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Chapter One

What is an American Quarter Horse, Anyway?

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Introduction | Printable New Owner Guide | Contact a Professional | New Owner Video

New owner guide photoThe three most popular breeds of racehorses in the U.S. are Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and American Quarter Horses. Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds generally run races at or about one mile, and combine to account for roughly 80% of the American horse racing market. If you’ve seen the Kentucky Derby, you’ve seen Thoroughbreds.

Standardbreds are used for harness racing, a sport in which the driver sits in a small 2-wheeled cart pulled by the horse.

American Quarter Horses are closely related to Thoroughbreds, but are more muscular and much faster over short distances. Their name derives from their excellence at running distances of about a quarter-mile. In fact, the only animals that can run faster than an American Quarter Horse are the cheetah and the Pronghorn antelope. Quarter Horses can exceed speeds of 55 miles per hour.

New owner guide photoThe Quarter Horse is a versatile and intelligent breed, and is the most commonly used horse for ranching, rodeo and pleasure riding. If you’ve ever seen a cowboy riding a horse, he was probably riding a Quarter Horse.

The first thing you’ll notice when comparing the price of a Thoroughbred to the price of a comparable American Quarter Horse is that a Thoroughbred usually costs much more. The average race-bred Quarter Horse yearling (a 1-year-old) sells for less than $20,000 at auction. The average winning bid for a Thoroughbred yearling is more than $100,000. That’s not to say that Quarter Horses are “cheap” or somehow inferior to Thoroughbreds – nothing could be further from the truth. It’s simply a matter of having a smaller market share and smaller average purses. You’ll find that the overall quality of race-bred Quarter Horses is every bit as good as what the Thoroughbred market produces.

This topic is thoroughly addressed in AQHA Racing’s complete New Ownership Guide, which you can download free of charge.

And speaking of costs...

Chapter Two: What Does it Cost? >>