The Quarter Horse
WHAT IS A QUARTER HORSE?
The Quarter Horse was originally bred as a stock horse to work cattle ranches in the USA. The name came from its use as a cowboy's holiday racer in the south-eastern States of America, running over a distance of a quarter mile. It is now used in every sort of riding event.
The Quarter Horse breed probably started with an English thoroughbred stud, 'Janus', brought to the USA in 1750 and crossed with the Chicksaw Indian pony which was a descendant of the Spanish Conquistador's Arabian derivative. The breed was formally documented, and a stud register started in 1940, with the foundation sire, Wimpy P1.
The Australian Quarter Horse started with the import of purebred Quarter Horses to Australia in the 1950's by King Ranch (Texas, USA). It is now an established breed. Continual imports have meant that Australian Quarter Horses are of equal standard to any available in the world. Stud and show registers are held at the Australian Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), which has headquarters in Tamworth, NSW. The AQHA also advises on the status of breeders, judges and show events.
Essentially the Quarter Horse is best suited for Western Performance Shows which have classes designed to show the special qualities for which the horse was bred, but they are versatile and can perform in any field.
What can I expect from a Quarter Horse?
You can do anything on a Quarter Horse that can be done on any horse, but what a Quarter Horse does best will be influenced, as for any other type of horse, by its breeding, conformation, movement and attitude.
Like all breeds, Quarter Horses are made up of individuals. They can perform and compete well at many disciplines - from cutting and campdraft to dressage, eventing, pleasure and rodeo - depending on their conformation, attitude and movement. Quarter Horses are the most suitable breed for Western Performance.
The English Thoroughbred is the foundation of the American Quarter Horse. The Thoroughbred is also used as a 'cross' to enhance speed, elegance and height of Quarter Horses and to reduce 'chunkiness' in the 'bulldog type' of Quarter Horse.
It is possible to buy a Quarter Horse which has a lot of racing or Thoroughbred blood. These are called 'hot bred'.
As good 'stock horses', Quarter Horses were bred to develop to the ultimate the qualities of the chunky, solid-boned type of horse whose temperament combines explosive energy with total control. This is the cutting, reining and rodeo horse. It tends to be very strongly built, with real power behind, ideal for cattle and tough rodeo work.
Then, there is the lovely Western Performance horse. This horse is calm, athletic, smooth-gaited and has a laid back' attitude. Its conformation is elegant, its movement easy but 'flat', and its basic temperament reflects such qualities as happiness to work, happiness to relax - good to be around. This is the most sought after 'short supply' horse. So, if this is the one you want, look for 'type' breeding, conformation and professional advice.
Conformation and Movement
The right conformation will make it a lot easier for a Quarter Horse to achieve the 'Western Performance movement' required for success in Western Performance shows.
The horse with its head in the air and high-set neck will be fighting you if you try to force it down. A hot bred horse will go slowly but not with ease. A poorly conformed horse will have trouble maintaining its collection and the smooth gait essential for Western Performance. Look for soft, easy flowing movement - you don't need high action or snappy movement. The horse you should choose will have conformation and movements that suit the way you wish to train it.
Attitude is of paramount importance. A tense horse with a fiery eye, flicking ears, swishing tail and nervous, quick reactions is not the right one. You are looking for a horse which is relaxed, accepting, obedient without fear, quiet, intelligent. The horse must be like that when you ride as well. A horse with a good attitude will train more easily, will forgive your training mistakes and work with you and your trainer willingly.
A good horse on the ground does not always behave as well when ridden. Watch for spoilt pets or grudging movers. A 'good attitude' in a horse makes everything easier and more pleasurable. To find the availability of suitable bloodlines, suitable progeny or finished horses, talk to trainers, talk to riders, talk to the Sydney Quarter Horse Association, talk to people at shows. Ask, keep asking, and keep looking but be sure of what your actual goal is. Only some horses are 'naturals'.
Western Performance does have different requirements and standards, so it is important to learn them before you buy 'the' horse. However, some of the classes can be accomplished with 'English' trained horses to see how Western Performance riding appeals.