Breeds We Love

The Australian Quarter Horse

8 August 2017

The Australian Quarter Horse

“I love their bums!”

– Amy Leigh Watton, Quarter Horse owner

“Best part of the breed? Definitely their bums!”

– Kelly Greaves, Quarter Horse owner

Arguably, if the quarter horse had a theme song, ‘Baby Got Back’ would be the top contender. Ask a die-hard Australian fan of the breed why they worship the quarter horse and you’ll hear a lot about their big behinds and chunky stature. But with 179,000 horses currently registered with the Australian Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), there’s clearly a lot more to love about the breed than just their stocky build.

Breeders will tell you that the quarter horse’s solid bone structure and muscular development play a major role in the breed’s athletic ability. And make no mistake, these are seriously athletic horses, bred for speed, strength and agility – anyone who has ever ridden a quarter horse to a sliding stop can vouch for that!

While quarter horse racing isn’t a popular sport in Australia like it is in the US, the “need for speed” is still an integral part of the breed’s characteristics. In fact, the name ‘quarter horse’ was originally derived from the breeds’ ability to outdistance other horses in races of a quarter mile or less.

The first four quarter horses were brought to Australia by Samuel Hordern in 1954 and the AQHA was formed ten years later. The Association exists to further the breed in Australia, while maintaining the quality of quarter horse progeny.

The AQHA’s marketing officer, Vanessa Roach, really wants the wider equestrian industry to know just how handy the quarter horse is. She says that, “the quality of the Australian quarter horse is one of their versatility and attitude for any discipline. They are at home in the cutting arena as well as having that ‘Show Ring Presence’ for the halter classes. {They have the} versatility to team pen and ability to execute a reining pattern with precision & speed, while also being at home jumping cross country or show jumping.”

This is an opinion shared by owners of the breed.

“A quarter horse is like the border collie of the horse world,” quarter horse owner Karin Anderson offers. “Smart, easy to get along with, and extremely intelligent so [they] train up brilliantly. Both my girls competed on a quarter horse and their versatility is awesome! The perfect all-rounder.”

Likewise, Nicole Burford has owned three quarter horses and she insists they’ve all been, “honest, willing participants in whatever was asked of them.” She adds that the top qualities of the breed are “their heart, and their sense of humour.”

The AQHA has a membership 6000 strong who are “as diverse as the horse” including youth, amateurs, select amateurs (riders over 50 years), professionals, breeders, social riders, affiliates and general members. Events are plentiful and include over 900 approved shows per year, clinics, approved sales and exhibitions.

As the Association gears up for two of these big events – the National Championship Show (8 – 17 April) and the 20th American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup (24 June – 3 July) – Australian quarter horses are primed to dominate the international equestrian spotlight. Yet, competitors will have big hoof prints to step into to equal the success of well-known quarter horse ambassadors, Ringwould Jaguar and Breakin Hearts.

Loved by many die-hard equestrians around the world, Ringwould Jaguar is the little event horse who has represented Australia six times with his rider, Olympian Sonja Johnson. ‘Jag’ is by the quarter horse sire Jensen’s Man and embodies the heart and work ethic of this popular breed.

Just like Ringwould Jaguar, quarter horse mare Breakin Hearts has won fans all over the world with her athleticism and versatility. Together with rider Kodi Anderson, ‘Ellie’ has 38 National or World Titles in a range of events including halter, western pleasure, reining, western riding, horsemanship, showmanship, trail, hunter under saddle, hunt seat equitation, ranch pleasure and ranch trail.

It’s easy to see why supporters of the breed like owner, Heather Sinclair, enthusiastically proclaim that, “there is nothing NOT to like about our beautiful quarter horses!”

For more information on the Australian quarter horse you can visit the AQHA website.

Photo courtesy of Ken Anderson.

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