Quarter Horse Breed
The largest single breed registry of any animal in the world is not a beloved dog or cat breed but is actually the Quarter Horse. Indisputably America's most beloved breed might be considered today as the World's most beloved horse. Over 5 million Quarter Horses have been registered across the world. The number of registered individuals overseas, especially in Europe has been on the rise and the popularity spike for Quarter Horses does not look like it is going down anytime soon. After all, their diversity, easy-going attitudes and success in a variety of competitive events make a good Quarter Horse an easy sell.
Before America gained its independence, interested breeders in colonial America took interest in crossing English Thoroughbreds with types of untraceable ancestry to produce a fast race horse that could still be used on the farm for work. And people then, like now, enjoyed betting and unofficial races set over a small stretch of road became a popular hobby among many colonists. These mini sprint races, generally set at a quarter mile is where the ancestors of today's quarter horse flourished. Heavy muscled flanks and strong hocks were key to accelerating quickly, like a compact sprint race car compared to a bigger stock car. Horses with a large amount of power from their hindquarters always were quick from the start compared to leaner, leggier Thoroughbreds that did better with slightly longer distances.
As Americans moved west, so did the compact little race-car animal. They began breeding the '¼ mile Thoroughbreds' with Mustangs and any Stallion that was hardy and good with working cattle on big ranches. A very typical set of characteristics became the wild West's standard for a good ranch horse by the mid 1800s. Their horses were quick and nimble around cattle, easy to maneuver in the thick bush, calm, easy to take care of, and well muscled. By 1940, the American Quarter Horse Association was founded by a group of passionate breeders and ranchers in the United States that wanted to preserve these highly sought after characteristics in a ranch horse. Although a shift in the breeds body type went away from Thoroughbreds and lighter breeds, it is recognized that the Thoroughbred played a major role in the creation of the new breed as well as Arabians, Standardbreds and Morgans.
Today there is not a one 'type' of Quarter Horse. They can still be seen racing quarter miles and working cattle on the most remote ranches on earth but their diversity has expanded far beyond their foundational qualities. Showing Quarter Horses has become very popular in AQHA recognized shows, open shows and in 4-H in almost every class 'under the sun'. They can be seen in reining, trail, western pleasure classes, hunter under saddle classes, showmanship, halter, jumping, dressage, eventing, driving and all sorts of rodeo events. Breeding, training and showing Quarter Horses has become a multimillion dollar industry and it is not uncommon to see them for sale in the triple digits as well as the cash purses of some competition's classes. That being said, they make excellent family horses and also can be very affordable when not seeking a Quarter Horses to show at large, AQHA shows. Today, The American Quarter Horse Congress, the world's largest single breed show in the world, takes place every Fall in Columbus, Ohio and attracts competitors from all around the world.
They can be short and stocky or tall and lean. Typically they stand between 14 and 16 hands tall but many Appendix Quarter Horses, or crossbreeds (and registered under the AQHA) can be as tall as 17.2 hands tall. They can be registered in any color, including spotted, as long as their parents are registered. After all, the foundation stock of Paint Horses heavily crosses over to the early Quarter Horses. Quarter horses should have well defined muscling, a strong, well defined jaw, smaller head and ears, and a deep chest and barrel. Foundation Quarter horses, a separate registry from the AQHA seek to preserve the ranch-style breeding and are everything opposite of an Appendix Quarter Horse. They are small, standing around 14 to 15 hands tall, are extremely compact and well muscled.