American Quarter Horse Breed: Care, Cost & History (2023)
The American Quarter horse is one of the most loved breeds in the world. The American Quarter Horse Association, the AQHA, is the largest breed registry of all horse breeds with a population of over 3 million horses registered. There is a lot to learn about this colorful and versatile equine.
Breed: American Quarter Horse
Adult Weight: 950-1,200 pounds
Adult Height: 14.3-16 hands (57 to 64 inches)
Origin: North America
Use: Stock, Dressage, Show, Pleasure, Western, English
Colors: Brown, bay, chestnut, white, palomino, champagne, black, grey, and many more
Features: Muscular body, straight profile
Lifespan: 20-25 years
Character: Gentle, with strong nerves, oriented towards people
Gait: sure-footed, determined
Best for: All levels of riders
- Quarter Horse Care
- Quarter Horse History
- Modern Quarter Horse
- Cost and Ownership
- Buying a Quarter Horse
- Similar Breeds
American Quarter Horse Characteristics
The American Quarter horse breed is well-known for its many traits and versatile looks. The Quarter horse characteristics are broad since this breed comes in almost every color.
They are the epitome of a horse that many of us picture when we think of a horse.
The American Quarter horse head is small, short, and refined. Their body is muscular and shows a broad chest. The American Quarter breed has a straight and elegant profile.
The average Quarter horse height for a mature and adult horse varies between 14.3 to 16 hands (about 57 to 64 inches) (1). Although it has to be noted that some American Quarter Horses of the English hunter-type or Halter-type can grow up to stand at 17 hands (68 inches).
The American Quarter size is perfect for their use as racehorses. In comparison with other breeds, the American Quarter horse has a good and average height and can be counted towards the normal-sized horses. Draught horses are taller since they stand at up to 19 hands.
American Quarter horses are muscular and therefore they are not super light, but thanks to their sportive figure they are also not heavy like a draught horse.
They are heavier than your usual riding horse, but since the American Quarter Horse has been mainly used as a racehorse throughout history, their weight has been well-maintained and makes them the perfect weight for almost any use.
American Quarter horse weight varies from 950 to 1,200 pounds (431 to 544 kg) (1). Seeing that they are not per se tall horses, but rather normal-sized, most of their weight comes from their muscles. They have a good and strong bone structure (1).
When it comes to American Quarter horse colors there are almost no limitations within the breed standards: brown, black, gray, bay, buckskin, smoky cream, cremello, red roan, grullo, perlino, smoky black, dun, red dun, bay roan, blue roan, and brown roan are just some examples (2).
The most common colors are chestnut and sorrel. Some rare Quarter horse colors are palomino, the different variations of champagne, and the color white.
Some years ago the AQHA studbook was not keen on accepting markings or patterns for even the most beautiful Quarter horse, but now the breed regulations state that as long as the parents of your Quarter horse are registered, all colors and patterns of descendants will be accepted (2).
The American Quarter gelding and mare are eager to learn and to train. This is because they have been used for quarter horse racing and quarter races for many centuries.
The American Quarter horse temperament is one of their greatest features. It is not for no reason that this breed is the most popular breed of all horses. The gentle and docile American Quarter horse behavior makes them great horses for all-level riders (6).
Since they are trained so easily and highly intelligent, they make for a wonderful first horse even for beginners (6). Being an easy-going breed, American Quarter Horses are also exhibited frequently and safe to be kept around children (6).
American Quarter Horse Care
The American Quarter horse lifespan is roughly between 20-25 years. Their lifespan depends on how well a horse is cared for. The care you must provide for English quarter horses
is considered moderate in the equestrian community.
Since they don´t need special care for any uncommon features like feathers or have a high sensitivity when it comes to food, your American Quarter Horse can be considered an easy-keeper.
Diet and Nutrition
The American Quarter diet is not complicated. American Quarter Horses are popular for being sturdy and robust horses and this is also true for their nutrition.
They are happy with the common horse nutrition which is a variety of pasture, fresh hay, some grain, vegetables, and fruits (3).
If you compete in dressage or show jumping with your Quarter Horse you might want to increase the amount of grain and supplements, like vitamins, to make sure your horse gets enough nutrients for its energy level (3).
Provide your horse with fresh water at all times and make sure the water is not frozen in wintertime (3).
American Quarter horses can be prone to some genetic problems since they have been bred for so many years. Even though breeding can result in greater achievements for a purebred, like fitness or physical features, it also increases the possibility of genetic diseases.
For an American Quarter, those can be Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) and Polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) (4). Both genetic diseases affect muscles and can cause stiffness, cramping, or even paralysis (4).
Malignant hyperthermia (MH) is another genetic disease that has been noted in American quarter horses (4). MH makes the body temperature of your horse rise and causes abnormal heart rhythms and high blood pressure (4).
But don’t get scared when you read all this: American Quarter Horses are overall healthy horses and these genetic diseases affect the minority of horses, not the majority (4).
American Quarter grooming is pleasant and easy-going compared to other horse breeds.
But that doesn’t mean that you will not spend huge amounts of time grooming your horse. Horse grooming is a big responsibility for every horse owner and it will take up a lot of your free time.
Say goodbye to the spa and cinema for some time at least. Grooming is a must since it provides your horse with hygiene and happiness. And you surely want to make sure your horse enjoys a long and happy life.
You should brush your horse every day with a body brush to clean its coat from dust and smaller particles (5). Pick the hooves of your horse every day with a hoof pick as well (5).
American Quarter Horse History
American Quarter horse history mainly begins in the 16th century when native horses from Spain and English Horses were imported to Virginia by the colonists in 1610.
The breed of the American Quarter horse originated later in the 1660s when the first cross-breeding between those native European horses was achieved. These were the ancestors of our American Quarter Horse.
The American Quarter horse origin lies with their ancestors from Spain and England. The English and Spanish colonists imported their local horse breeds to North America.
The cross-breeding that occurred, created our nowadays known American Quarter Horse breed (1). The first cross-breeding is said to have occurred in the 1660s around the area of Virginia and New England (1).
Little time later in the 17th century, these crossbreeds were already used for the popular quarter-mile races in Rhode Island and Virginia which gave the American Quarter Horse their name (1).
They were bred for those quarter-mile races and have a considerable amount of Thoroughbred genes in them (1).
During the next centuries, the American Quarter Horse became overshadowed by their ancestor, the Thoroughbred, since they were faster and more suitable for longer races.
But it wasn’t long until another group of equestrians became passionate about the beautiful American Quarter horse. They were then used by cowboys in the western and southwestern United States for stock purposes.
American Quarter Horses always had and still have a natural sense for cows and ruminants which made them perfect for every cowboy’s needs. Their agility and speed made them popular throughout the open-range era of the Wild West. Yeehaw!
Notable American Quarter Horses
Being the most popular horse breed in the world, the famous American Quarter horses surely have a few celebrities beneath them.
Since it is so well-documented who the first horses in the American Quarter horse pedigree were, these horses and pedigrees quickly rose to equestrian fame. Welcome to Horseywood!
First Down Dash
First Down Dash was introduced into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2011. He is said to have been the most magnificent racehorse sire so far. He sired many winners and was a beautiful chestnut American Quarter Horse.
Mr. San Peppy
Mister San Peppy was a famous American Quarter cutting stallion. He won the National Cutting Horse Association and was World Champion in 1973 and 1976. He became a popular sire for breeding further American Quarter horses. His descendants are still being used for breeding. Be sure that you will have to dig deep into your pockets to get one of them.
Two Eyed Jack
The American Quarter stallion Two Eyed Jack was the famous foundation horse for the Pitzer Ranch. Besides his achievement of having two eyes, Two Eyed Jack was owned by Howard Pitzer who won many shows with him and was utterly proud of his beautiful American Quarter horse stallion. The Pitzer ranch is still known for its prestigious Quarter horses.
Myths and Legends
Since the American Quarter horse is a rather young breed, just like the country of the USA itself, there are not too many ancient myths to be told.
BUT seeing that the American Quarter Horse was always popular there are many modern legends to tell you about. American Quarter horse legends are mainly based on their founding fathers, or should we say founding stallions?
King, Wimpy, and Leo
King, Wimpy, and Leo are said to be the founding stallions of the American Quarter horse breed. They have been used for breeding even before the AQHA was founded. King was the first one to be documented as a foal in 1932. They have even been professionally painted various times.
Easy Jet was a famous running horse. He has been portrayed running and winning many tournaments since he came to fame for earning more than $445,000 until he finally retired in 1970. I sure hope he is living his best life in retirement with all this money. Best carrots only for Easy Jet, please!
The American Quarter Horse Copper Locks played a role in the Disney movie “Secretariat”. His speed and agility came in handy when the movie needed a fast horse to race. The beautiful chestnut horse is set to win the Triple Crown tournament. He didn’t have copper locks in case you were wondering. He was rocking his straight mane though.
Modern American Quarter Horses
There are different types of American Quarter horses that are suitable for a variety of uses. There are the racing/hunting type and the stock type.
The difference between those two types is their body build and their suitability for different uses.
Where the stock horse type is shorter, compact, well-muscled, and agile, the racing/hunting type has smoother muscles, is taller, and more resembling the body type of a Thoroughbred.
It is a bit like with labradors where you have the show line and the working line. Choose wisely and precisely.
American Quarter breeding can be sighted all around the world. The American Quarter horse is not for no reason the most frequently bred horse on our planet.
Most American Quarter horses breeding still takes place in North America. That is closely followed by Germany. The Germans do love themselves a nice American Quarter Horse since they are also known for strong competition in shows and dressage.
As long as they are not trying to conquer the world again, fine for me. The breeding mostly divides between the two types of American Quarter Horses.
The breeding of the racing or hunting type focuses on the physical abilities of speed and quickness of the horse’s body whereas the stock type is bred to be sturdy and more compact.
American Quarter horse population is well-documented since their breeding association, the AQHA is the oldest one in the United States.
There are 3 million American Quarter horses registered with the AQHA. 2.4 million of them are registered in the USA. The majority of American Quarter horses are located in Texas, California, and Oklahoma.
The country of Love – Italy – is also fond of American Quarter Horses and a popular breeding spot in Europe.
There is almost no country where you won’t find at least one American Quarter Horse. Their versatile looks also make them very desirable since there are so many beautiful Quarter Horses to choose from.
American Quarter horse uses are one of their greatest features. Their frequency of use is one of the most versatile around the world.
The different types of Quarter Horses specialize in uses like hunting and racing or the stock and stall field.
But even despite the two different types, most American Quarter Horses are great for show jumping, dressage, Western, English, pleasure, and stock use.
Their physical abilities almost have no limitation. Their high intelligence and willingness to be trained make them great all-around talents. The American Quarter horse gait is the walk, trot, canter, and gallop.
American Quarter Horse Prices
The American Quarter horse price can vary considerably and we are not just talking about the actual purchase price of your horse.
Many people only think about the purchase price of a horse when they think about the costs of owning a horse. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The real investment of owning a horse is the monthly and regular costs that can’t be avoided or skipped. Those include boarding, feed, vet care, and hoofing care.
The price of an American Quarter horse can be anything from a few hundred bucks up to more than $100,000. This is because they are the most popular breed in the world and there are a lot of American Quarter Horses around (7).
BUT just like with any important purchase, the devil is in the detail. The pedigree, health status, American Quarter horse training, and its physical data determine the American Quarter price (7).
A trained and well-behaved, middle-aged American Quarter horse will roughly cost $5,000 to $7,000 (7).
If you choose a Quarter Horse from a prestigious pedigree or a winner of dressage and show jumping competition, this will more than double the price (7).
It is essential when you decide to buy a horse, that you are aware of the American Quarter horse cost of ownership that comes with owning your equine.
These costs can not be avoided and they can’t be minimized most of the time without your horse “paying” for your savings.
The regular monthly costs of ownership contain: board, feed, veterinarian care, and hoof care and they can be as high as $1,000 a month (8).
Boarding costs mean putting a roof over your horse’s head and most of the time it also means caretaking and feeding.
The American Quarter horse board cost will be around $150-$300 monthly (8). The so-called full board will be more expensive as it includes regular vet care, feed, hoof care, and exercising your horse.
The full board begins at around $300 (8). Just paying for a stable without the feed and care can cost as little as $150 (8).
American Quarter horse feed cost is luckily not too expensive, at least compared to the diet of more demanding breeds (7). Quarter horses are easy-keepers since they don’t have a too sensitive digestive system.
You will have to pay for high-quality hay which will cost you around 2$-$4 per bale. Horses need about 15-30 bales per month (7).
If your horse is active in dressage or jumps at shows it needs more energy and you have to add some grain feed which is around $13 for a bag that lasts about 1-2 weeks (7).
American Quarter horse veterinary cost is also a recurring cost that can´t be avoided. The vet’s costs will be around $200-$300 annually (9). That is if nothing out of the ordinary occurs.
The costs cover annual vaccinations, teeth floating once or twice per year and deworming for 12 months (9).
Anything unexpected like injuries, inflammations, or colics is not included in our estimate (9).
Most Quarter horses wear shoes. Shoeing a horse costs around $80. American Quarter horse hoof care cost is, therefore, regular spending since you need to shoe your horse regularly.
Even if you don’t want or need to shoe them for some reason you will have to pay for trimming (7).
Trimming your horses’ hooves will cost around $20-$35 for each trim (7). This brings the annual costs to anything from $150 to over $1,000 depending on your Quarters hoof care (7).
Buying an American Quarter Horse
The American Quarter breed is surely a great choice for your pet horse. Make sure to meet your Quarter horse before purchasing it in any case. The character of a horse should match the owner’s energy and what they are looking for.
Never buy a horse unseen. It is a living being and you are most probably buying an adult horse that has already a built character.
If you want to buy an American Quarter foal please remember that somebody needs to train or “break” the horse. Is that something you can or want to do? A horse is not a cat and needs to be trained very well if you want to ride it at some point.
Is the American Quarter Horse Right for You?
Riding an American Quarter horse is the dream of many equestrians. The goal of owning an American Quarter horse comes with many responsibilities and can be a life-fulfilling experience if you have the time and energy to commit to that.
The American Quarter horse is a versatile and friendly breed that is ideal for all level riders. If this might be your first horse to own, this is probably a great choice.
The American Quarter loves to learn and to train and as a first-time horse owner, there is a lot that you will need to learn for many years to come if not even forever.
Racing a quarter horse is also a great idea as it will fulfill your horse’s desires. They make for great family horses and are also a good fit for the competitive rider since they can excel in dressage or showjumping.
How to Buy an American Quarter Horse?
If you are buying an American Quarter horse you will find many American Quarter breeders to choose from since it is such a popular breed. Choose wisely and don’t go for the cheapest price or best-looking horse.
It is so much more than that. Look out for a passionate and horse-friendly breeder who breeds out of love for horses and not to simply make a profit.
You should ride the American Quarter Horse of your interest and ask the breeder about the character of the horse to make sure you are a good fit for each other. Feel that spark or walk away. It is just like choosing a life partner… without hooves.
Similar Breeds to American Quarter
To be honest there are not too many reasons why someone might need to look for American Quarter breed alternatives if they already like this breed since they are so versatile and appear in many different looks.
Maybe you are looking for a smaller horse or a rarer breed? The versatile use of the American Quarter horse is not unique to this breed alone and there are some alternatives out there that share some traits with the American Quarter.
Irish Sports Horse
The Irish Sports Horse looks similar to the American Quarter and is also a great horse for all level riders. They might be a great alternative for people looking to compete in jumping since the Irish Sports Horse was bred to be a sporty horse that can jump quite high. They are a relatively new breed from Ireland and who doesn’t like the Irish?
The Morgan Horse is another very popular breed in North America. They are smaller than the American Quarter Horse which makes them perfect for a lover of Quarter Horses who needs a smaller breed. They are known for their versatile use, their strength, and elegance. They also trace back to the foundation sires of New England.
The Thoroughbred is one of the ancestors of our American Quarter Horse. They are racing horses and have been bred especially for cantering and galloping in horse races. They are hot-blooded and originate from England. Sometimes people confuse a purebred horse with a Thoroughbred, but only a Thoroughbred is a Thoroughbred. Makes sense, right?
What is an American Quarter horse?
An American Quarter Horse is a horse breed from North America that has been used for racing in the States of New England until it became a popular horse breed for many versatile uses.
What does an American Quarter horse look like?
American Quarter horses are one of the most diverse breeds when it comes to colors and looks. There is almost no coat color that is not represented. They have a muscular and elegant body with a fine profile.
How did the American Quarter horse get its name?
The American Quarter Horse got its name from its original purpose – the Quarter mile races. This breed was mainly used for racing a quarter-mile and they excelled at it which is how they got their name.
Can you ride an American Quarter horse?
Yes, American Quarter Horses are great horses to ride for all level riders. Even children can ride a well-behaved Quarter horse safely.
Are American Quarter horses good for beginners?
Yes, they are good for beginners as well. American Quarter Horses are well-behaved and love to be trained and ridden. They will forgive mistakes and are gentle with clumsy riders.
How tall is an American Quarter horse?
American Quarter Horses are averaged sized with a height between 14.3 – 16 hands (57 to 64 inches).
How much does an American Quarter horse weigh?
Muscles come with weight, just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger! That’s why the American Quarter Horse weighs between 950-1,200 pounds despite their elegant body.
How big is an American Quarter horse?
American Quarter Horses are not too tall. They have an average height for an adult riding horse of 14.3-16 hands (57 to 64 inches).
How much does an American Quarter horse cost?
The cost of your American Quarter Horse is mainly determined by their pedigree, age, accomplishments, physical data, and look. That champagne coat is just as expensive as the liquid gold itself.
How much does an American Quarter horse ownership cost?
The ownership of an American Quarter horse can cost up to $1,000 each month. The costs depend on your boarding (full or partial) and the area you live in. The average cost is around $300 each month.
How long do American Quarter horses live?
American Quarter Horses have a lifespan of 20-25 years. Some are known to have lived up to 30 years. If you don’t care well for them, they might live shorter than that.
How fast can an American Quarter horse run?
American Quarter horses are some of the fastest horses. They can run up to 55 mph which makes perfect sense since they are racehorses.
How much can an American Quarter horse pull?
Quarter Horses can pull up to 1/10 of their weight. They are muscular and strong.
How much can an American Quarter horse carry?
American Quarter Horses can carry up to 200-260 lbs. You should always be of a more or less healthy weight to sit on a horse. The horse’s weight and build should be suitable to carry the rider’s weight.
At what age is an American Quarter horse full grown?
American Quarter Horses are fully grown between 4 and 5 years of age. You should not ride a horse before it is fully grown to ensure its bone growth is not interfered with.
What are American Quarter horses used for?
The use for American Quarter Horses is very versatile. They are used frequently for English and Western riding, simple pleasure and they recently became popular in the disciplines of dressage and jumping as well.
- Britannica. 2022. American Quarter Horse. Link
- American Quarter Horse Association. 2022. Quarter Horse Color and Markings Chart. Link
- American Quarter Horse Association. 2018. Balanced Nutrition. Link
- Kentucky Equine Research. 2013. Common Genetic Diseases in Quarter Horses. Link
- American Quarter Horse Association. 2018. Horse Grooming Basics. Link
- American Quarter Horse Association. 2022. American Quarter Horse Breed Characteristics. Link
- Ehorses. 2022. American Quarter Horse – horses for sale. Link
- Equine Guelph. 2022. Annual Horse Expense Sheet. Link
- UCD Veterinary Hospital. 2022. Costs and Packages Available. Link