paint horses. Still, it is also considered by many as an original American Warmblood since it has Thoroughbred roots. 

Can a quarter horse beat a thoroughbred?

Both horse breeds are great racers but Quarter horses are usually faster than Thoroughbreds on short distances since they can accelerate and reach their top speed easily. However, Thoroughbreds can easily ace longer distances. As we all probably know, performance varies in every horse, and extensive training plays a big role in how a horse’s strengths develop. 

Quarter Horse Colours

Quarter horses are available in 17 different colours, including sorrel, bay, black, brown, chestnut, red, dun, cremello, red, blue and bay roan, Palomino, buckskin, and more. Let’s explore some of them by taking a closer look at these visually-enthralling equines. 

  • Palomino Quarter Horses

Did you know that 50% of Palomino horses are Quarter Horses? Many breeds can produce a palomino, but out of the long list, the best odds seem to come with quarter horses. For a quarter horse to be considered Palomino, it must have a single allele of a dilution gene known as a cream gene that works on a red or chestnut base coat. This genetic colour has a hint of gold in its coat and white or light cream in its mane and tail. The degree of whiteness can vary from bright white to yellow. Nevertheless, it’s an elegant colour that makes the quarter horse more visually appealing and highly desired. 

  • Buckskin Quarter Horses

This quarter horse possesses a beautiful colour that resembles a particular shade of tanned deerskin. It has a single cream dilution gene that creates the tan or gold-coloured coat, and it also has some specific black points along its mane, tail and lower legs. 

  • Black Quarter Horses

Black is also a common colour among quarter horses, and it’s no less beautiful than other colours. The pure black coat with no lighter areas shines when the light strikes it, and it makes it even more gorgeous and elegant. However, due to sun exposure, it might fade in time. 

What is the rarest colour of a quarter horse?

The rarest quarter horse colours are champagne, silver and appaloosa. Champagnes exhibit metallic, shiny coats while silver ones have the black and dilution gene. There are only a few appaloosas that were registered in AQHA and of those who made it into the list is the stallion Reminic In Spots. 

Advantages of Quarter Horses

1. They have a good temperament 

Quarter horses are well-known for having calm temperament. Their calmness and friendliness make them ideal for kids and those who are new to spending time with horses. It’s essential to choose equines that can control themselves even if your child does something wrong. These horses love being cuddled, and it’s easy to form a strong bond with a Quarter horse due to its calm nature.

2. It’s easy to ride on

They have a little wider back and shoulders than many other breeds that’s why it is easier to get a good grip as it runs faster. You can also sit comfortably and tightly, turn around and stop because they have a short back. It is among the breeds that are steady and willing to learn from the rider. 

3. It’s Very Fast

Quarter horses have healthy joints and muscles so they can sprint over long distances, and they can quickly accelerate while keeping a good ground speed for a long stretch. Some quarter horses can run as fast as 55mph (86 km/h) which is faster than other horses by any standard.

4. It has an excellent “Cow sense.”

They also have an innate talent of working effectively with cattle. Reports say that they have a special feeling about what cows are going to do and they can predict its movement before their rider can react. They’re not easy to provoke, so it makes cattle management much easier. That’s why it’s a ranch and farm favourite. Many farmers also prefer them over ATVs and other vehicles as engines tend to frighten and stress cattle, making Quarter horses a better alternative.

5. They excel in rodeo games, horse shows and races

Since quarter horses are generally easy to manoeuvre, handle and hold onto than other horse breeds, they dominate most rodeo sports. They also ace most horse shows, thanks to their muscular and compact appearance, beautiful skin colours and style and ability to collaborate with the rider effectively. They can also run at an incredible speed, making them one of the fastest horses on the planet. 

Exciting Facts About Quarter Horses

You’ll love quarter horses for their outstanding qualities but here are some more amazing facts about them that will give you more insight into their rich, colourful history. 

1. One of the most successful racehorses of all time was an American Quarter Horse, and he’s a Hall of Famer!

Easy Jet, an American Quarter horse born in 1967, had a very successful career, winning 27 out of 38 events he competed in, he is also one of only two horses who became a member of AQHA “Hall of Fame”. Three of his offspring also became winners of the All American Futurity race. By the time Easyjet died in 1993, his foals career earnings had reached $25 million while his breeding rights shares capped at $30 million in total. 

2. More American Quarter Horses live in Texas than anywhere else in the world.

AQHA is based in Texas USA, and there are more than 420,000 American Quarter Horses in Texas alone. On average, every owner has 4 American Quarter Horses in their stable. 

3. There are three distinct categories for American Quarter Horses.

Breeders classify this horse breed into three different categories- the Bulldog, Thoroughbred and Progressive. Bulldog Quarter horses have strong legs and stamina, and it’s commonly the working horse of the breed. On the other hand, Thoroughbreds are sleeker, and they have finer bones. Some may also be called semi-bulldogs or runners while Progressive horses are the combination of the two other categories. 

4. The studbook for the American Quarter Horse is open to Thoroughbred horses. 

A thoroughbred horse may qualify for registration with the AQHA if it meets the performance standard. That’s why there are two classifications for Quarter Horses; the foundation and appendix classification where the horse can enter competitions but its offspring will not receive full initial AQHA registration. 

But there’s a twist: American Quarter Horses can transfer from the appendix section to the foundation section of the studbook if they  can meet the conformational criteria and they have shown up or competed successfully at sanctioned association events. In this case, its offspring will immediately become eligible for AQHA registration. 

5. The total purse for AQHA approved shows is more than $129 million annually. 

Every year, AQHA approves 15,000 starters in their registration for 7,900 sanctioned events held in the US. There are also over 2,000 approved shows that happen each year which receive around 380 entries.

Where to Find Quarter Horses

As mentioned above, about 420,000 registered American Quarter horses in the AQHA (the world’s largest equine breed registry) came from Texas and around 53,000 quarter horses live in Ohio. You also find this beautiful breed from ranches and breeders around the world.


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