American Quarter horses are descended from crosses between equines of Spanish and English origins, with a large component of Thoroughbred blood, as far back as 1660.  By the late 17th century, Quarter Horses were racing short distances at courses in Rhode Island and Virginia.  Agile and fleet Quarter Horses became popular with the cowboys in the American West of the mid-to-late 19th century.

The breed registry, however, was not founded until 1941.  The American Quarter Horse Museum and Hall of Fame in Amarillo, Texas explains on its website how the breed registry began:

“In March of 1940, a group of influential ranchers gathered one night around the dining room table of one of the wealthiest and largest ranch owners in the country with one goal–save the short, stocky, good-minded horses that ranchers and cattlemen, like themselves, preferred.  At the time, these horses were commonly referred to as Steeldust horses, after a fabled horse that could drive Longhorns through any weather or terrain and run the quarter mile faster than any other breed.

In every point of the conversation, it was clear these horses had already made a significant impact on history–they had been companions in war, work partners on the ranch and wild frontier, and athletes on the race track in early colonial settlements.  That night marked the birth of the American Quarter Horse Association and its mission to preserve and improve the bloodlines of the Steeldust horse, known today as the American Quarter Horse.”

It was decided that the honor of being designated number one–or P1–in the brand-new breed registry would go to the winner of the stallion class at the 1941 Fort Worth Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show.  The prototypically conformed–but inaccurately named–Wimpy won the stallion class.  He was born and raised on the famous King Ranch in South Texas and was the grandson of King Ranch’s foundation sire Old Sorrell.

Today, the American Quarter Horse is the largest breed registry globally, with over 5 million horses worldwide.  The breed is very versatile; Quarter Horses are used for pleasure riding, showing, working cattle, and racing.

The AQHA allows crosses between Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses into the registry, providing that the AQHA approves of the Thoroughbred.  The Quarter Horse/Throughbred foal is placed into what is called an Appendix Registry.  The foal is permitted to compete in Quarter Horse races but the AQHA places limitations on how it can be bred.  For example, the get of a mating between two Appendix registrants cannot qualify as a Quarter Horse.  In some cases, the AQHA designates an outstanding mixed-blood horse as a Quarter Horse.

Quarter Horse racing is held in both Canada and the United States, but is concentrated in California, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas.

Prominent Thoroughbred trainers Bob Baffert and Wayne Lukas began their careers with Quarter Horses and Lukas is in the Hall of Fame for both Quarter Horses and American Thoroughbreds.  Similarly, American Quarter horse Hall of Fame inductees Clarence Scharbauer Jr. and Robert Kleberg Jr. owned famous Thoroughbred racehorses, such as Alysheba (Scharbauer) and Triple Crown winner Assault (Kleberg).

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