The Quarter Horse is one of America's oldest and
certainly its most popular breed of horse. It developed during the
17th century from the horses that the Spanish conquistadors took
to America with them - mainly Andalusian, Barb, and Arabian. This
base stock was then crossed with the early Thoroughbred types that
were imported to America in 1611 and hence the foundations for the
Quarter Horse were laid.
The first English horses imported in 1611 were known as running
horses, and would have been the forerunners of the English Thoroughbred.
They were transported to Virginia and, after the legalization of
racing by Governor Nicholson in about 1620, there began concerted
efforts to breed horses for speed. The early races were almost always
short - usually about one quarter of a mile - and by 1690, the prize
money being offered was considerable. This was the background against
which the Quarter Horse developed, and it is often considered that
the breed was primarily geared toward prowess on the racecourse,
before its many other qualities were discovered. The early Quarter
Horse was a solidly built small horse, standing at only 15hh, and
was notable for its tremendously powerful hindquarters.
It was quickly realized that the Quarter Horse was far superior
to the Thoroughbred types over short distances, and to this day,
the Quarter Horse is still faster over a short course than the Thoroughbred.
They became known at first as Short Horses, due to the short distances
they excelled in racing over, and then later their name was changed
to Quarter Horse, after the quarter-of-a-mile races they ran. One
of the important early influences of Thoroughbred on the development
of the Quarter Horse was that of the horse Janus, who was imported
in 1752. Janus had a son by the same name, and he became the foundation
sire of the important Printer line of Quarter Horses. The other
influential Thoroughbred was Sir Archy, son of Diomed, who was the
winner of the first English Epsom Derby. Several lines of impressive
Quarter Horse today can still be traced back to Sir Archy.
Gradually, however, distance racing gained in popularity and
the Quarter Horse was no longer able to compete against the Thoroughbred.
By the 1850s, distance racing was firmly established and the Quarter
Horse would have dwindled had their other impressive talents not
become apparent. It quickly became evident that the Quarter Horse
was a natural ranch animal, possessing "cow sense" to a very great
degree. It is more likely that thais natural instinct to work cows
was inherited from their Spanish ancestors, who are also excellent
cow horses, and are frequently used in the bullring. The Quarter
Horse is virtually unsurpassable in the capacity of cow work, and
their great agility, speed, and tenacity, as well as intelligence,
makes them one of the modern cowboy's favorite mounts. The Quarter
Horse is truly the universal horse and is quite capable of performing
well in virtually any sphere.
Back in the 1800s as people started to move towards the Western
states of America, the Quarter horse was frequently used in harness
as well as for ridden transportation. They were capable of completely
all the chores around the early settlers' homesteads, and as well
as making sporting horses, are most often suitable for children
and novices to ride, to. The extraordinary versatility of the Quarter
Horse is perhaps unequalled by any other breed and is entirely due
to their quite exceptional temperaments The Quarter Horse Association,
which was not formed until 1940, now has the largest register of
any breed in the world, numbering over three million entries. The
Quarter Horse is used for all areas of leisure riding, in competitive
sports, especially the rodeo, with which it has become synonymous,
all forms of ranch and cow work, and once again on the racetrack.
In recent years Quarter Horse racing has become more popular, although
it is considered by some that there has been a detrimental amount
of Thoroughbred blood introduced to the racing Quarter Horse lines.
The Quarter Horse characteristically has a superb, calm, and
well-balanced temperament, and is highly intelligent, making it
a first class riding horse, In appearance, they have excellent,
powerful conformation. The head tends to be smallish and broad across
the forehead, the neck is muscular and well-formed, the chest wide
and deep, the shoulders strong, sloping, and powerful. They should
be compact through the barrel and have immensely strong hindquarters.
The legs are well formed, the cannon bone short, and the feet very
hard, They can be any whole color, and range in height from 14.2
hh to 16 hh.
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