Why American Quarter Horses Make Great Pets: Expert Advice From an AQH Owner, Trainer, and Vet

Updated on August 10, 2019
DonnaCosmato profile image

Donna shares insider tips about your pets gained through exclusive interviews with industry experts.

American Quarter Horses are excellent ranch hands.
American Quarter Horses are excellent ranch hands. | Source

What Is an American Quarter Horse (AQH)?

American Quarter Horses are believed to be descendants of the Turk, Arabian, and Barb breeds. They can be traced to the year 1690, when horses from England were bred with native American horses.

The resulting horse had a small, stocky build and was unusually fast in a quarter-mile sprint. Even when racing thoroughbreds, these newly bred horses dominated the racetrack.

Because of their quick speed in a quarter-mile sprint, they became known as Quarter horses.

Why Buy an American Quarter Horse

“Why would you choose an American Quarter horse if you don’t have cattle?” asks Yan Ross, who quickly answers his own question with “because they are intelligent, athletic, amazing horses.”

Ross should know because he and his wife, Randi Wagner, own three horses; one of which is an American Quarter horse named Bailey.

In an exclusive telephone interview, Ross shared some valuable tips and interesting facts about these horses and horse ownership.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Quarter horses work hard in the arena and are excellent English Dressage horses.American Quarter horses are hard working ranch hands. AQH Foal at Rest in the Pasture. A Percheron is much larger than an American Quarter horse.American Quarter horses are an all-American horse that makes a great pet or a fantastic race horse.
Quarter horses work hard in the arena and are excellent English Dressage horses.
Quarter horses work hard in the arena and are excellent English Dressage horses. | Source
American Quarter horses are hard working ranch hands.
American Quarter horses are hard working ranch hands. | Source
AQH Foal at Rest in the Pasture.
AQH Foal at Rest in the Pasture. | Source
A Percheron is much larger than an American Quarter horse.
A Percheron is much larger than an American Quarter horse. | Source
American Quarter horses are an all-American horse that makes a great pet or a fantastic race horse.
American Quarter horses are an all-American horse that makes a great pet or a fantastic race horse. | Source

Dash for Cash and Bailey

Dash for Cash is one of the world’s most famous quarter horses with lifetime achievements including “25 starts, 21 wins, and three seconds, earnings of $507,687, and a speed index of 114 at the classic distance over the most heavily contested racetrack in the sport”1 according to an article in The Quarter Horse Racing Journal by Richard Chamberlain.

The famous Quarter horse’s longstanding record was beaten in 2007 by the mare Blues Girl Too. However, what does all that have to do with Yan and Randi?

As it turns out, the two are the proud owners of a grandson of Dash for Cash, Adamas Cowboy (Bailey). In addition, they are family friends with Blues Girl Too’s owners, Russell and Lisa Stooks. By coincidence, they are all located in Prescott, Arizona.

Amazingly, Ross and Wagner had no idea they were acquiring such a noteworthy horse when they purchased Bailey.

Wagner saw the horse at an event, and it was “love at first sight” according to Ross. They took Bailey home with them that day but did not discover his famous ancestry until they went to register him.

An Owner's Point of View

A key point Ross made during our interview is that potential horse owners fail to consider the entire cost of owning a horse.

Ross says maintenance for a horse runs about $300 month, and that figure does not include manure disposal, veterinarian bills, or other expenses beyond basic stabling and feeding.

He did a quick calculation that revealed that his three horses are responsible for “1,000 poops per month” that require disposal. “Horse manure,” he says, “is like money. It doesn’t do any good until you spread it around.”

Other Costs of Horse Ownership

What other costs will owners incur? Ross urges individuals to figure the cost of these expenses before buying a horse:

  • Insurance for mortality, medical, or loss of use
  • Farrier fees
  • Entrance fees for competitions
  • Trainer and handler salaries

While American Quarter horses are “easy keepers who rarely see the vet” according to Ross, any horse that competes in athletic events runs a higher risk of injuries and vet expenses.

Ross concluded his interview by touching briefly on ways to handle the expense of a horse, like leasing, but cautioned that buyers should be wary of trying to cut expenses by buying a cheap horse.

He emphasized the need for having any horse vetted before a purchase and understanding the responsibility of ownership.

In addition to owning Bailey, Ross and Wagner own a Dutch Warmblood named Lombardi, and a Thoroughbred named Merlin.

Tips From a Trainer on Buying Your First American Quarter Horse

Riding and training horses comes naturally to Jessica Routier. Her mother, also a professional trainer, taught her to ride as a toddler, and that was the start of her equestrian career.

Today, Routier is a title-winning, well-known horse trainer who competes professionally. Here is her expert advice, given in an e-mail interview, on what to look for when purchasing an American Quarter horse.

“If you are new to horses and riding, then it would be in your best interest to purchase an older, more experienced horse, and one that is very calm. When you're looking at horses, watch the horse's temperament and manners as the owner handles him.

Here are some key questions to consider:

  1. Does he walk behind the owner when being led?
  2. Does he stand still while being groomed or saddled and while the owner is getting on?
  3. Does he walk/trot/lope quietly with his head level and does he stop as soon as the owner asks him to?

These are all things to look for if you are an inexperienced rider, as this will provide for the safest environment as you are learning to ride.”

Can You Train Your Own Horse or Should You Hire a Professional?

In reality, training a horse probably requires more expertise than most owners possess. Acquiring the necessary knowledge is time and cost prohibitive. It's also unnecessary since there are many qualified trainers like Routier who can make the most of a horse’s potential.

Here is her list of the most important questions to ask when interviewing potential horse trainers:

  • Have they worked for other owners in your area?
  • Can they provide you with a reference list?

After all, Routier says, “You want someone who truly loves horses (obviously), and someone who is naturally very cool and collected, as horses can be frustrating to train at times and the last thing you want is someone with a temper taking it out on your horse."

Some other important things to discover are:

  • What is their specialty?
  • How does their expertise line up with what you want your horse to learn?
  • How long will it take to train the horse and what will it cost?

She suggests, “Ask them how many horses they take in per month. This will give you a good idea of how much time they will be spending on your horse.

Ask them if they are open to you coming and riding with them. A good trainer will want you and your horse to have success, and one of the best ways to learn would be to come ride your horse with your trainer's supervision from time to time so they can coach you on what they have taught the horse.”

Another Trainer's Point of View

The American Quarter Horse is called the All American Horse. It is the most popular breed in the United States as well as the oldest horse breed in the country.

Here’s what Inge Halliday, a horse trainer in Malibu, had to say in an email interview about why one should consider buying one.

"The American Quarter Horse is one of the most levelheaded and versatile breeds that exist. They are generally moderately tempered, well built, medium sized, and able to do most any equine sport.

The American Quarter horse is used in many equestrian disciplines such as working cattle in the US, barrel racing in Arizona, jumping fences in Connecticut, or racing a quarter mile in Southern Florida. They are the all-around American horse . . . usually safe for an inexperienced rider and sensitive enough for the more advanced rider.”

Now, let's chat with an expert to discuss the four most common equine diseases and why quarter horses are particularly susceptible to them.

Our expert, Dr. Tom Schell, has over 17 years of experience as a veterinarian and research to draw upon, and he offers you some valuable insight on how to protect your horses' health.

Veterinarian Tips About Owning American Quarter Horses

Dr. Tom Schell is a mixed animal practitioner at Timbercreek Veterinary Hospital, PC and founder of Novelle Veterinary, Inc.

In an email interview, he shared his experience regarding four commonly seen health problems with the American Quarter horse.

One key theme that emerged from his comments is the need for proper farrier care, weight management, and diet to keep quarter horses healthy and reduce or eliminate the risks of insulin resistance, laminitis, and navicular syndrome.

Insulin Resistance

Equine insulin resistance is similar to type II diabetes in humans, and Dr. Schell says it is “becoming increasingly common in horses, with quarter horses leading the pack.”

It is caused by the body’s inability to respond properly to insulin and is exacerbated by overweight and high carbohydrate diets.

He says, "The quarter horse is more prone to this condition due to increased body size or body mass.” The condition is identified via bloodwork and is controlled, rather than treated, by diet and weight management.

Hoof Care

According to Dr. Schell, quarter horses are “prone to what is termed as a long toe, short heel syndrome” which causes stress and pressure on bones and tendons.

He recommends owners allow the heel to “grow naturally with minimal removed during routine trims.” With time and proper care, it is possible to repair a horse's hooves.

Navicular Syndrome or Disease

Dr. Schell says, “Navicular disease is essentially deterioration of the bone (navicular bone), which is thought to be possibly due to a disruption of blood circulation.”

Some factors that contribute to the development of this condition in quarter horses are the long toe, short heel syndrome mentioned above or athletic competition. Diagnosis is made from physical exams or x-rays.


In nonprofessionals’ terms, laminitis is an inflammation of the tissue that connects the foot and the hoof. It is an extremely serious condition because without quick intervention, the horse is trapped in a pain cycle that is exacerbated by the fact that laminitis usually occurs in the front legs.

As the horse uses his legs to support his weight, the inflammation is aggravated and the pain increases. To make matters worse, there is no cure, just palliative measures to ease the pain.

According to Dr. Schell, “Unfortunately, laminitis is one of the leading causes of euthanasia in the horse due to overall poor prognosis.”

As a recap, while these conditions may seem ominous, most of them can be avoided or the severity reduced by taking care of the horse’s hooves, seeing a farrier and veterinarian regularly, feeding a balanced diet, and keeping the horse’s weight at optimal levels.

If you are considering buying an American Quarter horse, keep our experts' tips and suggestions in mind.

Consider the total costs, ask the right questions, and keep your horse healthy with regular veterinary care, and you will enjoy a long, satisfying relationship with your horse.

References and Resources

1 - Chamberlain, Richard, "Dash for Cash, The Racehorse, The Stud,"The Quarter Racing Journal, January 1988

American Quarter Horse Breed Description and Equine History - http://www.horses-and-horse-information.com/articles/american-quarter-horse.shtml

American Quarter Horse - http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/20095/American-Quarter-Horse, accessed 02/09/2011

Horse Channel, Sappington, Brenda Forsythe, M.S., Phd., Hormones and Horse Behavior, accessed 02/09/2011

E-mail interview, February 11, 2011, Schell, Tom, D.V.M., DABVP (Equine), Timbercreek Veterinary Hospital, PC, Nouvelle Veterinary, Inc., www.timbercreekvet.com, www.nouvelleveterinary.com, www.curost.com

Email interview, February 11, 2011, Routier, Jessica, www.topperformanceequine.com

Email interview, February 11, 2001, Halliday, Inge, www.malibuhorsesinc.com

Telephone interview, February 11, 2002, Ross, Yan

Share Your Thoughts Below About American Quarter Horses

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    • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Cosmato 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Abigail,

      Thanks for taking time to comment and share your love for your AQH! It's nice to hear from owners about what awesome horses these are.

    • Abigail May profile image

      Abigail May 

      8 years ago from Maine

      Wonderful Hub! I love my QH for sure!

    • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Cosmato 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thanks, Deborah! The dancing horse is really amazing isn't it? That horse dances better than I do, lol. I really appreciate the fact that you always take time to read and to comment on my hubs...it means so much to me:)

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      8 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      I love the dancing quarter horse.. so beautiful.. Great HUB...

    • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Cosmato 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Beebuzby! I'm so glad you found this hub about American Quarter horses entertaining, as I really enjoyed doing the research for it. Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to leave me some feedback as that is so helpful to me.

    • DonnaCosmato profile imageAUTHOR

      Donna Cosmato 

      8 years ago from USA

      Thank you for reading and commenting on this hub, mason1966! It was a lot of fun doing the research and talking to all these folks about their experiences with American Quarter horses. Learning about new people, places, animals, and things is just one of the benefits of being a freelance writer in my opinion.

    • Beebuzby profile image


      8 years ago from Delaware

      Really nicely put together article. It has lots of great information and sources are listed. This looks like one of my college research papers, while retaining a high degree of the interest and entertainment factor.

    • mason1966 profile image


      8 years ago from Louisville, ky

      Great Hub, so much good information.


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