American Quarter Horse Breed Characteristics

Breed Characteristics – The American Quarter Horse is best described as an athletic power house with a “sanity” button, with looks that make it very pretty on the eye and a sympathetic and accommodating nature

Colours and Markings

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), formed in 1940, recognises 17 colors.  American Quarter Horses are also only allowed limited white markings on the face and below the knees. These markings may be of a variety of shapes, including stockings, stars, strips, and blazes. For a colour and markings chart click here

Physical Appearance

Though compact with a short body and head, American Quarter Horses are defined by their heavily muscled body, powerful shoulders and hindquarters, and strong, sturdy legs. Their heads are finely chiseled and of a flat profile with a wide forehead.


American Quarter Horses are generally calm and docile. They are also highly intelligent; however, most are easily trained, handled, and kept. Because of their gentle and steady demeanor, the breed is an ideal family horse and well suited for the beginning rider.

Unique Characteristics

The American Quarter Horse is a unique combination of speed and strength. However, when combined with their gentle nature and versatility as both a work and pleasure horse, it is easy to see why the breed has gained such worldwide popularity. From the ranch to the show ring to the trail, American Quarter Horses continually please both spectator and rider with their sure-footed gait, agility, comfortable mount, and willingness to please.

The Quarter Horse has evolved

The Quarter Horse has evolved as a compact, chunky horse standing on average 1.52m (15hh). Depending on the discipline the horse is to be used for, there may be slight variations in conformation and temperament.

Unlike the Thoroughbred, with its long narrow head, the Quarter Horse has a neat wide head and wide gullet. This results in a wider passage for air to travel to and from the lungs, allowing for more efficient respiration during exertion. Unlike the muscular and bulky hind quarters, the Quarter Horse has a fine and flexible neck, allowing for agility and balance during movement.

Cross Breeding The American Quarter Horse

Many Appendix Quarter horses have gone on to win world championships. AQHA in the USA offers only one recognised cross breed, and that is to a registered Thoroughbred.  The offspring are known as Appendix Quarter Horses and excel in all events.  Normally taller and more refined than a full bred Quarter Horse, many Appendix Quarter horses have gone on to win world championships in western events as well as competing at the highest levels in mainstream English events such as Dressage and Show Jumping. However, we here in at AQHA UK offer registration and passports for part bred American Quarter Horses.

Ask the average person about Quarter Horses, and if they know anything at all, it`s likely that they know the Quarter Horse is a “Western” horse, ridden generally by cowboys. While it`s true that the Quarter Horse was developed in the west, as a horse suited to work cattle, it`s equally true that thousands of Quarter Horses are ridden “English”, in eventing, dressage, hunter/jumper, trail. endurance, anywhere that needs a “Steady Eddie” type of horse that`s basically non threatening to the average rider.

The term “hot Quarter Horse” is about as much of an oxymoron as “fast Percheron.” There are some nervous, difficult Quarter Horses,  inevitable in a population so huge, but that`s not the norm. What`s more normal is the kind, steady confidence building sort of horse that tolerates some rider mistakes without getting “bent out of shape”, allowing the rider to develop skills which she might never discover on a horse that makes her tighten with nervous apprehension.

We may not associate the Quarter Horse with the upper echelons of some of the English riding sports. Badminton and Burgley and Rolex probably will remain the domain of other breeds and other types these days. However, American Quarter Horses have competed at this level successfully, one such horse was part of the Irish Three Day Event team in the 1970’s!  If you are looking to breed a part bred American Quarter Horse, you’ll have peace of mind knowing the offspring have a gentle, sympathetic, and accommodating nature.