One of the country’s first recognised horse breeds is the American Quarter Horse. The breed was created in the 1660s as a result of a mix between Spanish-born native horses utilised by the first settlers and English horses brought to Virginia around 1610. These horses were successfully raced over quarter-mile courses in Virginia and Rhode Island by the late 17th century, earning them the name Quarter Horses. The performance-oriented Quarter Horse had a large amount of Thoroughbred blood as well as characteristics from other lines. Important sires include Steel Dust (born in 1843), Peter McCue (born in 1895), who is regarded as the most influential sire in refining the breed, and Janus, an English Thoroughbred transported to Virginia in 1756.
Early in the 19th century, Thoroughbreds, which performed better over longer distances, eclipsed Quarter Horses in popularity. However, the western and southwestern United States quickly came to embrace Quarter Horses as stock horses. The breed was perfectly suited to the responsibilities of the expanding frontier because to its innate quickness and agility. During the open-range era of the West, cowboys favoured the American Quarter Horse as a mount due to its friendly demeanour and inherent cow sense.
Contemporary American Quarter Horses have short, wide heads, deep, broad chests, and substantial muscular development. They are also short and stocky. These horses must have quick starting, turning, and stopping capabilities as well as short-distance speed because they are used to separate livestock from herds (see photo). They come in a variety of colours, but they are all solid. Mature animals range in height from 14.3 to 16 hands (57 to 64 inches, or 145 to 163 cm), and weigh between 950 and 1,200 pounds (431 to 544 kg). They have a composed, obedient attitude.
Years went by with little effort being made to create a unique breed. However, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was established in 1940, and it underwent a revision in 1950 to incorporate additional Quarter Horse associations. The American Quarter Horse Stud Book and Registry is under AQHA authority. By the end of the 20th century, the AQHA was the largest organisation of horse breeders in the world with more than 2.5 million horses enrolled in its stud book.
A strong, well-muscled physique with a broad chest and powerful, rounded hindquarters characterises the Quarter Horse. It also has a compact, short, elegant head with a straight profile. The average height of these horses is between 14 and 16 hands (56 to 64 inches, or 142 and 163 cm), while certain Halter- and English hunter-type horses can reach heights of up to 17 hands (68 inches, 173 cm).
The stock type and the hunter or racing type are the two primary body kinds. Shorter, more compact, stocky, and well-muscled, but still agile, the stock horse type. In comparison to the stock type, racing and hunter-type Quarter Horses are a little bit taller and have smoother muscles that more closely resemble the Thoroughbred.
Nearly all colours are available in quarter horses. The most typical shade is sorrel, a reddish red that most other breed registries refer to as chestnut. Bay, black, brown, buckskin, palomino, grey, dun, red dun, grullo (also known as blue dun rarely), red roan, blue roan, bay roan, perlino, cremello, and white are other well-known hues. Spotted colour patterns were formerly disallowed, but now that DNA testing can be used to confirm parentage, all colours are accepted as long as both parents are listed on the registry.
Race horses from the quarter horse breed are designed to sprint short distances between 220 and 870 yards. They are therefore slimmer than their stock type counterparts and have longer legs, but they still have robust legs and muscular hindquarters. The term “the world’s quickest athlete” refers to Quarter Horses, who compete mostly against other Quarter Horses in races. The show hunter type typically reflects a higher amount of appendix breeding because it is smaller and even more like a Thoroughbred. Both breed shows and open USEF-rated horse shows feature them in hunter/jumper divisions.
In the 1600s, imported English Thoroughbred horses were initially crossed with various native horses on the Eastern seaboard of what is now the United States.
Janus, a Thoroughbred and the grandson of the Arabian from Godolphin, was among the most well-known of these early imports. He was born in 1746 and brought to Virginia in the colonies in 1756. Thoroughbreds like Janus had a significant genetic impact on how the colonial “Quarter Horse” evolved. The offspring was a small, tough, and swift horse that was employed both as a workhorse and a racehorse.
The Quarter Horse grew in favour as a sprinter over shorter courses than the traditional English racecourses as flat racing gained popularity among the colonists. These courses were frequently hardly more than an open area with a level surface or a straight stretch of road. Local sprinters frequently prevailed when up against a Thoroughbred. Many colonial Quarter Horses were incorporated into the first American stud books as the Thoroughbred breed developed in America. This marked the beginning of a protracted relationship between the Thoroughbred breed and what would later earn the title of “Quarter Horse,” after the 0.40-kilometer (1/4-mile) race distance at which it excelled. Up to 44 mph have been recorded for some Quarter Horses.
Pioneers travelling to the West in the 19th century required a hardy, willing horse. Horses from the Spanish strain Hernán Cortés and other Conquistadors introduced into the viceroyalty of New Spain, which today covers the Southwestern United States and Mexico, were encountered by people on the Great Plains.
Horses domesticated by Native American tribes such as the Comanche, Shoshoni, and Nez Perce were among the wild herds of animals known as Mustangs. Pioneers discovered that the new crossbred had innate “cow sense,” a natural instinct for working with cattle, and it became popular with cattlemen on ranches as a result of their mating the colonial Quarter Horse with these western horses.
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Today, the American Quarter Horse is most known for its versatility as a family horse, ranch horse, reining and cutting horse, show horse, and race horse. Quarter horses are frequently employed in rodeo activities like gymkhana or O-Mok-See as well as barrel racing, calf roping, and team roping. The American Quarter Horse predominates in other stock horse competitions like cutting and reining, which are accessible to all breeds.
The breed is useful for more than only working cattle and western riding. Numerous racetracks provide Quarter Horses with a huge selection of lucrative pari-mutuel horse racing. In addition to dressage and show jumping, quarter horses have been taught for these sports. They are also utilised by mounted police forces and for leisurely trail riding.
Worldwide exports of American Quarter Horses have also occurred. Large numbers of Quarter Horses have been imported by European countries like Germany and Italy. Brazil is home to the second-largest registry of Quarter Horses after Australia, which also includes horses from Canada.  The breed is also gaining popularity in the UK, particularly with the two Western riding associations, the Western Horse Association and The Western Equestrian Society. The AQHA-UK is the breed society for British American Quarter Horses. With the internationalisation of the reining discipline and its approval as one of the seven official events of the World Equestrian Games, there is a growing interest in Quarter Horses worldwide. The American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world, with approximately 3 million American Quarter Horses registered there in 2014. The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States today.