In 2020, AQHA celebrates its 80th anniversary. Yet the history of the Quarter Horse breed stretches much farther back than 1940.
As a tip of the hat to Quarter Horse history, in 1995, the American Quarter Horse Historical Marker program was created. This program celebrates the American Quarter Horse, from the establishment of the breed in 1600 through the 20th century, highlighting America's Horse's varied employment in racing, ranch work, rodeo, recreational riding and other disciplines.
With 31 locations across the United States and Canada, the markers denote the most influential locations in Quarter Horse history, featuring a plaque at the site with the information about why the marker is at the given location.
Here, we’ve broken them down by state so you can easily find an American Quarter Horse Historical Marker near you.
If you are able to travel this summer, be sure to snap a picture each time you visit a historical marker, and post it to social media with #AQHAhistory.
2. Hacienda Moltacqua Racetrack, Tucson – The first World’s Championship Quarter Horse Speed Trials took place in 1941 at the newly constructed Hacienda Moltacqua Racetrack. Clabber became the first World Champion Quarter Running Horse as a 5-year-old. This marker can be found in a breezeway of the Vactor Ranch Clubhouse at the intersection of E. Vactor Ranch Trail and E. Vuelta Rancho Mesquite, Tucson, Arizona.
8. Rillito Racetrack, Tuscon – This riverside track was originally a training track until 1943, when Hacienda Moltacqua Racetrack was sold. Here the Southern Arizona Horse Breeders Association experimented with grading races, weighted handicaps, futurities, derbies, stakes and photoelectric timers. The marker can be found in Rillito Park Race Track on North First Avenue, Tucson, Arizona.
18. Arizona Sun Country Circuit, Scottsdale – Initially proposed by Ruth Adams, this show circuit was planned during lunch in Scottsdale. The first circuit ran in 1973 with more than 3,000 exhibitors coming from 24 states and Canada to compete. Well-known horses who have shown on the circuit include Magnolia Gay, Opie’s Pride, Reprise Bar and Expensive Hobby.
27. Sonoita Quarter Horse Show and Races, Sonoita – This show began in 1939, growing from natural competitions between ranchers about whose horse was fastest or best at working cattle. Notable sire Lightning Bar competed here, and by 1949, the Quarter Horse Journal was reporting on the Sonoita show. The marker is at the entrance to the Santa Cruz County Fair and Rodeo Grounds off Highway 83 South, Sonoita, Arizona.
6. Los Alamitos Race Course, Los Alamitos – Frank Vessels hosted public races on his half-mile training track for the first time in 1947. The track opened in 1951 for its first pari-mutuel season. Notable Quarter Horses who made history at Los Alamitos include Go Man Go, Jet Deck and Dash For Cash.
9. National Western Stock Show, Denver – Since 1909, the National Western Stock Show has been hosting horse shows. The first AQHA show at the National Western was in 1944, judged by Albert Mitchell, who served as AQHA president multiple times. Among the famous competitors are Skipper W, Poco Bueno and Two Eyed Jack. The marker can be found at the intersection of East 47th Avenue and Humboldt Street in Denver.
17. Florida Sun Country Circuit, Tampa – Originating on the golden Atlantic coastline in the 1960s, this show circuit moved to Tampa in 1992. The warm, sunny location of the circuit provides relief from cold, snowy winters and was one of the first shows to promote the welfare of the American Quarter Horse by offering a split/combined show.
4. Home of Peter McCue, Petersburg – A 16-hand bay with tremendous speed, Peter McCue left an impressive legacy, which includes Chief and Sheik, two American Quarter Horse foundation sires, and great-great-grandson Wimpy P-1. This marker is at the intersection of East Douglas Street and South Seventh Street in Petersburg, Illinois.
14. Home of Three Bars (TB), Lexington – Three Bars became the most influential Thoroughbred in Quarter Horse history when he sired 558 offspring. These offspring went on to be AQHA Supreme Champions, AQHA Champions, racing champions and racing stakes winners. This marker is at the Kentucky Horse Park at 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, Kentucky.
24. Delta Downs, Vinton, Louisiana – The track at Delta Downs was opened in 1973 by Lee Berwick, who wanted a better venue for Quarter Horse races than his farm. The bayou country was the cradle for Quarter Horse racing in the early 20th century, with sires Old DJ and Dewey running there often.
28. Sussex County Farm and Horse Show, Augusta – After being approved by AQHA in 1958, this show played a pivotal role in the growth of the Quarter Horse industry in New Jersey and the surround areas. Notable horses who have competed at this show include Joe Cody and Holly Miss 57. The marker can be found at the Sussex County Fairgrounds on Plains Road, Augusta, New Jersey.
3. All American Futurity, Ruidoso – First run in 1959, this is the world’s richest race for 2-year-old racing American Quarter Horses, becoming the world’s first horse race with a $1 million purse in 1978. Galobar, a son of Three Bars (TB), was the first winner of the race, running for a purse of $129,000.
15. New Mexico State Fair Futurity, Albuquerque – The New Mexico State Fairgrounds is the site of the longest continuously run American Quarter Horse stakes race. Starting in 1946, this race has since been split into the Señor and Señorita futurities. The marker is at The Downs at Albuquerque Racetrack on the fairgrounds.
26. Empire State Quarter Horse Association Fall Show, Syracuse – The first Empire State Fall Show was in an outdoor arena with a limited number of classes. The show grew to be the premiere Quarter Horse show on the East Coast and is the longest continually operated show in New York. The marker is on the New York State Fairgrounds off of Interstate 690, Syracuse, New York.
13. All American Quarter Horse Congress, Columbus – The forerunner of Congress took place at the Ohio State Fairgrounds during three days in November 1967. As the show has grown to be the largest single-breed horse show in the world, it has innovated horse show elements such as commercial exhibits, demonstrations and an American Quarter Horse auction. This marker is across from the Coliseum on the midway of the Ohio State Fairgrounds, off East 17th Street and Interstate 71, Columbus, Ohio.
12. Home of Leo, Perry – Reportedly winning 20 of his 22 starts, Leo is known for two things: his speed and his abilities as a sire. Famous offspring of his include Garrett’s Miss Pawhuska, Peppy San, Mr San Peppy and King’s Pistol. These foals excelled at speed events, but also had excellent conformation, athletic ability, cow sense and quiet dispositions. This marker is in Leo Park at the intersection of Cedar and Second streets, Perry, Oklahoma.
21. Blue Ribbon Downs, Sallisaw – Opened in 1960 by Bill Hedge, Blue Ribbon Downs began hosting AQHA races in 1963. Since then, the track had the first $1 million nonpari-mutuel horse race in 1983 and became the first track in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas to hold pari-mutuel horse racing in 1964. The marker is at the racetrack off Cherokee Avenue, Sallisaw, Oklahoma.
22. AQHA World Championship Show, Oklahoma City – Louisville, Kentucky, was the site of the first AQHA World Show in 1974, but in 1976, the show moved to Oklahoma City, where it has been hosted ever since. Since its founding, the show has grown to the largest single-breed world championship show in the world. The 2018 World Show boasted 4,439 entries from around the world that competed for 109 world titles at the OKC Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City.
1. First AQHA Show, Stamford, Texas – Held in July 1941, this show featured Jim Minnick, the first AQHA inspector, as the judge.
5. Early Quarter Horse Shows, Fort Worth – Before AQHA was formed, the forerunners of the breed gathered yearly to compete at the Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show. In 1940, William Anson, Dan Casement, Robert Denhardt and others met at the stock show and formed AQHA. This marker sits on East Exchange Avenue, just east of Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth, Texas.
7. Birthplace of AQHA, Fort Worth – In 1940, about 75 Quarter Horse owners met in Fort Worth, Texas, to discuss the formation of a breed registry. Proposals were heard and eventually a decision was made to form a nonprofit stock-holding association. This registry has grown through the years, becoming the largest equine breed association in the world.
11. King Ranch Quarter Horses, Kingsville – The legendary King Ranch has produced numerous influential sires of the Quarter Horse breed, including Wimpy, Old Sorrel, Mr San Peppy and Peppy San Badger. Little Richard and Tomate Laureles, two AQHA foundation sires selected for their desirable Quarter Horse characteristics, were also bred by the King Ranch. This marker is at the entrance of the King Ranch Visitor Center, off State Highway 141, Kingsville, Texas.
16. AQHA Headquarters, Amarillo – In the early years of AQHA, business was often conducted out of personal offices of the Association’s elected executives. In 1946, AQHA President Albert Mitchell strove to bring unity to the new association and tasked Raymond Hollingsworth of Amarillo with setting up headquarters to oversee the daily operations. This marker is at AQHA International Headquarters at 1600 Quarter Horse Drive, Amarillo, Texas.
20. Resting Place of Wimpy, Crockett – The horse that holds Registration No. 1 in the AQHA Studbook, Wimpy earned that registration number by winning the stallion class at the the 1941 Fort Worth Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show. Wimpy passed on his cow sense, good temperament and intelligence to his 174 offspring. At the age of 22, Wimpy died in his retirement pasture, knee deep in clover.
23. The Houston Livestock and Rodeo Horse Show, Houston – Founded as the Houston Fat Stock Show and Livestock Exposition in 1931 by James Sartwelle, this event showcased the cattle industry of Texas, as well as the cowboys who worked them. In the late 1940s, an AQHA show was added to the event.
29. First National Cutting Horse Association-Sanctioned Cutting, Dublin, Texas – In 1946, this contest allowed the discipline to become an AQHA event. Jimmy Maddox took first place riding Snooks, his American Quarter Horse. More than 17,000 NCHA members ride Quarter Horses now, competing for more than $44 million in prize money at 2,200 shows worldwide.
30. Gonzales Joe Bailey, Gonzales** - Joe Bailey, who holds AQHA Registration No. 4, left his mark on the Quarter Horse with his successful foals. These foals excelled on the racetrack, in rodeo arenas, in show rings and on the ranch. The marker is at the Joe Bailey Memorial in J.B. Wells Park off County Road 197, Gonzales, Texas.
31. Royal King, Comanche** – Royal King was a cutting horse, earning $24,003 in his lifetime and placing among the National Cutting Horse Association’s top-10 annual earners four times in his career. His descendants inherited his cow sense, including daughter Miss Nancy Bailey and grandson Smart Little Lena. This marker sits on the grounds of the Comanche County Courthouse at the intersection of North Houston Street and West Grand Avenue, Comanche, Texas.
25. Quarter Path Racing in Colonial Williamsburg – In the 17th and 18th centuries, horse races took place on impromptu quarter-mile paths created by colonists in Williamsburg, Virginia. Those early contests were organized into spectator races as the Quarter Horse (named for the distance this breed of horses could sprint) was developed. This marker is outside the Coach and Livestock Barn in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
10. Picov Downs, Ajax, Ontario – Now known as Ajax Downs, Picov Downs has hosted Quarter Horse races since its start in 1969. Built on the family land of Russian immigrant Alexander Picov, the track has a unique “J” shape due to the placement between a highway and a creek.
19. Quarterama, Toronto – The Ontario Quarter Horse Association and the Canadian Quarter Horse Convention joined forces in 1969 to host a showcase of the American Quarter Horse in Canada. The event included lectures, clinics, a horse sale and other programs. With the addition of an AQHA show in 1970 and other additions through the years, Quarterama consistently ranked among the top 10 AQHA shows.