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Are American Quarter Horses the World’s Best Horse Breed?

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My grandson and I recently went to Evangeline Down’s racetrack to watch our friend’s Quarter horse race. He was pretty excited watching the horse breed he rides racing and asked if Quarter horses’ are the best horses in the world.

Quarter horses have good temperaments and are durable, hardy, fast, and smart. There is no other breed that can match the overall superior qualities found in the American Quarter horse, making them the best horse in the world.

Some people think Quarter horses only excel in western ranch events, but they’re wrong; this breed can perform at high levels in many equine activities.

Quarter horses originated in the United States.

The American Quarter Horse was developed in the United States for racing over 200 years ago. Today it has evolved into a versatile breed that performs at high levels in many different equine activities.

Picture of a quarter horse.

The American Quarter horse breed can be traced to colonial racing in the Carolinas and Virginia. The breed was named for the usual distance they ran, a quarter of a mile, often in the streets of the small villages. The Colonial farmers were continually trying to develop faster horses.

Native American horses contributed to the development of the Quarter horse.

Their search for speed led them to trade with the Chickasaw Indians for horses. The Chickasaw Indian horses were fast; they were the horses ridden by the conquistador into Mexico and the Southern United States and later used by the Native Americans.

In the early 1600s, the colonists began crossing these Spanish horses obtained from the Chickasaw tribes with their English stock. In the mid-1700s, a Virginian imported Janus, a Thoroughbred grandson of The Godolphin.

Picture of a thoroughbred stallion.
Chestnut Thoroughbred

Thoroughbreds influenced the development of quarter horses.

The Godolphin is one of the three foundation sires of the Thoroughbred. Janus was bred to some of the Colonial mares with the Chickasaw cross; this was the foundation of the American Quarter Horse, producing compactness of form, strength, and power.

As Pioneers began to move westward, the quarter horse was a favorite and necessary companion. The horses flourished with the move west. They embodied the traits needed and suited to rugged life in the west.

Picture of white horses in a field.

Quarter horses were crossed with western mustangs.

The Quarter horse bloodline continued to evolve, and the Mustang of the west were crossed with the Quarter horses resulting in the modern-day Quarter horse. During the transition to the frontier west of the Mississippi, the Quarter horse flourished.

They proved themselves to be indispensable on ranches as natural cow horses. The compact body is ideal for making quick turns required in calf roping, reining, barrel racing, working cows, and other western events. The Quarter horse turned farmers into cowboys, and the west was won. This breed knows no limits.

The American Quarter Horse Association was established in 1940.

In 1940 the American Quarter Horse Association was formed, and the standards for the breed were established. Today, the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest equine breed registry and membership organization in the world.

To read more about the American Quarter Horse Association, click here.) The modern Quarter horse has proven to be a smart, athletic, durable horse that is not only used under a western saddle but has excelled in English disciplines as well.

quarter horse,
Quarterhorse getting ready to race.

Quarter horses are the fastest short-distance racehorses.

Quarter-horse racing began in colonial America as a sprint race, usually a quarter of a mile. The formal establishment of Quarter horse racing started after the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA).

Today there are officially 11 recognized distances raced, from 220 yards to 870 yards. If the race is less than 550 yards, it’s run on the straightaways, and the longer races include a turn in the track. The richest Quarterhorse race is the All-American Futurity.

The race is 440 yards for eligible two years old who have been nominated and paid futurity payments; many of the fees are made before the horse ever starts a race.

The All-American Futurity is the world’s first 1 million dollar race for any horse breed, and today the purse has reached $3 million, making it the richest race for two-year-old horses of any kind in North America. Quarterhorses have been clocked at an astounding speed of 55 miles an hour.

Picture of a horse running

Are Quarter horses faster than Thoroughbreds? Arabians?

Quarter horses are the fastest. In 2006 a study of races of Quarter horses, Thoroughbreds, and Arabians was performed by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

Their purpose was to compile the horse’s speed at different points in a race and then provide an overall summary of their rate during a race. The study examined the horses at acceleration out of the gates and during the middle and end of the race.

What they found was that Quarter Horses were faster than Thoroughbreds even when Thoroughbreds were raced at the same distance as the Quarter Horse. Both breeds were much quicker than Arabians.

Of note is the Quarter gained speed throughout races 336 m or less while Arabians and Thoroughbreds ran their fastest times during the middle of races; their rate decreased in the final segments of races.

Arabians, despite being known for their endurance, slowed by the end of races, even the shorter ones. To read the report, check out this link.

Below is a YouTube video of a quarter horse competing in dressage.

Quarter horses compete in dressage.

The American Quarter Horse Association established a dressage competition in 2010. Quarter Horses also compete in open dressage competitions. However, the sport is dominated by Warmbloods.

Dressage is a competition as well as an art form, and it displays a horse’s natural athletic ability and its willingness to perform.

A rider and horse must perform a series of movements from memory while in a standard arena. These tasks take a smart horse with athletic ability and a good temperament, the qualities that are inherent in the quarter horse breed.

Quarter horses have done well on the national and local levels of competition in dressage; however, at the highest levels of international dressage competitions, there have not been many quarter horses.

Some notable quarter horses that have been successful are Rugged Lark, The Lark Ascending, Color Magic, who placed second in the USDF All-Breeds Awards at Grand Prix, and The Challenger.

Picture of horses

Quarter Horses dominate rodeo events.

Rodeo’s originated from ranch competitions into modern-day entertainment events. The horses used in rodeos are most commonly the American Quarter Horse; they are often bigger and more heavily muscled than standard quarter horses.

Rodeo quarter horses are bred for strength, speed, and agility. However, cowboys and cowgirls also like horses with flashy coats, so expect to see palominos, buckskin, and grullas at these events.

Quarter Horses are the best barrel racing breed.

To be a good barrel horse, they must have the speed to get to each barrel quickly, agility to bend around the barrels, and explode out of the turns. Above is Kimberly barrel racing on her sorrel quarter horse, Duke.

Competitive barrel racing most commonly occurs at rodeos. It is a timed event that requires a horse and rider to sprint into an arena, complete a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels and then sprint out of the arena.

Contestants are penalized 5-seconds if they knock over any of the barrels in the pattern. The margin of victory in barrel racing often comes down to a split second. To be successful, a horse and rider must work together. Quarter horses are ideal for this competition.

Some trainers will use racing Quarter horses while others will prefer to use cutting Quarter horses, which tend to be built lower to the ground and get in and out of their turns quicker.

Still, others prefer a little of both, breeding a running Quarter horse with a ranch Quarter horse for an ideal combination of speed and agility. Famous barrel racing bloodlines are Easy Jet, Dash for Cash, Firewater Flit, and On the Money Red.

Quarter Horses are the best breed to use for team roping.

Two ropers enter an arena with the intent of subduing a steer in the fastest time possible. The competition begins with the release of a steer, the designated header sprint after the steer and rope his head or horns and turn the steer, the heeler then moves in and ropes the two hind legs.

If he only catches one leg, the team is penalized 5-seconds. Both men must have quick responsive cow horses to be successful. Once again, making the quarter horse ideal.

Quarter Horses are used in steer wrestling.

Steer wrestling is the art of jumping off a sprinting horse onto a steer and wrestling it to the ground as fast as possible. To be successful, you need help keeping the steer straight, that is the job of the hazer. The hazer rides next to the steer and keeps it close enough for the wrestler to jump on.

Steer wrestling is a timed event. The horses, the hazer and wrestler ride, must have the ability to explode out of the box and keep up with the steer while maintaining close proximity to the steer. Speed, athletism, and cow sense are all traits that make the quarter horse the best option for this job.

Quarter Horses are the best mount for calf roping.

This event is the closest of all to actual ranch work. On the range, if calves needed to be doctored, they had to be caught and tied down quickly for treatment.

Ranch hands took pride in their ability to do this, and it turned grew into a competition. In the rodeo arena, a calf is released, and a cowboy takes chase. He must rope the calf, throw it to the ground, and tie any three legs together.

While doing this, his horse must keep the slack out of the rope, but not drag the calf. The horse needed for this event must have the capability to accelerate fast to stay close enough to the calf allowing the cowboy to make a successful throw and be smart enough to act on his own to keep the rope tight while the cowboy is tying the calf. The quarter horse is the perfect horse for this event.

Quarter horses compete in showjumping competitions.

Quarter horses can compete in junior-level jumping competitions and are good horses for beginning jumpers to ride. The quarter horse is an active breed and won’t shy away from the competition.

However, the warmbloods conformation is ideal for jumping, and at the highest levels of competition, it would be unusual to see a quarter horse win.

It takes a particular horse to be successful in competitive showjumping. A horse must have a combination of courage and athletic ability. They must be able to leap high obstacles, make sharp turns, and sprint in between.

Warmbloods are bred for jumping and dominate competitive jumping competitions. (To read more about breeds that excel in jumping check this article.

Quarter horses make good trail riding horses.

Trail riding is a popular past-time throughout the world. It may involve a relaxing ride down an outdoor path or trail near your home or a vigorous horseback ride covering many miles and hours.

quarter horses,

In most countries other than the United States, trail riding is referred to as “trekking.” Trail rides could include rides through the mountains, on the beaches, or a bridle path, really just about anywhere outdoors.

Two essential factors to consider when evaluating a potential trail horse are conformation and temperament. A trail horse should be sturdily built to be able to travel over uneven surfaces and obstacles without sustaining an injury.

He should also have a mild temperament, not be jumpy because you will assuredly cross paths with wild animals or humans during a trial rider. You do not want a horse that will bolt at the sight of something strange.

The American Quarter Horse is an excellent trail riding horse. They are known for their sturdy conformation, sure footing, and sound head. The quiet laid back temperament of a quarter horse will allow a rider to enjoy his trail ride.

Quarter horses are excellent for beginning riders.

Quarter horses have a level head willing to learn and are versatile enough to be used for many purposes. Most quarter horses have an excellent mild manner making them excellent for beginner riders.

Remember horses are individuals and there are exceptions so always have an experienced equestrian check out any horse you buy for a beginner.

In addition to having a good temperament, most quarter horses are pretty hardy and easier to keep than many other breeds. But, as with any animal, each is an individual, and you need to ask an experienced equestrian to check the horse out and get the animal vet checked before you buy a horse for a beginner rider.

If you are interested in adopting a racing quarterhorse click this link, it provides helpful information.