The American Quarter Horse or just Quarter Horse is one of the most popular breeds of horses in the United States. Quarter Horses generally live up to 25 to 35 years and can live even longer under the right conditions. If you properly groom and care for your Quarter Horse when it’s young, they can live far beyond their average lifespan into their late 30s and even their 40s.
Generally, when it comes to lifespan, you want to take in factors like size, diet and nutrition, grooming, and exercise. Smaller horses tend to live longer, and feeding them hay from 1.5-3% of their body weight is key to a healthy horse. You want to ensure they get plenty of exercises and that they have proper hygiene to prevent diseases.
As for the health characteristics of the Quarter Horse, due to their larger than average size, they can be more susceptible to genetic diseases than other horse breeds. These genetic diseases are passed down from one or both parents and can range from easily treated to very severe, even leading to death.
An example of a genetic disease that is common with Quarter Horses is Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis, which is a condition with a dominant gene, so if only one parent has it, then it can be passed to the foal. You must manage your Quarter Horses nutrition carefully to prevent signs of HYPP. Quarter horses can also inherit Malignant Hyperthermia, which causes a breakdown of their muscle tissue, among other symptoms.
Quarter Horses are also susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries during activities like races, and most of these can be fatal.
Keep an eye on the health characteristics of the quarter horse you are breeding, as well as their family tree to know what you are dealing with concerning genetic diseases.
Bay horses are a variation of brown colors with black points. The brown coloration can run from reddish to tan to dark brown and even a very dark brown that looks almost black. The black points are the easiest way to identify the bay coloration. The black points can show up on the horse’s legs, muzzle, mane and tail. Often the tips of their ears are black. Many bay horses have black legs that are covered by white markings.
Those horses that are so dark that they appear black are known as dark bay. These horses have reddish or black highlights in their coat with the requisite black points.
Black horses have pure black coats with no signs of brown or any other color. Many people have mistaken dark bays or liver chestnuts for black. The easiest way to see if the horses is a true black is to check it during the winter. The reason is that the sun can bleach or lighten a horse’s color and it is truer during the winter months. If you can see any other color (with the exception of white markings) on the horse’s coat in the winter, he is not a true black.
Buckskin colored horse
Buckskin horses are a light to dark sandy yellow or tan color with all black points. Buckskins are very similar to duns, however, buckskins do not have a dorsal stripe or other “primitive” markings that are shown in the dun color.
Ivory/ Champagne colored horse, photo courtesy ICHR
Champagne colored horses are born with bright pink skin. Their skin will remain pink their entire life. Champagne foals are often born with a darker coat than their true adult color. What really distinguishes the champagne color from other colors is that champagne foals are born with bright blue eyes. Their eyes will usually change color as they age, but this takes a long time – whereas in other colors, the color of the eye changes more rapidly. The eye color will usually change from light blue to a hazel/green color.
All champagne colored horses have at least a single parent that is of the champagne color.
Chestnut or sorrel colored horse
Chestnut/Sorrell- Chestnut, (also known as “sorrel”), is reddish brown. The points (mane, tail, legs and ears) are the same color as the horse’s body (other than white markings). Chestnuts range from light yellowish brown to a golden-reddish or dark liver color. All chestnuts have shades of red in their coats.
There are variations of the chestnut color. Red chestnuts have bright reddish and/or orange shades. This color is very appealing since it is usually very bright and shiny and the color is very intense. The red highlights really stand out. Liver chestnuts are the darkest variation of the color. The color is solid and there are no black points. Light chestnuts are a light reddish brown color. Their points are not usually lighter than the color of their body. While the tips of their manes and tails may be lighter, the base is the same color. If their manes, tails and/or legs are lighter, they may instead be a flaxen chestnut or a palomino. Flaxen chestnuts have a chestnut colored body with a light flaxen or cream colored mane and tail. The legs and tips of their ears are the same color as the rest of the horse’s body. It is easy to get confused between a flaxen chestnut and a palomino.
Cremellos and Perlinos are often called Whites or Albinos, but this is incorrect. There are no albino horses, there are however White horses. Cremellos and Perlinos are “double diluted” which means they have two copies of the cream gene instead of one like a Palomino or Buckskin. In other words a Palomino is a “chestnut” with one cream gene and a Cremello is a “chestnut” with two cream genes. A Buckskin is a “bay” with one cream gene and a Perlino is a “bay” with two cream genes.
Cremellos and Perlinos have pink skin and blue eyes. Their hair coats are not white but are of a light creme color. Some can be so light they appear to be white but if you compare them to a true white horse you will see that they are actually creme.
Cremellos will have white manes and tails while Perlinos will have darker points, as a Buckskin would, but on a Perlino the points are orangish. To learn more about them you can visit the website of the Cremello & Perlino Educational Association, www.doubledilute.com
Dun foal showing Doral stripe
Dun horses are a sandy/yellow to reddish/brown coat with a dorsal stripe down their back. A dorsal stripe is a stripe running along the spine that is of a darker color than the body color. The dorsal stripe may continue into the mane and tail. Their legs are usually darker than their body and some may have faint “zebra” stripes on them. Many dun colored horses also have face masking, which makes the horse’s nose and sometimes the rest of the face a darker color than the horse’s body.
Gray horses have black or dark skin with white or gray hair. Many horse people will call a gray horse “white”, but if their skin is dark, they are gray! Gray horses are often born dark, sometimes black or brown, and their hair coat turns lighter as they grow older.
There are several variations of gray horses. Light gray horses are the ones most often confused with white. As noted above these horses have dark skin with white or gray hair. Dapple gray horses have darker gray color but with white eraser like marks all over their body. They may have darker points as well.
Fleabitten gray horses are the opposite of the dapples. They have a lighter color base with darker colored speckles. The speckles are small dots that are evenly distributed all over the body.
Steel gray horses are a dark gray, silver color. The horse has a black base coat with lightly mixed white/gray hairs. Many steel gray horses lighten and turn into a dapple gray or a light gray with age. Rose gray horses are a medium gray whose hairs are tinted with red. This type of hair gives the horse a light “rose” tint.
Rose gray horses often have points that are darker than their body color, including mane and tail.
Grulla colored horse
Grulla/Grullo- Either of the terms is considered correct in describing the color. AQHA recognizes the color as grullo. The color is the diluted form of black with dun factor. In other words the black color is modified by the dun gene. “Grulla” is the Spanish word for a gray crane which is a slate-gray colored bid.
While you may find grullo or grulla definitions in the rule books of different registries under different definitions, we include the AQHA definition here:
Body color smoky or mouse colored (not a mixture of black and white hairs, but each individual hair is mouse colored) Usually has a dorsal stripe, shoulder striping or shadowing and black leg barring on lower legs.
Within this definition there are variations of the color often refered to as slate grulla, silver grulla, olive grulla, black dun or wolf dun. The grullo color in the quarter horse is very rare and only about 0.7% of those registered in the quarter horse breed each year are grullo.
One determining factor of the grulla is the primitve markings that can be seen on all duns to varying extents.
Golden Palomino and chocolate PalominoFlaxen
Palomino horses have gold-colored coat with a white or light cream colored mane and tail. The Palomino’s coat can range from a light off-white shade to a deep shade of gold.
Red or Blue Roan
Roan horses have otherwise solid colored coats, but with white hairs interspersed. The white hairs are not actual spots, but single white hairs mixed with the darker coat color. The Roan Gene can be applied to any color of horse. The most common are Red Roans, Bay Roans and Blue Roans. There are also Palomino Roans, Red Dun Roans, Dun Roans, Buckskin Roans, etc. The Roan gene adds white hairs into the body of the horse. The legs and head are not affected and will remain darker then the body. The mane and tail are usually not affected, but some may have some white hairs mixed in.
There are two different types of “white” horses. Dominant Whites are very rare and must have a white parent. They have pink skin, usually hazel or brown eyes and white hair. There are also Sabino Whites which can pop up in any breed that has the Sabino gene, this includes Arabs, Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Paints, Tennessee Walkers, Saddlebreds, and more. A Sabino White is what we call a maximal paint. Meaning that the white markings on the horse are so big they cover the entire horse. Sabino Whites also have white hair, sometimes with a few dark hairs on the poll or ears, pink skin and dark eyes.
What makes a horse a Quarter Horse? Its bloodlines, naturally. But what happens when horses of different breeds produce offspring, as commonly happens between a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred. When examining these types of horses, it’s clear that bloodlines can’t tell the whole story. And so, what happens is the horse is registered as an “Appendix” Quarter Horse with the American Quarter Horse Association. then as the horse matures, it can be examined for its adult characteristics and if it meets the breed standards, it can earn its status as a “Numbered” Quarter Horse. Even three-quarter bloodlines are deemed insufficient to automatically qualify a horse for permanent “numbered” status. In other words, the offspring of an “Appendix” and a “Numbered” Quarter Horse is still an “Appendix” horse until reaching maturity and demonstrating the breed standard.
A set of breed standards notwithstanding, the ongoing introduction of Thoroughbred and other horse breeds into the Quarter Horse bloodlines irrevocably altered the breed. As such, a different kind of standard also exists for a “Foundation” Quarter Horse. This is a set of esoteric breed standards that define the original characteristics of the Quarter Horse with its own organization, the Foundation Quarter Horse Association. This type of Foundation Quarter Horse is known colloquially as a “Bulldog” Quarter Horse.
Over the generations, this original Bulldog Quarter Horse subdivided into three distinct sub-types:
Stock Horse—This is a slightly shorter horse that’s bred primarily to work with livestock but which is versatile enough to be used for any number of commercial applications.
Racing or Hunter Horse—These horses are longer and leaner than the stock variety and have generally been influenced by thoroughbred blood lines, though still classified as a Quarter Horse.
Halter Horse—The halter sub-breed is less common and more specialized than the other two. It has the stockiest most muscular build of the three. It can be a tremendous pack horse for this reason but are also prone to health problems.
The biggest reason is their even temperament and overall versatility, making them easy to find in addition to being easy to ride. Like any horse breed, there will still be a good amount of variance in size, gait, and temperament. You can find Quarter Horses that may be too timid or too strong for a rider of any given preference. Generally, you’ll want to start with an even temperament and reliable horse, but talk to the stable hand or stablemaster about where you are in the learning process and what type of horse you imagine doing well with. Then, listen to what the local experts who work with the horses on a regular basis have to say. This is a standard part of horse-riding lessons
The Quarter Horse is kind of like man’s best friend in a horse instead of a dog. They’re loyal and willing to work to get the job done even when hot or tired. Less of a concern for the beginner, intermediate- and even many expert-level riders need to be careful to not overwork their horse. But they’re also intelligent and sensible enough to help riders avoid most of the trouble that’s lurking out there.
By contrast, Arabian horses are known for having stronger or “hotter” personalities that take a longer time and more patience, if not more skill, in working with the animal. Typically, it’s only after someone has been riding for some time that they become interested in truly exploring the different gaits and riding styles that come with various horse breeds.
Children will tend to do better and learn better long-term habits by learning on a horse of smaller stature, a pony or miniature horse. Though not technically a Quarter Horse, miniature horse breeds are often described as being one of two types—Arabian-style or Quarter-style horses.
The American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame is located in Jacksonville, Florida. Each year, the American Quarter Horse Association chooses several horses to induct into the Hall of Fame; induction is considered to be the highest possible honor within the Association. This year, four horses were inducted: Otoe, Runaway Winner, The Ole Man, and Smart Chic Olena. Below, we have provided brief profiles for each of these impressive horses.
Otoe—Otoe was bred by Bud Warren and purchased in El Paso Texas for $20,000 as a yearling. The stallion has succeeded in nearly every activity; he won five of thirteen races, finishing second or third in another five and off-board just twice. As a halter horse, he won 20 out of 23 classes and was an AQHA world champion halter in 1962.
Runaway Winner—This horse is the all-tie-leading Thoroughbred sire of racing American Quarter Horses. Born in 1985, Runaway Winner earned his place at the AQHA Hall of Fame because of his exceptional racing and impressive fouls. Runaway Winner’s daughters have been represented by 79 stakes winners; he is the 11th all-time-leading broodmare sire.
The Ole Man—The Ole Man was, arguably, the most influential all-around Thoroughbred sire in Quarter Horse history. He won 8 of 33 races, finished second or third in 11 others, and earned over $21,000 at seven tracks in two racing seasons.
Smart Chic Olena—This stallion was foaled in 1985 in Frisco, Texas. Trained as a cutter, he experienced (and excelled in) both cutting and reining. His athleticism allowed him to become a bloodline staple in National Reining Horse Association competitions. He sired 11 open world champions, four amateur world champions, and two youth world champions in reining.
Transporting an animal, no matter the species, breed, or method of travel, is stressful. However, horses appear to suffer more than other animals; long rides, short tempers, and large body size all impact the way in which an animal handles the stress of movement. Below, we have listed the top three negative characteristics of horse travel that breeders, handlers, and transporters should understand before packing the ponies into a trailer.
Body Weight—It is normal for a horse to lose weight during a trip. A mature Thoroughbred can expect to lose around five pounds per hour of transport, a loss due to reduced dietary intake, dehydration, excretion, and sweating. Horses can lose 45 pounds on international flights, and those with “shipping fever” can lose more than 75lbs while en route. A horse can lose up to 5% of its body mass on a long trip. To assess your horse’s travel weight loss, weigh the animal beforehand to establish a baseline. If the post-travel weight is significantly low, see a doctor.
Respiratory Health—When possible, do your best to not ship or move sick horses. Respiratory illnesses are particularly contagious, and the close quarters associated with horse transportation will only increase the likelihood of an outbreak. If your horse has a fever or nasal discharge, it should not be transported.
Dehydration—If a horse has not been drinking normally in the days leading up to transportation, it will suffer from extreme dehydration. This condition can lead to excessive weight loss, the development of illnesses, or physical trauma due to collapse.
Last year, the electronic logging device mandate, known colloquially as the ELD, was put into effect. The law limits the amount of time a commercial truck driver can drive, regulating on- and off-duty time and requiring the use of ELDs to track driving and non-driving time. Scheduled to go into effect on December 18th, 2017, the mandate was created to create a safer work environment for drivers, allowing them to more easily and accurately track, manage, and share duty status records.
However, in recent months, several equine industry groups and associations have begun to urge horsemen to speak out against the impending law; it could, they argue, negatively impact the transportation of horses and other livestock. Since taking action, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has allowed those who haul agricultural commodities, such as horses, a 90-day waiver before needing to comply with the law.
The two industry groups expressing dissatisfaction are the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and the American Horse Council (AHC). They have joined other agricultural organizations in requiring that the Department of Transportation grant a one-year delay in enforcing these rules. They argue that the new regulations, which require ten consecutive hours off duty, will negatively affect the welfare of the animals being transported. Stopping for long periods of time can have a detrimental effect on the animal being hauled.
Transporting horses can be difficult, and these new regulations complicate the already-delicate process. As of March 13th, 2018, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has granted agriculture industry truckers another 90-day reprieve from complying with the new rule. However, these stop-gap measures are not enough to satisfy drivers—further action is planned by the AHC and 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.
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.