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What is the AQHA?

The AQHA, or the American Quarter Horse Association, is the world’s largest equine breed registry and membership organization. Based in Amarillo, Texas, the association is dedicated to the preservation, improvement, and recordkeeping of the American Quarter Horse. This organization sanctions competitive events and maintains the official American Quarter Horse registry. They also house the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame and Museum, which helps sponsor educational programs in local communities. Founded in 1940, the AQHA currently has over 350,000 members.

The AQHA registry includes both AMerican Quarter Horses and their offspring, which have a separate stud book. Horses produced by means of artificial insemination can be registered, but cloned horses are ineligible. AQHA registration requirements have changed significantly in recent years; previously, horses with too much white, or with cremello traits, were not eligible for registration. However, advancements in modern DNA testing allow the association to determine the exact lineage of a particular American Quarter Horse, eliminating all ambiguous ancestry.

The AQHA also recognizes achievements by American Quarter Horses and their owners. Horses can compete in AQHA-sanctioned horse shows, rodeos, and horse races. The American Quarter Horse can compete in a variety of competitive events, including Western Pleasure, Reining, and cutting, as well as hunt seat style, Hunter Under Saddle, working hunter, and hunter hack. The annual AQHA World Show is the association’s largest event, and it is held each year in Oklahoma City.

If you have an interest in and passion for American Quarter Horses, consider registering with this association; they bring together Quarter Horse enthusiasts for events worldwide. For more information about the AQHA, see the foundation information page on their website.

What is a Quarter Horse?

The American Quarter Horse—known colloquially as, simply, the Quarter Horse—is a breed of horse known for its ability to sprint short distances. This skill is in the name itself; the term Quarter Horse derives from the breed’s ability to outdistance other horse breed in races of a quarter of a mile or less. Race speeds of up to 55mph have been recorded. The American Quarter Horse is one of the most popular breeds in the United States today.


In addition to being one of the most popular horses in America, the Quarter Horse is also one of the oldest. The breed originated in the 1660s; some believe it was a cross between the native horses (Spanish origin) used by the earliest colonists with the English horses imported to Virginia in the early 17th century. Regardless of its genealogical background, by the end of the 17th century, these horses were being raced successfully over quarter-mile courses in Rhode Island and Virginia, thus earning its name.


As with most horse breeds, Quarter Horse breeders should be wary of several genetic diseases. The most prevalent is Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), which is caused by an autosomal dominant gene. This disease is characterized by uncontrollable muscle twitching, weakness, and—in the most severe cases—paralysis. Malignant hyperthermia is also of concern, and Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA) is widespread.


Modern Quarter Horses have a small, short, and refined head with a straight profile. Its body is strong and well-muscled, featuring a broad chest and rounded hindquarters. They often stand at between 56 and 64 inches (between 14 and 16 hands) tall, but some may grow to be as tall as 68 inches (17 hands). Quarter Horses come in nearly every color, but sorrel—a brownish red—is the most common. Additionally, spotted color patters have historically been excluded, but the advent of DNA testing has been used to verify parentage; the registry now accepts all colors as long as both parents are registered.


Quarter horses have two main body types: stock and racing/hunter. Stock types are shorter, more compact, stocky, and muscled, whereas the racing and hunter builds are taller, smoother muscled, and more closely resemble the Thoroughbred.