Quarter Horse Observations

by Barry Denton

just returned home from the American Quarter Horse World Championship Show in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Having been there for two weeks with our horses I was certainly glad to get home.

The trip this year with our cow horses was exciting as usual and I always learn a great deal more when I ride with folks that know things different than I do. I also wanted to point out the blizzard between Clines Corners and Moriarty, New Mexico. What fun it was to be pulling a truck load of horses on icy roads when you cannot see six foot in front of you. It just would not be a proper blizzard without fifty mile per hour winds to go with it. Folks were sliding off of the road, as well as sliding on the road. I realize that there is no point in having good weather the third week of November in New Mexico. It just would not be right.

The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) seems to be the most politically correct horse organization in America. They, too, have thrown out their standards and accept about any horse into their breed that wants to become one. I saw horses that were seventeen point three hands tall that were tagged as hunters and jumpers. Thoroughbred is the first thing that comes to mind, but no, it is a registered Quarter Horse. No, not hunting horses, “hunters” that are ridden around an arena and hopped over fences that were entirely too small for the size of the horse.

I believe it has to do with fear factor of the rider. Once they get aboard these giant horses they realize it is way too far to the ground if the horse is just standing still. The riders do not want to make the horse jump too high. One thing I have noticed is that the majority of the horses at this level are beautifully groomed and in great physical condition.

The thing that perplexes me is that the riders are normally well groomed, but seem to lack the physical conditioning. No wonder they are scared. Out on the ranch this would be the horse you would use to tie onto the big steers.

The next horse I saw walk by me was a true phenomenon known as a halter horse. In AQHA terms that is a horse that is lead around with a halter. These are shown in hand as an example of breed conformation. The only thing is that they are almost never ridden. The over abundance of muscles on these horses makes it impossible for them to move well.

I will say if you have an interest in the grotesque then this would be your type of horse. These animals are muscle bound, overweight, and their feet are way too small to carry their weight. One of the halter horse’s biggest problems is laminitis and a short lifespan. This does fascinate some people, just like any form of extreme body building.

It always makes me think of the bearded lady or the guy covered from head to toe with tattoos at the circus. Freaks fit right in at the World Show. What would this horse do on a ranch? Get sent to the sale barn.

In spite of the horses that I do not particularly cotton to there are many horses there that will astound you with their talent. Calf and steer roping horses just seem to get better and better. The horse’s conformation matches its job so well that it can carry out the task with finesse and grace. Many of these horses go on to become professional rodeo horses. A horse in top physical condition and well trained is a true pleasure to watch and enhances competition.

Personally I enjoy watching the cutters and the working cow horses. These horses are true athletes and so are their riders. It is fun to watch these horses work cattle.

The horses love these disciplines and create a dance with their bovine counterparts. The cutters tend to get very low to the ground and are cat quick. The cutting horse riders have to be athletic enough to stay with their horse and work as one. When you add speed anything can go wrong.

In regard to the working cow horses, these animals have to be in the correct position to work their cow efficiently. Maintaining correct position at high speed and controlling a cow at the same time is a monumental feat. Sometimes when they are out of the correct position it spells out trouble in the way of a wreck.

I read an entire diatribe on the internet the other day about how wonderful the AQHA western pleasure horse is to show. I made a point of watching this class once again so I could see what I had been missing. It was truly bizarre as the horses have a tendency to travel sideways and extremely slow.

Keep in mind that western pleasure consists of the walk, trot, and lope. I have no idea what gait I was watching as the entire class was dreadfully slow. This class was created as an entry level class as it is simple and safe enough for about any skill level.

However, I cannot imagine anyone voluntarily riding one of these horses. I realize they are not lame, but they travel lame on purpose. That is the only way they can get them to show that slow. I’d certainly be ticked if it took me five minutes to lope around a small arena. I bet this class was developed this way for desk jockeys as the horse does move slightly faster than a desk.

Can you imagine how much fun those western pleasure riders would have if they ever got on a barrel racing horse? It must be that the AQHA needed a horse that was for timid folks. Probably the fastest thing they ever did before they got a show horse was sip wine. Do not get me wrong, I realize there are boring people in the world that like horses.

This World Championship show is held every year in during November in Oklahoma City. If you have not been, you are in for a treat. It truly has something for everyone. My guess is that the trip will inspire you to do something more with your own horse.

You will probably figure out what you do not want to do with your horse as well. Who knows, you might buy a nice rope horse there and qualify it the following year.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about how cruel it is to exhibit animals. Remember that the proponents of this know nothing about showing horses. The horses at the AQHA World Show get the best of care and feed. No expense is spared on these magnificent animals. The folks that think this is cruel ought to start looking at feral, starving animals on Indian Reservations and in urban back yards. Horses can be amazing creatures as evidenced at the AQHA World Show. Go and enjoy it!