American Quarter Horse Lifespan – How Long do They Live?

There are several points of interest that everybody considers when looking to buy a horse. These include the breed, the horse’s health state, its parents, its predisposition to genetic conditions, and the breed’s average lifespan, to name a few.

Today’s article will discuss the American Quarter horse, one of the most famous and notorious American breeds. The American Quarter horse comes with a variety of sought-after characteristics, including:

  • Its gentle, calm, and friendly temperament, making it ideal for children, people with disabilities, and families
  • The outstanding physical abilities, including agility, strength, speed, and stamina
  • The unmatched cognitive skills, which include adaptability, fast learning, intelligence, and high emotional intelligence

If you’ve already decided to get an American Quarter horse, I congratulate you – it’s a fitting choice, no matter your goals. But, like most horse owners, you probably want to know about the horse’s lifespan.

This article will discuss not only the American Quarter horse’s lifespan but also the factors influencing it.

Average Lifespan of American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter horse will generally live between 25 to 35 years. Many horses go beyond that with proper care, medical attention, and a loving living environment. It’s not uncommon for horses to reach 40 years of age or more.

Just know that, with age, their cognitive and physical abilities will decrease naturally. A senior horse will also need more care and attention compared to a younger one. This includes making changes in their workout schedule, diet, and veterinary check-ups. Older American Quarter horses tend to develop health problems, many of which are genetic.

You want to check your horse’s health state more often as it ages to prevent health problems over the years.

How Old is The Oldest Quarter Horse?

There is no data on the oldest Quarter horse, but it shouldn’t have gone more than 50 years of age if there was one. That’s because the world’s oldest horse died at the age of 62 in 1822 and, since then, the next oldest reached 51.

If there had been a Quarter horse going past 51, we would’ve known about it. Whatever the case may be, expect your American Quarter horse to live around 30 years of age with proper care, love, and constant medical attention.

How to Tell the Age of a Quarter Horse?

There are several ways to tell the age of a horse, and I will detail them below:

– Checking the Papers

These include registration, vet notes, and breeding papers. This is the easiest method for obvious reasons. If the previous horse owner has all the papers necessary, your job is complete right from the get-go. The horse’s papers will have a lot of information about the horse’s pedigree, age, health status, genetic makeup, etc.

The problem is that not all horse owners have comprehensive papers available on sale. Maybe they didn’t get them from the horse’s previous owners, or they didn’t bother to make them. Whatever the case may be, this option isn’t always reliable.

– Scan the Horse’s Microchip

This would be another fortunate scenario, making your job easier than you would expect. A lot of horse owners chip the foals to make sure they can track them down when stolen or lost. The good news is that it’s more likely for a horse like American Quarter to have a microchip due to the breed’s notoriety and profile.

Nobody wants to lose a horse belonging to an expensive breed responsible for providing the most speed-racing champions in the business. The problem is that not all horse owners chip their horses, forcing you to reset to square one.

– Assessing the Physical Characteristics

The horse’s body will change with time, which is common in all living beings. While the horse’s body will record subtle physical changes over time, these accelerate past the age of 18-20.

You will observe physiological changes like gray hair, gradual loss of muscle tone, wrinkles around the eyes and mouth, etc. While these visual indicators will help you differentiate between a young and an older horse, they won’t tell you the horse’s age. At most, you will know what age range the horse finds itself in.

– Assessing the Horse’s Teeth

This is one of the most reliable methods of assessing your horse’s age, aside from the paperwork. The horse has 12 front incisors that will provide you with all the information necessary to determine your horse’s age. The method is amazingly accurate, and it consists of ‘vantage points’:

Checking the Permanent Teeth

  • Newborn – The newborn foal will have no teeth. A quick investigation will only reveal the gums, with no teeth penetrating them.
  • 1 year – The 1-year horse will show its full set of temporary teeth. They will usually have no signs of wear, along with the mouth’s corners. That’s because there hasn’t been enough time for the bone matter to wear off due to chewing. You can tell that these are temporary teeth by the neck joining the tooth’s root and the gum.
  • 2 years – The mouth’s corners will now show signs of wear.
  • 3 years – The horse will now display permanent center teeth, upper and lower. These are larger and longer than temporary teeth and lack the neck that comes with the latter. They are also darker in color and will show signs of wear with age.
  • 4 years – The 4-year-old horse now has well-developed permanent center teeth, immature intermediate teeth, and milk teeth at the corners. This is also when canines will first appear.
  • 5 years – The horse now has what it’s known as a full mouth. All of the temporary teeth have been replaced by permanent ones. The corner teeth and the upper and lower mouth cups have little-to-no wear.

The Disappearance of Cups

  • 6 years – The cups will show subtle wear in the center, along with the corner teeth. The canines should also appear fuller and more developed than a 5-year-old horse, although not by much.
  • 7 years – We now have a fully developed dovetail with a smooth angle of incidence. The horse will still miss its dental stars that generally appear later on in life.
  • 8 years – There are no cups on the lower jaw compared to those on the upper jaw. The teeth will show a more oval shape with a sharper angle of incidence. This is when the horse will display dental stars on its incisors. There are typically no cups visible on either the lower or the upper jaw.
  • 9 years – The front teeth will sacrifice their width in favor of more length. The teeth will also display an increasing oval look.
  • 10 years – The upper center teeth will change their oval shape to angularity while the notch will reappear on the upper corner.
  • 11 years – The front teeth will display even more length while the side view will notice an increased angle.
  • 12 years – The only noticeable difference will be the decrease of the central enamel rings.
  • 15 years – There are no cups, the teeth are all angular, and the central enamel rings are small and round.
  • 21 years – There are spaces visible between the teeth now, with an abrupt angle of incidence. The teeth will also display triangular surfaces instead of the normal round ones.
  • 30 years – The teeth no longer have spaces visible, but the mouth will display clear signs of an aging horse. These include the eroded teeth surface, a drastic angle increase, and the wear-off triangular teeth shape.

The Angle of Incidence

This is the angle between the upper and lower incisors that’s noticeable from a profile view. The angle will shift with age, with slight differences from one horse to another.

The Teeth’s Shape

The teeth’ shape will also change dramatically over the years, appearing broader and flatter in younger horses. Older horses will have longer teeth with oval and then triangular shapes as age takes its toll.

Factors That Affect a Quarter Horse’s Lifespan

The American Quarter horse’s lifespan will generally depend on several aspects, including:

– Diet

A healthy and active horse should have a varied diet, including hay, grass, limited amounts of grains, occasional supplements if necessary, and treats. How much a horse will eat also depends on its lifestyle, body weight, and necessities. A healthy American Quarter horse will typically consume 1.5% to 2% of its body weight daily.

The problems begin to appear with improper eating patterns. The horse will either not eat enough or overeat. I recommend speaking to your veterinarian about your horse’s diet because both under and overeating come with significant health issues.

– Genetic Inheritance

If the horse’s parents have lived long and healthy lives, the horse will most likely follow the same path. This is why you should always verify the horse’s parents before purchasing it. By doing so, you can even see if your horse has certain predispositions towards life-threatening genetic conditions.

– Genetic Disorders

Unfortunately, the American Quarter horse is highly susceptible to genetic conditions, many of which are deadly. Some of these include Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM), Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA), Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED), etc.

Some of these are triggered genetically, while others are mere predispositions, but are triggered by other factors. Some of these factors may include overfeeding and overworking. It’s best to discuss with your veterinary about these issues, so you can find out how to prevent them.

There are also additional factors that I could have mentioned, including the horse’s lifestyle. You don’t want to overwork your horse. Although the American Quarter horse makes for a powerful specimen, its strength is speed, not heavy workloads for extended periods.

It’s very easy to overwork your American Quarter horse, leading to health problems, including loss of appetite, legs issues, etc.

Increase The Life Expectancy of a Quarter Horse

You can easily increase your horse’s life expectancy by treating it like you would a family member. Here are a handful of relevant tips to help you achieve that:

  • Ensure a proper diet and sufficient water – Your horse needs to eat around 1.5% to 2% of their bodyweight every day. You can add some concentrates to that, provided your horse regularly engages in a lot of physical activity. The horse will also drink around 5 to 10 gallons of freshwater daily. The amount of water will depend primarily on the horse’s size, activity level, and environmental factors. A horse engaging in daily activities and living in a hotter region will naturally consume a lot more water.
  • Keep track of the horse’s veterinary visits – A horse will require more veterinary visits as it gets older. Younger horses will generally only require one veterinary check-up per year. Keeping track of your horse’s veterinary schedule is essential for preventing specific health problems or even diagnose them in time.
  • Prevent overworking – It’s easy to overwork your horse if you don’t keep track of its physical activity. Your horse’s workout schedule should rely on its size and the type of physical activity in question. The situation can aggravate considerably if we also add dehydration and not enough food to the equation.
  • Plenty of love – Your American Quarter horse, will become a member of your family. Treat the horse with love and respect, and the horse will return your favor. Remember, American Quarter horses are highly intelligent, capable of recognizing their owners and sensing their emotions and state of mind. In other words, your horse will sense if you are sad, depressed, in a good mood, or energetic. A good and positive living environment will undoubtedly increase your horse’s lifespan, which is also something that goes with humans.


Your American Quarter horse will be a loyal, gentle, and caring companion, and it’s only natural that you return the favor. With adequate care, love, and proper medical assistance, the horse will be by your side for decades to come.

If you still have queries about the American Quarter horse, I have written several other articles about this fascinating breed.

avatar Noah
I’m Noah, chief editor at VIVO Pets and the proud owner of a playful, energetic husky (Max). I’ve been a volunteer at Rex Animal Rescue for over 2 years. I love learning and writing about different animals that can be kept as pets. read more...

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