American Quarter Horse Breed – Profile, Facts, Photos

They are a lot of horse breeds (actually, more than we can count, and more appear regularly), but few are as recognizable as the American Quarter horse. This is an American icon, famous for its incredible speed and ability to maintain it over a quarter-mile. Hence, the name.

The American Quarter horse is notorious for its adaptability and flexibility, making it the preferred choice for a variety of activities. These include dressage, speed and endurance competitions, jumping, hunting, and other equine events.

You can easily distinguish the American Quarter breed by the balanced and muscular body with a prominent jawline and a broad chest. This is a horse with a short but rich and compact history that overlaps with that of America.

American Quarter Horse History and Origin

The American Quarter Horse is what you see when you imagine the American staple horse. I am talking about the horse of the cowboys building the Wild West by force, work, and by the grace, speed, and agility of their equine companions.

The colonial-era saw the arrival of the English Thoroughbred, which the American locals bred with the native horses. The America Quarter gene pool dates back to Janus, a famous Thoroughbred now considered the great-great-grandfather of the modern American Quarter horse.

Janus embodied everything that defines the American Quarter horse today. This includes:

  • The impeccable balance between the broad and muscular chest and round, powerful hindquarters
  • The small, but defined head, with a compact, almost geometrical jaw
  • A wide neck at the base that closes in near the jaw to complement the head’s outline
  • A more volcanic temperament while feral, but a docile and calm animal once trained
  • Highly intelligent and adaptable

Visually, the horse is unmistakable. Its short and stocky composure leaves no room for confusion. The horse is actually bulkier and more muscular than its size would suggest.

American Quarter Horse Characteristics

Thanks to its impressive frame and, sometimes, jaw-dropping size, the American Quarter horse is one of the most recognizable breeds. This breed doesn’t have a standard look since it has features that may differ slightly. These include the size.

Normally, the American Quarter horse is rather medium-sized, which is common for speed-built horses. But that’s not always the case. Other American Quarter horses can grow several inches taller, making for an even more impressive sight.

– Size and Height

Most American Quarter horses will revolve around 14 to 15 hands in height. This translates to 56 to 60 inches. There are, however, other specimens that will easily go beyond that. Some American Quarter horses can reach 16 to 17 hands or 64-68 inches.

It’s also worthy of mentioning that the difference in size doesn’t impair the horse’s physical abilities. If anything, it might boost them since a higher height translates to longer legs which contributes to covering more distance faster.

– Weight

The critical aspect to note here is the overweight issue. The American Quarter horse varies between 950 to 1200 pounds. This difference in weight comes with differences in height, making the 1200 pounds horse a sight to behold.

The American Quarter horse is a natively heavier animal. This is due to its large musculature and wider bone structure. What this means is simple – overeating can cause a variety of health problems, aside from hindering the horse’s physical and athletic performance.

To find out the weight that your American Quarter is most comfortable with, you must consider the height-to-weight ratio. A 950 pounds horse should be a lot smaller and shorter than one 300 pounds heavier.

– Colors

Here’s another good news, alongside the other you got so far in the article – the American Quarter horse comes in various colors. Some of the most common colors include roan, palomino, grullo, gray, buckskin, and others. You will also find horses with various markings which are accepted in the breed.

The color variety is great considering that horse lovers have many criteria by which they choose their horse, color being a significant one.

– Speed

This is where the American Quarter excels. The breed is built for speed over short distances and is capable of outrunning most horse breeds. This ability was highly prized in the colonial era, and it’s definitely valued even more today when equine competitions are a lot more common.

While the American  Quarter can reach 35 to 40 mph speeds, some specimens have even reached 55 mph in events and competitions. This alone is enough to surpass most horse breeds by 15 to 20 mph. This staggering difference explains why the American Quarter horse is so sought-after among competitive heads.

– Temperament

The breed is easy-going, trainable, docile, and fun to work with. This makes the American Quarter horse ideal for both children and adults looking to learn how to ride. It’s also why the horse is so prevalent on the competitive scene, aside from its outstanding physical characteristics.

The horse is easy to train as it is a fast learner and eager to please. I recommend the horse if you’re a beginner and want to work with a versatile and calm horse. It’s also worth noting that the American Quarter doesn’t scare easily, so you don’t have to worry about the horse going haywire with you on its back.

– Lifespan

The American Quarter horse can reach 25 to 30 years of age with proper care, nutrition, grooming, and veterinarian care. The 30 part is, however, a bit of a stretch since most horses won’t get there. The horse’s lifespan will also depend on its genetic inheritance.

If you want to make sure your horse has excellent genes, I advise asking for information about its parents. This will prevent unwanted surprises like predisposition to illness or other genetic issues.

American Quarter Horse Diet and Nutrition

Being an energy-greedy breed, the American Quarter requires a varied diet. This includes carbs, protein, essential minerals, vitamins, healthy fats, and as much water as necessary.

All these nutrients should come from food sources like hay, fresh grass, and grains, along with the occasional treats like apples, carrots, and whatever else the horse may enjoy.

Just make sure you don’t exaggerate with the treats and provide your horse with sufficient food.

As a general rule, a 1000-pound American Quarter will consume approximately 15 to 20 pounds of food per day. That’s around 2% of its body weight. The horse’s food requirements will also depend on the horse’s physical activity, among other factors.

Grooming American Quarter Horse

Regular grooming will really highlight the beauty of the American Quarter horse. I suggest grooming the horse’s coat both daily and after every running event, whether competitional or casual. This will soften the hairs and distribute the horse’s natural skin oils, keeping the coat soft and shiny.

You should also use a detangler to groom the horse’s mane and tail. This will create a bushier look, complementing the horse’s physical presence.

Uses of American Quarter Horse

The American Quarter was once used in everything involving heavy work, from pulling wagons to working the field and even maneuvering cattle. The latter shows the horse’s ability in an area that few other breeds are relevant.

Today, the American Quarter is more useful in competitions, speed races, hunting, and various equine events. Many people also use the horse in fieldwork, although I don’t really recommend that. The American Quarter horse doesn’t do well with overworking, and it’s easy to overwork it this way.

Other than that, people also get the horse for hunting events and casual riding, looking for a calm and gentle companion.

American Quarter Horse Price

You should expect to find your average American Quarter horse at prices ranging between $2,500 and $10,000. These are healthy individuals with a clean physique and no known illness or obvious flaw. If you want to get big with it, there’s a market for that as well.

Competition-ready horses or stallions for breeding with incredible genetics can go to $25,000 or more. There’s also a third section, dealing with unique specimens with top competition achievements and at the peak of their potential. Expect to get one for $100,000 or more per case.

Many factors influence the price of an American Quarter, including age, physical health, bloodline, training, etc. Make sure you get information on all these areas before purchasing your horse.

American Quarter Horse Health Problems

The American Quarter can struggle with a variety of conditions during its life. Some of these include:

  • Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) – This is a genetic disorder that comes with uncontrollable muscle twitching, muscle weakness, and even paralysis in the more severe cases.
  • Hereditary Equine Regional Derma Asthenia (HERDA) – As the name suggests, this is a genetic condition affecting the horse’s skin. The disorder results in collagen defects, causing the exterior skin layer to detach easily from the interior one. This can result in gruesome injuries, with the horse’s skin frequently rupturing during riding. To prevent such awful scenarios, most horses are euthanized by the age of two upon diagnosing the condition.
  • Malignant Hyperthermia – Some of the symptoms include fever, an elevated heart rate, muscle rigidity, and high blood potassium. The condition is generally the direct result of overworking.

There are others that may be a reason for concern since this breed is more prone to genetic conditions than others. You definitely need to have this aspect in mind when looking to get an American Quarter.

American Quarter Horse Population

The American Quarter breed is the largest in the world, currently standing at over 3 million individuals. This provides you with a vast pool to choose from with a wide price range.

It’s not a surprise that the American Quarter horse is the most popular breed in the US due to its unmatched physical abilities and chill temperament.


The American Quarter horse is no doubt an American icon. It represents the American spirit better than any other breed, and you can see that in the horse’s prevalence on the competitive scene.

The good news is that being so many American Quarter horses available, you are bound to find one to your liking. Just make sure you’re up for the task. The American Quarter horse requires quality food, daily grooming, and a regular physical exercise regime without overworking it.

I hope this article can help you find the perfect American Quarter.

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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