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Buying a Quarter Horse

From: Stephanie

Hi Jessica,

I'm looking at a 3 year old quarter horse as a lower level event prospect. I have not owned a quarter horse in many years. Other than the general things that you look at when purchasing a horse, is there anything I should check on that is peculiar to quarter horses? For example, if a horse is an Impressive bred horse should I have it checked to see if it is positive. Are there any other possible problems? Thanks.


Hi Stephanie! If your horse is Impressive-bred, then yes, you will certainly want to know that he is HYPP-negative. Other than that, though, you would look for exactly the same things in a Quarter Horse that you would look for in any young eventing prospect. Size, build, speed, leg conformation, neck length, jaw width, eye position -- look for the kind of horse you want to event, regardless of the breed. After all, this is a gelding you're looking at -- so what matters is his performance potential, not his breeding, because he's not going to contribute to the gene pool even if he wins Badminton!

There are some things that you'll want to know, though, that will be particularly important if you're looking at a Quarter Horse. What WILL make a big difference to this horse's potential is the answer to the question: How was he raised and trained? If he originally came from a good breeding farm, he got off to a good start, living outdoors year-round, first with his dam and then with other weanlings. This kind of upbringing provides the kind of physical (neuromuscular) development that you need in a sporthorse. If he was brought up in a stall, or a stall with a tiny pen attached, keep looking for a horse. You can never make up for the ill effects of this kind of early confinement -- a horse brought up like this cannot become a safe and sound eventer.

There are QH types that you shouldn't even consider -- if he was a halter horse, for instance, or bred to be one, you'll want to look elsewhere for a sporthorse prospect. This is true for two reasons -- first, the current trend in halter horses doesn't reward performance types. A distinct "halter type" has evolved, and it's a horse designed to become unsound in record time, even with NO work to do. High- rumped, low in front, with terribly straight hind legs and tiny feet... it's a burning formula for early unsoundness, but it's a list of features that are still considered to be desirable qualities in a halter horse -- as are VAST amounts of fat. So for reasons of conformation AND health, you won't want to look at a halter horse if you're looking for something to event, even at the very lowest levels!

You'll want a horse that has good conformation for your sport, and that means a horse that is balanced, light on its feet, and will be able to run, jump, turn, and handle terrain. There are several different types of QH that are very athletic -- cutting horses and reining horses, for instance. But your best bet will probably be something that's an Appendix-registered QH, has a high proportion of Thoroughbred blood, and is physically more of a running horse type. Some riders are convinced that the ultimate event horse is an Appendix QH -- they say that this mixture gets them Thoroughbred speed, class, and heart along with a sensible QH brain. They may be right! It's certainly true that there are a lot of very lovely Quarter Horses eventing at the lower levels and doing very well.

Good luck with your horse-hunt!


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