Westphalia Ranch


Foundation Bred American Quarter Horses


Preserving a 400 year American Legacy by breeding







What is a Foundation Quarter Horse?

That's a darn good question and one that we are asked routinely. 
The answer is simple; a Foundation Quarter Horse is a REAL Quarter Horse.
First, we need to review some history.  The quarter horse breed was originated in Colonial Virginia in the early 1600’s.  Early breeders bred for a “quarter type” horse regardless of breeding pedigree.  They crossed Thoroughbreds, Arabs, Barbs, Light Drafts together to achieve this goal. These quarter type horses were short coupled; kind eyed, had strong feet and bones, broad chested, very powerful in the hind end, and typically stood between 14 and 15 hands tall and weighed about 1200 pounds.  They re-crossed these types of horses to achieve this “quarter type horse”.
What they discovered was that had a horse that was multipurpose for most every imaginable task.

They used these “quarter type” horses for every imaginable purpose, whether for farming, logging, hooked to a buggy, or under saddle working cattle.  Then on Sundays after church they would race these fine horses for a jug or a wager.  Many a fortune was made and lost.

Since open spaces in the New World was limited the main street of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia was very popular.  It was originally a 1/4 mile from end to end.  Hence the name "Quarter Type".  In colonial times it was also popular to call these horses "Quarter Pathers" since often they were raced in the wooded areas that had only paths cleared through them.
For the next 200 plus years this practice of breeding continued but by now “quarter types” were bred to other “quarter type horses” with the occasional introduction of an outside stallion displaying “quarter type” characteristics, typically a Thoroughbred.  The early breeders did an excellent job of preserving this particularly American breed and their attributes.
By the 1840’s and we have a tremendous amount of people settling into western frontier America know in history as the "Great Western Expansion".  Naturally the settlers took their horses and their breeding practices with them.  These fine horses were used for every imaginable task and were integral in the taming of the west.
Throughout the Civil War these quarter horses were used as Cavalry mounts for both Confederate and Union forces.  They were prized for their steady performance and reliability under fire.
In the late 1800’s some prominent breeders of these “quarter type” horses decided to form Quarter Horse Breeders Association.  These breeders where typically from the big ranches in Texas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and California, which is why the Quarter Horse breed is so closely identified with the West.  This association stayed intact until the end of the First World War.  Many thousands of these horses were shipped to the cavalry units fighting in the European theater of war.  After the war interest in the Association dwindled, membership eventually declined, and the association folded.
A few decades later, in 1940, interested Quarter Horse breeders picked up the mantel again and formed the American Quarter Horse Association with its headquarters in Amarillo, Texas. The Association has remained intact ever since and is the world’s largest horse breed registry.  These AQHA founding breeders defined particular breed characteristics of the Quarter Horse that had been tradition since colonial Virginia in the 1600’s.  These horses were fondly referred to as “bulldogs”, “Billys” or “Steel Dusts” and were considered the standards of the breed.
Unfortunately over time many Quarter Horses breeders didn’t adhere to the standards set forth by the Founders of the AQHA.  To make a long story short, sometime back in the 1960’s certain influential quarter Horse breeders decided to reintroduce Thoroughbred horses into the established Quarter Horse breed.  Their motives were simply for profit whereas they raced these quarter horse/thoroughbred crosses and won many races.  Over time the basic characteristics of the Quarter Horse were lost to a large degree because now the horses were taller, leaner, and simply did not possess the characteristics that the Quarter Horse breed was originated in the first place.
So how does a Quarter Horse – Thoroughbred cross get to be a Quarter Horse?  The answer is quite simple.  First, the offspring of a registered quarter horse and a registered thoroughbred is then registered with the Appendix registry of the American Quarter Horse Association.  Secondly, this Appendix offspring is eligible to compete in a variety of sanctioned Quarter Horse performance events or a speed index (see AQHA rule 423).  Once the offspring accumulates enough points or achieves a speed index of 80, then it is eligible for induction into the regular Quarter Horse registry via formal application (see AQHA rule 203).  Of further importance is that once the horse is approved then all their offspring automatically are eligible for full registry as well.
Over time, it wouldn’t be difficult to actually breed the Quarter Horse out of the breed.  Therefore, most modern Quarter Horses don’t look and act like the original Quarter Horse was intended.  It is sad that in a few short decades what took nearly 400 years to produce has been largely undone.
So how did they get away with this?  That answer is also simple.  Since, quarter horses were originally bred as a “quarter type” and it is well documented that many thoroughbreds were introduced into the Quarter Horse breed, what many modern breeders neglected to include was “quarter type” characteristics of these thoroughbreds when breeding them to registered quarter horses.  In effect there is a loophole in the AQHA rulebook which was and is exploited for the sake of speed motivated by greed.
Therefore, today we have two types of registered Quarter Horses; and they look quite different from one another.  You have the “modern Quarter Horse” with a thin neck, small head, lean body, thin legs, small feet, often 16 to 17 hands tall, and a not always agreeable disposition whose pedigree had a disproportionate percentage of thoroughbred in it.  Then we have the “Real Quarter Horse (Foundation Quarter Horse)” that looks exactly the way a “Quarter Type” horse is supposed to look like and has all the physical and mental characteristics that were originally intended.  Yes, there is thoroughbred blood in all Foundation Quarter Horses…in that there is no dispute.  But it only takes a simple visual inspection of the two breeds to know that a Thoroughbred doesn’t look like nor is a “Real” Quarter Horse.  That’s as simple as saying that a Greyhound dog and a German Shepherd dog don’t look the same.  We are not saying that thoroughbred horses are undesirable, but that they are simply not Quarter Horses as intended.
Thoroughbreds where bred to race over long distances up to four miles; and Quarter Horses were bred to be multi-tasking work horses that were raced for short distances.  Period.
Many people have the misconception that all registered Quarter Horses are bred true.  Please know that many registered modern Quarter Horses are half, three-quarters, and even seven-eights Thoroughbred. Cursory research into their pedigrees will show that as fact. We hope that we have been able to clear that up a bit.
Now back to the original question…. What is a Foundation Quarter Horse?
It’s a real Quarter Horse, exactly what the founders of the American Quarter Horse Association had intended and not a horse that looks like and acts like a Thoroughbred.
The simplest measure to determine if a quarter horse is a Foundation Quarter Horse is to examine the extended pedigree.  Thoroughbreds that were introduced AFTER 1940 should be considered in evaluating the percentage of Quarter Horse.  Its that simple.
Fortunately, only a handful of foundation breeders in the United States that have been able to preserve the “Real” Quarter Horses and maintain the integrity of the breed with the pedigrees to prove it.  We are proud to be one of them.
Frankly, there is some debate over what a "real Quarter Horse" is, this is our version and "we are sticking to it".  We must preface this by stating that "we aren't pretending to know anything about politics within the horse industry... other than the fact that there is too much of it".
To sum it all up, the Foundation Quarter Horse is a horse that can trace its ancestry to the original bloodlines of the sires and dams that formed the origins of the Quarter Horse Breed that look and act that way.  Period.  The rest is purely semantics.
If you treasure our wonderful American heritage, value a good horse that is reliable, steady and good natured, then you've come to the right place... Westphalia Ranch.


   Please take a moment to remember our brave soldiers that are in harm's way around the globe in defense of our safety and freedom, and for their families and loved ones that await their safe return.


This site updated January 2013 - Copyright Westphalia Ranch