The American Quarter Horse

by Christine Richards

I have been involved with horses of many breeds for over 50 years. Starting at the tender age of 4yrs old with the compulsory grey Welsh Section A – Eve, I only had one break from horses and that was to get married. I realised I had made a horrible mistake and went back to horses - best move I ever made!

I have been involved in most disciplines but generally tinkering, hacking and loving my horses. Dad used to have a riding school/livery yard in Essex, so I was always surrounded by various forms of equines. I was eventually reaching a position to follow my dream and start a small intimate stud and for a long time thought very carefully as to what breed I loved the best – I seemed to lack direction in that sphere.

By a very spookily chance I met a wonderful woman, Carol and was talking horses, as you do. She mentioned American Quarter Horses... and after a small pause of ... mouth open...”What are they?”… Carol said “I think you have been missing something in your life”. Now, Carol unfortunately, was terminally ill, but over the next few months I travelled most of the country with her and met some of the 'names' in the Quarter Horse World and more importantly many many Quarter Horses.

It was becoming evident as I met these wonderful animals that I had a definitely leaning towards the 'original' type, known as “Foundation”. Slowly, over the past years Thoroughbred lines have been introduced to give endurance into their racing careers. Although the fastest horse over a quarter of a mile (hence the name), obviously they must have faded just after that, the Thoroughbred influence helped them over longer distances. I preferred the 'type' that used to work the stock, plough the fields, pull the carts, let the children ride them, race on Sunday, all-in-one horse – with the most amazing take on life – their general attitude is 'Don't sweat the small stuff'. They are low maintenance, love living out, very sociable, range between 13.2 – 16hh, the average being about 15hh and able to carry weight without complaint or fear of injuring the horse. They are very biddable and learn very young and very quickly – unfortunately much to the detriment of some of the much too young horses being trained nowadays. They are very slow maturing, body wise and it took all of 8 years for my lad to 'finish'.

I was fortunate enough to buy a nice palomino weanling and also get an experienced broodmare and used a lovely stallion close to where I lived. I then moved.

Time to buy my own boy, methinks.

After many hours trawling the internet, I eventually found Toys Triple Chick aka Rooster, my stallion and shortly after that, a few suitable mares.

Having never bought over the internet before (unfortunately, it is much too easy and an expensive pastime – according to my Bank Manager) Rooster was vet checked, numerous photos, videos, emails, telephone call, quotes from Quarantine Station, it was arranged – all I had to do now was wait.

He arrived at 2am in the morning, August 2003. He didn't bat an eyelid, security lights were going on and off, the dogs were barking - he just followed me like a puppy into his box and started eating his hay. Not bad after nearly 4 days of travelling from Kansas, by road, plane, ship then road again. I thought it must be a sedative, and if it was, I am still waiting for it to wear off! Rooster has never put a foot wrong. He crosses well with most breeds and puts a very level head on his progeny.

As a bonus he has proved to be homozygous for the dun factor and has proved himself time and time again to produce wonderful-tempered, good-looking, healthy foals, guaranteed to be some shade of dun. Dun is caused by a simple dominant gene which acts on both red and black pigment, it lightens the base colour but leaves the mane and tail alone. Duns show ‘primitive’ markings such as a dorsal stripe, shoulder stripes, leg barring and darker colour on the face. In the UK, dun is often mistaken for Buckskin but this is caused by the cream gene, and horses that are homozygous for the cream gene are perlino, cremello or smokey black ("double dilutes"). Rooster does not carry the cream gene and therefore will never produce a double dilute foal.

Unfortunately, due to an injury as a foal, Rooster is not ridden, but his progeny are now entering the competitive world in the UK and some of his family in the USA are making their name in reining and cutting.

Rooster will automatically what I call 'cow' his mares. He is like a border collie, his head goes down, his bum goes up and he just holds them with his eye until they submit to his intensive courting before getting down to business. He runs with his mares and foals and somewhere, if I could find it, I have a picture of the foals trying to drink from him! He covers in hand also and is so polite, that the AI Stud he visits each year sometimes get frustrated with him as he makes 'sure' the girl is ready. They have a coding system for temperaments of stallions, “A” being the most hot and “D” being almost comatose, even under teasing etc. They have three “D”s. Two of their own elderly stallions and, you guessed it, Rooster. Flip flops, shorts and no headcollar then (only joking)? He will not use a dummy though; he’s not interested unless it breathes and looks and smell like a mare!

The future? I have managed to gather a wonderful band of broodmares which I feel complement Rooster. They all exist very happily, very naturally as a herd. I have had some wonderful foals and look forward to having even more. The older Rooster gets, the better his offspring seem to be.

Yes, I have had my trials and tribulations, having lost a mare during foaling and also later on a foal that had a twisted gut, and many other things that every horse breeder/owner goes through - but this is what looking after horses is all about, isn't it ?

You have tremendous euphoric highs and heart breaking lows – you know the one, where everything is going to be sold, then you go out into the field and the stallion and his band stroll over and put their heads down to you, politely asking for a cuddle. The foals play around them and everyone looks after everyone else. They give you unconditional love and respect with intelligence and savvy and you just know – that the breed I have chosen is the right one!

I am privileged to have been introduced to the American Quarter Horse by such a dear now departed friend and I am sure she is looking down on me and my 'family' and hopefully feels I am doing her love for the breed justice.

roosterprof4

Above and Below: Rooster

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