Created to run a quarter-mile race at high speeds, the American Quarter Horse Gelding is the most popular horse in the United States. Strong enough to pull a plow, sure-footed for trail riding, and attractive in front of a carriage, the Quarter Horse Gelding contributed significantly to the lives of pioneers as they spread out across the North American continent.
Heavily muscled and compact with a small head, the Quarter Horse is of medium size. They usually are between 14 and 15 hands in height and weigh between 1,100 and 1,300 pounds. These horses are suited for quick bursts of speed with wide, deep chests and powerful hindquarters. The American Quarter Horse Association specifies 13 colors, 5 kinds of leg markings, and 7 types of facial markings.
When a male foal is born, the owner has to decide whether to geld (castrate) him or not. Many owners are uninterested in breeding horses, and stallions can have certain behavior issues that only skilled equestrians can manage. Additionally, only the highest-quality stallions should reproduce, but less-perfect stallions can be perfectly good trail horses if they are gelded. By gelding a horse, the owner eliminates problem stallion behavior, like mounting other horses, aggressive behavior toward humans, and screaming at other horses. Some owners geld a horse as a young foal, but others wait until the horse is about a year old before gelding him. American Quarter Horse geldings are incapable of breeding.
Quarter Horses are excellent trail horses and are commonly used in working cattle. They tend to be tough and hard-working with steady personalities. They are excellent horses for beginners because of their gentle temperaments. Quarter Horses are very versatile and used in almost every type of horse competition, except for draft uses.
The roots of the American Quarter Horse go back to horses of Arab, Turk, and Barb descent that were brought to the New World by explorers and traders. In 1611, a group of Spanish stallions were imported to the North American continent and the cross-bred offspring of these horses were perfect for racing. As colonial America grew, so did the popularity of the Quarter Horse. Colonists wanted horses that could work hard all week but also be used for racing on the weekends. The most common race course length was a quarter of a mile, from which the Quarter Horse got its name. As the United States spread to the West, so did the Quarter Horse. On the ranches of the West and Southwest, however, the Quarter Horse came into its own, demonstrating its skill as a cattle horse. Currently, these horses are extremely popular in rodeo events, working cattle on farms, and for pleasure riding.
According to the American Quarter Horse Association, there are over 3 million American Quarter Horses in the world owned by over 1 million people. Quarter Horses can be found in all 50 of the United States and in 64 countries.