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Quarter Horses – Versatility on the Hoof

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Quarter Horses – Versatility on the Hoof

Doc Bar, a prominent American Quarter Horse stallion.

Photo © Platinum Performance Horses
The Quarter Horse is one of the most iconic breeds in the horse world. A stunning combination of speed, agility and brains, Quarter Horses are the dominant breed in rodeos around the country. They can dash down the arena after a speeding steer, stop a hard-charging calf in seconds, and fly around a barrel pattern with ease. Few horses are as intelligent or as versatile as the Quarter Horse.

History of the Breed Long before they were driving cattle across the West, horses were a strong part of American history. Colonial settlers brought their trusty steeds with them from overseas, and these sturdy animals tilled fields, pulled wagons, and carried important documents throughout the colonies. Settlers had a penance for speed, and would often stage horse races as a distraction from the menial tasks of colonization. However, the settlers' horses were beat time and again by the faster, more agile horses owned by the local Chickasaw Indians. Settlers traded and bred their English horses with these native mounts, creating a lighter, quicker line of racing horses. These horses were called the "Celebrated American Quarter Running Horse," an homage to the quarter-mile race most commonly run by the Colonial settlers.

Horse racing was also popular in England, and a wealthy settler by the name of John Randolph imported one of these Godolphin Arabians named Janus in 1752. Janus was lighter and faster than even the Chickasaw Indian horses, and he crossed them to create a line of horses that were the prototype to the modern American Quarter horse. The Revolutionary War brought an influx of Thoroughbred horses to the colonies, and these mounts were bred to local horses to further refine the breed. The last part of the Quarter horse puzzle came in the form of native Mustangs throughout the southwestern United States. The Mustang imparted the short, stocky body type that is the hallmark of the American Quarter horse we know and love today.

Prominent Quarter Horses

All Quarter horses trace back to the same few sires and dams, but there are a few standouts that all Quarter horse enthusiasts recognize. One of the most influential sires in the Quarter horse world wasn't even a Quarter Horse. Native Dancer was a Thoroughbred stallion foaled in 1950, and is one of the most notable horses in the history of racing. Quarter horse breeders crossed their fastest mares with him in order to produce faster, more agile mounts. King, the 234th registered American Quarter horse, can be found in the lineage of nearly every modern Quarter horse. He was a stocky bay stallion that embodied the speed, grace and power that became the hallmarks of the breed. Doc Bar is another familiar name in the Quarter horse world. Bred to be a working cow horse, this stallion was sought after for his maneuverability, a trait common in modern Quarter horses. Dash For Cash is arguably the most prominent racing-lined Quarter horse stallion in history. He is ranked and the #2 all-time leading sire by earnings, eclipsed only by his son, First Down Dash.

The Quarter Horse Today

Today's Quarter horse is the perfect combination of speed, grace and agility. A true working man's horse, the Quarter horse is just as comfortable on the farm as he is charging down the arena after a speeding steer. Quarter horses are the most popular horse in the world of rodeo, with the majority of cowboys riding these tenacious, agile horses. Enthusiasts compete in a wide variety of sports, from dressage and hunter under saddle to western pleasure to barrel racing. The American Quarter Horse Association sponsors competitions around the country, and hold their World Show in Oklahoma City in November. This show brings together the best of the best in the Quarter horse world, pairing horse and rider against other teams, showering the best competitors in each sport with awards and accolades. Quarter horses truly are the most versatile breed in the world.

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