The American Quarter Horse is an American breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name came from its ability to outdistance other horse breeds in races of a quarter mile or less; some have been clocked at speeds up to 55 mph (88.5 km/h).
The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States today, and the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world, with almost 3 million American Quarter Horses currently registered.
The American Quarter Horse is well known both as a race horse and for its performance in rodeos, horse shows and as a working ranch horse. The compact body of the American Quarter Horse is well-suited to the intricate and speedy maneuvers required in reining, cutting, working cow horse, barrel racing, calf roping, and other western riding events, especially those involving live cattle. The American Quarter Horse is also shown in English disciplines, driving, and many other equestrian activities.
In the early 19th century, Quarter Horses were overshadowed by Thoroughbreds, which ran better over longer distances. But Quarter Horses soon found a new acceptance in the western and southwestern United States as stock horses. The breed’s inherent quickness and agility made it ideally suited to the tasks of the developing frontier. Its good-natured disposition and natural cow-sense made the American Quarter Horse a favourite mount among cowboys during the open-range era of the West.
Modern American Quarter Horses are short and stocky, with heavy muscular development; short, wide heads; and deep, broad chests. Since these horses are used to cut cattle from herds, fast starting, turning, and stopping ability and speed for short distances are essential qualities. Their colours are variable, but all are solid. The height of mature animals varies from 14.3 to 16 hands (about 57 to 64 inches, or 145 to 163 cm), and their weight varies from 950 to 1,200 pounds (431 to 544 kg). They have a calm, cooperative temperament.
In 1940, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was organized, and in 1950 it was reorganized to include other Quarter Horse organizations. The AQHA controls the American Quarter Horse Stud Book and Registry.With more than 2.5 million horses registered in its stud book by the late 20th century, the AQHA was the largest horse breeders’ organization in the world.