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American Quarter Horse

Breed Organization Information

American Quarter Horse Association
P. O. Box 200
Amarillo, TX 79168-0001

Tel: (806) 376-4811
Fax: (806) 376-8304

About the Breed

If you have ever seen one of rodeo's timed events or ridden along for work on a ranch or watched a Western on the big screen or television, chances are you have witnessed an American Quarter Horse in action.

The American Quarter Horse is the first breed of horse native to the United States. The breed evolved when the bloodlines of horses brought to the New World were mixed. Foundation American Quarter Horse stock originated from Arab, Turk and Barb breeds. Selected stallions and mares were crossed with horses brought to Colonial America from England and Ireland in the early 1600s. This combination resulted in a compact, heavily muscled horse that evolved to fill the colonist's passion for short-distance racing.

These powerful animals could run a short distance over a straightaway faster than any other horse, with the fastest being named Celebrated American Running Horses. There were many variations of names throughout the years but in 1940, a registry was formed to preserve the breed which officially became the American Quarter Horse. The first American Quarter Horse races were held at Enrico County, Virginia in 1674. One-on-one match races were run down village streets, country lanes and level pastures. By 1690, large purses, heavy betting, disagreements and fights were a common occurrence around match races. It is reported that grand plantations may have changed hands on the outcome of these sprints.

As pioneers moved westward, so did the American Quarter Horse. During the 1800s, vast cattle ranches began to stretch across the plains. Known for its cow sense (the ability to outmaneuver cattle) and calm disposition, the American Quarter Horse was ideally suited for the challenge of the West.

Today, heavy muscling and sprinter's speed remain characteristic traits but the breed has been specialized to excel at particular events. Competing in every discipline imaginable from traditional rodeo events such as roping and barrel racing to the refined English classes of dressage and show jumping has made the American Quarter Horse the one of the most versatile breeds in the world. Although competition options are nearly unlimited, the number one interest of American Quarter Horse owners remains riding for recreation.

Breed Characteristics
Since the creation of the American Quarter Horse Association more than 50 years ago, breeders have been perfecting the bloodlines of the American Quarter Horse to produce a high quality, versatile animal. AQHA has set forth a strict set of guidelines regarding registration of American Quarter Horses. American Quarter Horses are allowed only limited white markings on the face and below the knees. If you see white anywhere else in spots or patches, you're not looking at an American Quarter Horse. In addition, there are 13 accepted colors recognized by AQHA. The most prominent of these colors is sorrel (reddish brown), with the others being bay, black, brown, buckskin, chestnut, dun, red dun, gray, grullo, palomino, red roan and blue roan. The official gray color is what most people call white, but it's interesting to note that there are no "white" American Quarter Horses.

Beyond their appearance, a registered American Quarter Horse foal (baby) is the product of a numbered American Quarter Horse dam (mare or mother) and a numbered American Quarter Horse sire (stallion or father). AQHA also offers an appendix registry for foals with one numbered American Quarter Horse parent and one Thoroughbred parent registered with The Jockey Club.

Other identifiable characteristics of the breed are heavy muscling, sprinter's speed, versatility, keen cow sense and a gentle nature. From the past where the American Quarter Horse origins can be traced to ranching and racing, to the present where American Quarter Horses excel in a variety of events, the American Quarter Horse gives an individual many outlets for enjoyment, thus making it the world's most popular breed.

Outstanding American Quarter Horses

Bred and raised on the King Ranch in Kingsville, Texas, Wimpy was honored as the 1941 Fort Worth Exposition and Fat Stock Show grand champion stallion. With this honor, Wimpy achieved everlasting recognition in the American Quarter Horse world by receiving Number 1 in the AQHA registry. Wimpy garnered the reputation of being an excellent sire which produced great sons and daughters. During his stay at the King Ranch, Wimpy sired 170 foals that were registered with AQHA. His progeny included one AQHA champion, four Performance Registers of Merit and numerous halter and performance point earners.

Once proclaimed as the greatest horse of his time, King has become one of the American Quarter Horse industry's cornerstones. While he never won any performance points, King established a dynasty. He sired 20 AQHA Champions, 84 Performance Registers of Merit, 12 Racing Registers of Merit, three Superior Halter Award winners and 10 Superior Performance Award winners. At the time that King was born, there wasn't an American Quarter Horse Association. However, his conformation would later set the standard for American Quarter Horse judging for more than a decade. King died of a heart attack in 1958 but even now, the American Quarter Horse industry is influenced by third, fourth and fifth generation King-bred horses.

In the early years of the American Quarter Horse industry, Leo was known primarily as a sizzling speed horse. Later, he gained a hefty reputation of being a leading sire. Both his sons and daughters excelled on the track and in the show ring. The many titles won by Leo's offspring proved he not only sired speed, but also athletic ability, including 24 AQHA Champions, 33 Performance Registers of Merit, 211 Race Registers of Merit, four Superior Halter Awards, two Superior Performance Awards, eight Superior Race Awards, one Supreme Champion and four Racing World Champions. These traits were passed down from generation to generation and many of Leo's sons and daughters became leading producers of quality foals. Although no one knows for sure, Leo reportedly won 20 of 22 races in his career but he will most be remembered for his outstanding offspring which have strengthened the American Quarter Horse industry.

Although not bred to be a cow horse, Doc Bar is best remembered as the horse which revolutionized the cutting horse industry. By Lightning Bar and out of Dandy Doll, Doc Bar was bred for speed, but only won $95 in four starts. Doc Bar wasn't a performance horse either but turned out to be a good halter horse and an excellent sire whose foal crops totally redefined the sport of cutting. Not only did his sons and daughters find success in the cutting arena, but they also found success in other performance events including working cow horse, reining and western pleasure. According to AQHA records, Doc Bar sired 485 foals which earned over 7,000 halter and performance points and 27 AQHA Champions. Doc Bar is credited with bringing a totally different look to cutting horses and for putting the sweeping motion into the cutting horses of today.

From the word GO, he was a champion. Go Man Go would dominate the American Quarter Horse racing scene like no other in history. Aptly named, Go Man Go was foaled in 1953, and although neither his mother nor father raced, he quickly proved he had the ability of a champion. In his career, Go Man Go earned many honors. Three times he was named World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse, including becoming the first 2-year-old to ever claim that honor. He earned multiple divisional titles, set three track records and a world record, equaled a world record and became one of the greatest sires in American Quarter Horse racing.

Perhaps no other racing American Quarter Horse has had a greater or more controversial racing career than Easy Jet. During his 2-year-old campaign, he was loaded into the gates 26 times, a feat that some think would have crippled most juveniles. Despite the criticism, he won 22 races that year, including the All American, Kansas, Sunland Fall, Columbus Triple Crown and the All-American Quarter Horse Congress Futurities. He was named World Champion Quarter Running Horse, Champion Stallion and Champion 2-Year-Old Colt. He hit the track again as a 3-year-old and was just as successful, attaining the titles of World Champion Racing American Quarter Horse and Champion Quarter Running 3-Year-Old Colt. He retired with 38 career starts that included 27 firsts, seven seconds and two thirds. As a sire, Easy Jet was equally impressive. By the end of 1993, his direct offspring had earned more than $25 million on the track. Additionally, he had sired more than 1,500 horses who had gained their Registers of Merit.

Even if you have never set foot inside a race track or imagined the impact of a 55-mile-per-hour gust on a person clinging to the back of a horse, more than likely you have heard the name Dash For Cash. Arguably, Dash For Cash was the greatest sire of racing American Quarter Horses ever. His own racing statistics speak for themselves. In 1976 and 1977 he was Racing World Champion, Superior Racehorse in 1976 and set two track records. He won 21 of 25 starts, which included nine stakes races from 1975-1978. Additionally, he finished first or second in every race he entered except for one. He sired 1,353 foals that made him a living legend. Dash For Cash's offspring have earned more than $37 million on the track, one AQHA Supreme Championship, 880 Registers of Merit, 39 world championships and 135 stakes winners.

With career earnings of $2,126,309, Refrigerator is the only American Quarter Horse to exceed the $2-million mark. In six racing campaigns, this gelding won 22 of 36 races, including 11 stakes wins. In addition to capturing the All-American Futurity (G1), Refrigerator is the only horse to capture three runnings of the prestigious Champion of Champions (G1) race. Some of his career highlights include two World Championships and the 400-yard stakes record for the All American Futurity. Although Refrigerator hasn't been named a Hall of Fame horse yet, the richest American Quarter Horse is almost as good a bet to make it there as he was on the track.

American Quarter Horse Hollywood Stars

Silver Spur Award
AQHA's Silver Spur Award is the equine world's equivalent of the Academy Award. Started in 1991, the Silver Spur Award is one of the highest awards an American Quarter Horse can receive and is presented only when the contributions of the horse command such an honor. Plain Justin Bar, who played "Cisco" in "Dances With Wolves" was the inaugural winner of this prestigious award. Since then, only two other horses have received this honor. Gills Bay Boy, known as "Scamper" to rodeo fans and the trusty mount of World Champion barrel racer Charmayne Rodman, in 1993 and Docs Keepin Time, the star of Warner Brothers "Black Beauty" in 1994. The AQHA Silver Spur Award is a way of honoring those four-legged stars that often are more popular than their human co-stars.

Lights! Camera! Action! Most actors long for that one spectacular role that makes or breaks a career - a roll full of action, drama and possibly even a memorable death scene that leaves audiences gasping over the loss of a heroic figure. Plain Justin Bar, a buckskin American Quarter Horse gelding, landed this type role when he was selected to play Cisco, Kevin Costner's trusty mount in the movie "Dances With Wolves," which was honored with an Academy Award in 1991 for Best Picture.

"Justin" as he is known to his friends, is owned by Redstone Farm of Pilot Point, Texas. The gelding is by Impressive Dan out of the Modesto Rocket mare Plain Pearl Bar.

Among horse lovers, four-legged stars are often more popular than their human counterparts. That is certainly the case with the American Quarter Horse Docs Keepin Time, star of the Warner Brothers movie "Black Beauty." The stallion went from an unsuccessful racing career to one of Hollywood's most sought after equine performers. While playing the part, Docs Keepin Time had to perform many tricks, including working without a rider, rearing and even nodding and shaking his head. One particular scene involved a barn fire with Black Beauty trapped inside. Docs Keepin Time was coated with a fire retardant gel that protected him from the flames. By any standard, Docs Keepin Time is a Hollywood veteran. In addition to "Black Beauty," he played the part of the raring horse in the Busch Beer commercials, performed in a rock music video, and captured the hearts of Americans in the television series "The Black Stallion," and played the role of Gulliver in Robert Redford's screen adaptation of "The Horse Whisperer."

It's the kind of movie that makes you itch to hop in the saddle. In the spring of 1998, one of the biggest horse pictures in years opened in theaters - Robert Redford's "The Horse Whisperer," in which he starred, produced and directed. The extremes of action required by the story demanded that horses be well trained and familiar with the chaos of film making. To handle that job, some 17 American Quarter Horses were used in the film. Playing the lead role of Pilgrim was the unregistered Quarter Horse Hightower, while the American Quarter Horse Rambo Roman, ridden by Robert Redford (Tom Booker), played the role of Rimrock. Owned by Buck Brannaman (the inspiration for the character of Tom Booker) of Sheridan, Wyoming, Rambo Roman is a 10-year-old gelding by True Roman. Redford was impressed at the first sight of Rambo Roman, but after riding him, was sold and used him as his personal mount throughout the movie.

Breed Organization
The American Quarter Horse established a bold reputation as the greatest cattle roundup and trail driving horse in history and would never be forgotten by early American racing enthusiasts. To ensure the unique qualities of this breed did not perish, a group of American Quarter Horse enthusiasts met in 1940 in Ft. Worth, Texas, to establish what was to become the largest equine breed registry in the world, the American Quarter Horse Association. Located in Amarillo, Texas, AQHA has registered 3.7 million American Quarter Horses and serves more than 300,000 worldwide Members.

AQHA functions as the official record keeping and governing body of the American Quarter Horse industry. AQHA records all American Quarter Horse ownership, processes approved show and race results, catalogs performance and produce data on all American Quarter Horses, maintains Association funds and promotes the American Quarter Horse industry. In addition, AQHA maintains current statistics on ownership in each state and country as well as American Quarter Horse population figures.

With more than 110,000 new registrations in 1997, AQHA's role in preserving the integrity of the breed is expanding on a daily basis. Whether American Quarter Horses are still being used in traditional ranching operations, for showing, racing or pleasure, AQHA strives to provide services beneficial to all Association Members and ultimately the American Quarter Horse himself.

Heritage Center and Museum
Showcasing the history and modern activities of the American Quarter Horse is the American Quarter Horse Heritage Center and Museum. Visitors are treated to exciting exhibits, informative video productions and hands-on displays. Exhibits are designed to educate and entertain audiences who know little or nothing about horses, as well as veteran horse owners. From his colonial racing days to his present status as the world's most popular breed, the American Quarter Horse has a very colorful history that is highlighted at the Heritage Center and Museum.

The Heritage Center and Museum houses the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, which honors people and horses instrumental in the development of the breed and industry. Also present is a research library, changing exhibit gallery and Quarter Horse Outfitters, where you can purchase all of your American Quarter Horse accessories and memorabilia.

Designed to allow visitors to view exhibits at their own pace, the Heritage Center and Museum is located along Interstate 40, next door to AQHA's worldwide headquarters in Amarillo, Texas.