This study is to evaluate the durability and soundness in the Quarter Horse, however, it is important to note that this data was taken from the racing branch of the Quarter Horse only, in order to do a comparison with the racing Thoroughbred (Part II) and Standardbred (Part I) to determine the bloodlines that consistently produce a tough product. The Quarter Horse is a breed with many distinct types, and so we should expect other bloodlines and results to arise in strength from the stock in regards to pleasure, cutting, reining, barrel racing and hunter branches of this amazing sport breed, its versatility is a factor in it being the most popular horse in the world. The full examination of the breed and all its durable bloodlines is beyond the scope of this review.
Another point is I am not an expert on modern Quarter Horse lineages, and have consulted Chantal Spleiss of MagicMatchGenetics for help and information on these lines, and if this piece is understandable at all especially to you Quarter Horse breeders, please thank Chantal. As was my practice in the other two studies, the abbreviations for breeds you will see in this article: RH=Running Horse, CP=Canadian Pacer, QH=Quarter Horse, TB=Thoroughbred, will be found after the horse's name.
This is the final piece of the study of resiliency and soundness in the three closely related breeds: Standardbred, Quarter Horse and American Thoroughbred. All three arose from a common breed: American Running Horse, plus they all carry in varying amounts English Thoroughbred bloodlines, therefore they all carry some common root bloodlines. (See American Breed Development for an outline of how these breeds came about.
[The mystery horse: Traveler QH, one of the strongest foundations of the Quarter Horse (sire of King QH and Little Joe QH.) He is believed to be born around 1875. His ancestry is totally unknown, but he was a noted sprinter and clearly shows the Running Horse hind end.]
Last year I wrote about the Colonial Roots of the Quarter Horse, for the Quarter Horse breeders in Chantal's FB group: MagicMatchGenetics. The goal was to provide the breeders with the largely unknown early history of the stock that became the Quarter Horse, and to clear up misconceptions on our original sport stock. Access the link above to read the article and gain an understanding of the genetics at the base of our racing horses.
The American Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse split apart in 1868 with one branch of the racing breeders fulfilling the requirements for Thoroughbred registration. They needed 5 full generations of English Thoroughbred registered ancestry (General Stud Book) and they had to also assume the 'classic race' performance test, and produce their own stud book (American Stud Book). Up until that time they were just one of the many groups of our original versatile Running Horse (RH), and the quarter racers were another, which traveled west with the frontier.
It is easy to forget that our country was settled in waves! In the early 1800s the frontier was the area just west of the Appalachian Mountains, in the region that became Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri and Indiana.The sprint racer (quarter racer) was celebrated in those developing areas, and further on we will meet two of those sprinters from this era and place: Steel Dust RH and Shiloh RH, both noted for blistering speed, and they contributed strongly to the modern racing Quarter Horse genetics. By the mid-1800s the sprinters were pushed out with the advancing frontier which was the prairie regions and the breed changed somewhat with the demands of the day; racing was enjoyed still but ranch work was a necessity. Stock working skills were much needed
[Working cattle in the west illustrated in a 1928 drawing done by Will James. The horses of the western ranches were bred for this kind of work. Will James was a real life cowboy as well as an artist and author. Born in Canada, he spent most of his life working on ranches in the American west, and he documented the ranch life in his wonderful books. He particularly love horses and his drawings in his many books are admired for their accuracy.]
The western ranches were often huge expanses of prairie or desert, and it was common to keep large bands of horses--remudas, with a quality stallion or two for the many broodmares. Often the mustang stock of the prairie was rounded up and not only used as mounts but its mares were also added to the remuda for breeding. Mustangs are the direct descendants of the Conquistador mounts abandoned by the Spanish and Portuguese explorers and conquerors, and they are a relative of the Spanish Horse and the Barb; therefore they are lovely, sturdy saddle horses but lacking the speed and stamina of the Hobby based stock coming from the east. Mustang motion was more elevated (like the Spanish Horse) then the extended reach of the Running Horse, and neither were they gaited as the Running Horse stock was. I believe that on the whole the soundness may have stayed intact with these genetic inroads, but speed and stamina would have suffered. I say this not just because of the differences between the base types, but because somewhere along the way from 1800 to now, the deep stamina of the original stock, as well as its lightning fast speed was lessened. Why else would we find these once the fastest racers needing Thoroughbred to win at sprints?
Also from 1910 to 1950 good Thoroughbred stallions were made available to the western breeders as part of the Remount Service breeding program wherein if they stood a Remount Thoroughbred, and gave the government first choice of the resulting offspring, then they were free to keep or sell those not picked by the government agents (there was a agreed upon price per head). Many of the modern Quarter Horse lines originated then.
You will see when we follow the bloodlines back that their strongest roots were indeed sprinters of great speed. The quarter racing stock was rooted in the Virginia sprinting studs of the Roanoke Valley, where they were selectively bred for 150 years for speed before they arrived in the west. So I am concluding the overall lessening of speed evident in these bloodlines came from dilution with less speedy stock. If the Quarter Horse had not been mixed with Mustang stock I don't think it could have lost some of its natural speed! Up until that point (1800) the sprinting and gaited Running Horse populations had a greater concentration of speed then the distance racing branch of that became the American Thoroughbred, because it had been bred back speed to speed for 150 years (see Standardbred Sport Horses for full story). Somehow its original speed, which was far more concentrated then the English Thoroughbred possessed became diluted.
For this investigation I selected 10 racers who had run 60 or more races, with birth dates ranging from 1975 to 2006. Of this group, only one horse ran 100 races: Namehimastreaker, although the stallion Klassic Strawfly ran close to the century mark with 97 races. As we discovered in Part II (Thoroughbreds), there is a dramatic decline from the Standardbred stock (which had 24 winners of more than 100 races, with races numbering 200 to 600) in the qualities of soundness, durability and general athleticism, requiring that I lower the bar in criteria for evaluation in both the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse.
The study group includes one stallion and one mare, the rest are geldings. Because of the high percentage of Thoroughbred in these racers, I decided also to present a separate list of QH ancestry and of TB ancestry in the chart below; so that inspired Quarter Horse breeders could have some target lines identified to build up in the background of their pedigrees to recreate the original speed of the root breed. Also, there is a high preponderance of Thoroughbred lines, not just because of the crossing in of the Thoroughbred, but because so many of the Quarter Horse lines are unrecorded. The spotty records are a result of the frontier situation, where large herds of unregistered horses were kept to supply the cowboys. Plus, the Civil War resulted in loss of records of surviving mounts, and then the infusion of Mustang stock which had no recorded ancestry compounded the problem of missing lineages. So that when the bloodlines of the Quarter Horse were gathered in the effort to document their fine breed they were only partially recovered. The first registry only came about in 1940, and it took years of hard work traveling throughout the west, visiting ranches, looking at stud records, interviewing old timers and searching archives to gather the precious stock information. (See the many books of Robert Denhardt for the story of this massive effort).
In the chart below we will have: the name, date of birth, sex, race record, then the main dominance, followed by the secondary potency in parentheses, and then the root Quarter Horse dominance, and then the Thoroughbred root potency, followed by the closest inbreeding. Not all potency is identified, only the most dominant of them, the strongest influence on the left. Full and close siblings will be separated by a '/' and horses of equal potency will have a '--' between them. After this we will try to pull out the most common lines, in order to identify the most consistent sources of resiliency.
Name, DOB, Record, Main Potency, (Secondary Dominance), (QH root lines), (TB root lines), closest inbreeding
Town Policy g 1975 69 starts/22/17/8 Three Bars (My Texas Dandy--Flying Bob) (QH roots: Old Billy RH) (TB roots: Stockwell, Newminster, Lexington RH) 3x4 Three Bars
Rocket Jet But g 1977 72 starts/13/16/13 FL Lady Bug QH--Moon Deck QH (Three Bars, Barred QH) (QH roots: Old Billy RH, Shiloh RH, Steel Dust RH, Locks Rondo QH) (TB roots: Lexington RH, Vandal RH) 3x4 Moon Deck--3x4 FL Lady Bug
Sgt Pepper Feature g 1978 62 starts/20/11/8 Peter Pan (Peter Hastings, St Simon) (QH roots: Sykes Rondo QH, Traveler QH) (TB roots: Stockwell, Galopin, Newminster) 5x6x5 Boys Im It/Blue Larkspur/Balladier 5x6x6x7x6 Fairway/Sickle/Colorado
Griswold g 1986 64 starts/20/12/9 Joe Reed QH (Leo QH/Firebrand QH, Royal Charger/Nasrullah) (QH roots: Old Billy RH, Traveler QH) (TB roots: Galopin, Newminster, Stockwell) 6x3 Leo QH/Firebrand QH
Kool Kue Baby m 1992 64 starts/34/10/8 Go Man Go QH (Three Bars, Top Deck) (QH roots: Old Billy RH, Sykes Rondo QH, Locks Rondo QH) (TB roots: Galopin, Stockwell, Newminster) 5x3 Go Man GO QH
Sign of Lanty g 63 starts/28/17/3 Anchors Ahead/War Relic (Three Bars, Man O' War, Bimelech) (QH roots: Peter McCue QH, Traveler QH) (TB roots: Galopin--St Simon, Newminster, Stockwell) 4x6 Anchors Ahead/War Relic
Namehimastreaker g 1994 100 starts/28/27/17 Bold Ruler (Nasrullah, Native Dancer) (QH roots: Traveler QH, Peter McCue QH) (TB roots: St Simon) 4x5 Bold Ruler
Dueling Juan g 2003 67 starts/15/6/4 Depth Charge (Go Man Go QH, Nasrullah, Quickly, Teddy, Top Man QH--Bar Deck QH) (QH roots: Peter McCue QH, Hickory Bill RH, Little Joe QH) (TB roots: St Simon, Newminster) 4x7 Go Man Go QH, 5x5x6x7 Depth Charge
Vodka With Ice g 2005 65 starts/15/11/6 Jet Deck QH/ Top Moon QH (Three Bars, Lady Bugs Moon QH, Moon Deck QH) (QH roots: Peter McCue QH, Texas Chief QH, Locks Rondo QH, Dan Tucker QH) (TB roots: Galopin-St Simon, Newminster-Hermit, Lexington RH-Domino) 5x3 Jet Deck QH
Klassic Strawfly s 2006 97 starts/17/11/11 Special Effort QH--Dash For Cash QH (Rocket Bar QH, Three Bars, Jet Deck QH, Go Man Go QH, Top Deck QH) ( QH roots: Peter McCue QH, Little Joe QH, Dan Tucker QH) (TB roots: Lexington RH-Domino, Galopin-St Simon) 4x3 Special Effort QH, 3x4 Dash for Cash QH
Like the Standardbred study, the Quarter Horse has some easily identified conduits of the soundness traits we are studying. Of their primary dominance it is the Thoroughbred Three Bars that appears three times more than the others, so clearly he is the modern typesetter of the racing Quarter Horse. It is interesting that besides the appearance of the sprinting sire Nasruallah TB strength, the others are all closely related. Moon Deck QH and Go Man Go QH are sons of the Thoroughbred Top Deck and Jet Deck QH is a son of Moon Deck and also carries Three Bars TB.
What makes a strong typesetter? A horse that transmits a desired type reliably. A potent typesetter is seen above in Three Bars TB, who has such a heavy presence in the Quarter Horse, because he transfers a desirable type. He is able to stamp his type because he carries a tremendous background power of the full Thoroughbred siblings: Whalebone/Web/Whisker: 193 lines! And that saturation is funneled forward strongly via the full brothers Stockwell/Rataplan (28 lines in 10 generations--critical mass) who in turn are strongly pulled forward by the full sisters: Merry Dance/Pretty Dance 5x6, and the two lines of the mare Sandfly 4x4. Those same full background siblings: Whalebone et al, are also the power behind Australian (5x4x5) who is the sire of Maggie BB, Ivy Leaf and Fellowcraft. Secondary dominance is found in 20 lines of the 4-mile heat racer Lexington RH who is strongly brought forward by the 3/4 siblings Ivy Leaf and Fellowcraft, but especially concentrated by the great sprinter Domino (3x4x4 Lexington RH) who is found in Three Bars 5x5x5. Three Bars then is a Whalebone/Web/Whisker genetic bomb with a secondary Lexington RH power. It is also notable that he carries strong filly factors, such as the sex balanced lines of Sandfly. All of this makes Three Bars a tremendous typesetter, and so he proved to be.
So let's take a look at these genetics and see what we can learn. The deep Thoroughbred lines of weight are St. Simon, Newminster, Stockwell and of course our native bred Lexington RH; this then is a fairly consistent result with the Thoroughbred study. And I refer you to those pages for information on the root Thoroughbred lines.
There are several Quarter Horse roots that stand out in the ancestry. While building out these lineages it became apparent that the Civil War erased many lines or the records of those foundation sires. Two stallions: Peter McCue QH and Old Billy RH are clearly the most dominant in the recorded background strength (the ravages of the Civil War left huge gaps in our pedigrees). Locks Rondo QH, Sykes Rondo QH, Little Joe QH and Dan Tucker QH are showing secondary power and they are all descended from or related to Peter McCue QH and/or Old Billy RH; so this is a very consistent genotype that provides the base of the durable racers. Also of significance is the mystery horse Traveler QH, who is estimated to have been born around 1875, but has no recorded lineage. He was found pulling a cart in a railroad yard and yet he proved himself a stellar short runner. Obviously then he was descended from Running Horse stock, but his ancestry is lost.
Peter McCue QH 1895 is a son of Dan Tucker QH out of Nora M TB, and he was 16 hands tall and weighed 1430 lbs...a real tank. Peter McCue QH,the son of Dan Tucker QH is a Harry Bluff RH genetic bomb 5x5x5x4. His dam the Thoroughbred Nora M brings in a nice St. Simon, Glencoe strength but especially makes a powerful strength with the full sister Margravine to Margrave Mare in the sire 4x3 (Orville, Sir Archy, RH). Being so large, you wouldn't think Peter McCue would be fast, but he was so fast he is said to still hold the record for a quarter of mile: 21 seconds. There is other evidence that Peter was a superb athlete and sire, as when I did the pedigree analysis of the Hall of Fame jumper Nautical QH, Peter McCue came out as major influence. He stood stud in Texas and Oklahoma.
Old Billy RH 1862 is the other genetic anchor; he became such a fantastic sire of fast racers in southern Texas that the whole area became known as the: "Land of the Billys"(Denhardt). Like Dan Tucker QH, sire of Peter McCue QH, Old Billy RH is a Shiloh RH--Steel Dust RH cross and those two elements were considered the fastest sprinters of their day. So here we have the two foundations to this strain of durable racers and they are composed of the same ingredients.
[Little Joe QH, a dominance in the durable horses, is a son of Traveler QH out of a Sykes Rondo QH mare, he is 4x5x4 to Old Billy RH and 5x6x5x5 to Ram Cat RH, a Steel Dust RH daughter].
Shiloh RH 1844 was a Tennessee bred Running Horse that excelled at sprints, who was brought to Texas in 1849. His chief conduits are Old Billy RH, and Old Billy's grandsons: Locks Rondo QH and Sykes Rondo QH. Shiloh's recorded lineage (about 40%) shows a strong Sir Archy TB linebreeding coming from the damsire Union RH 4x5x4 sex balanced with background strength in Regulus TB and his son Fearnought TB (3 lines), Partner (3 lines) and the speed source Fox via mares (4 lines). His paternal grandsire brings in the typical Virginia stud inbreeding to Janus TB with background power of Herod (8 lines) and Partner (28 lines).
Steel Dust RH was born in 1843 in Kentucky, 15 hands and about 1200 lbs, another tank, yet he was also incredibly fast. Just like in Shiloh RH we have to do with just 40% of Steel Dust's pedigree recorded; his dam is a total blank and his sire Harry Bluff RH is 2x4 to the incomparable Blackburns Whip RH (aka Cooks Whip, Kentucky Whip, Youngs Whip). Blackburns Whip was a 5-gaited horse with perfect movement in all gaits. And he could race and win at the trot, gallop or pace, plus at any distance from sprints to 4-mile heat races. He was a supremely successful sport horse and sire. Saltram TB is a secondary dominance (Eclipse, Snap), plus there are 7 lines of Herod TB, 4 lines of Eclipse TB, 6 Janus TB and 19 Regulus TB.
[Will James' beloved Smoky, a grey mustang with a first rate "cow-sense", whose life is the subject of Will's first book: Smoky (1926)]
Of course the unrecorded Running Horse in both these sires is usually mare lines, whose genetic strength originated in the Virginia-Maryland and Massachusetts-Rhode Island colonies. The unrecorded Running Horses make up the majority of all these pedigrees, and seeing these two paragons were bred in Kentucky and Tennessee in 1843-44 we can assume there were strains of Copperbottom RH 1810, Tom Hal RH 1805, Hiatoga RH 1810, and Old Pacing Pilot RH 1823 in them. Steel Dust RH and Shiloh RH crosses produced the most lasting high quality lines in the breed.
This whole study, all three parts, was launched by the career of the current Standardbred super star: Foiled Again, and as of 12/9/2018 he has won 108 races! He is due to retire on 12/31, Standardbreds have a mandatory retirement at age 15. When I began and as I progressed I had no idea what I would find and truly I have been surprised by where this has led. I knew the Standardbred was a very sound breed especially when compared with other sport breeds, but now I understand more of the 'why'. This study is about soundness and durability in the sport horse, in this case as demonstrated by the racehorse breeds, which are an essential portion of sport horse breeding. Naturally because these three breeds are the best racing horses in the world, then the results reflect an overall athleticism with speed and stamina evident as well as the resiliency.
So what can we learn from this group of studies? All three breeds have common Thoroughbred bloodlines, and we can see that critical mass , especially in Herod and Partner seems to provide the sound and durable base coming from that gene pool. And it is apparent that the more recent common Thoroughbred lines like Birdcatcher, Sir Archy, Lexington RH, Glencoe etc all have refocused the background power, and then their more recent descendants of worth did also. So we can see concentration of the better genetics is a given for success!
It is apparent that our native Running Horse alone also provided exceptional resiliency along with amazing athletic abilities, coming especially through strong roots like Tom Hal RH, Old Pacing Pilot RH, Blackburns Whip RH, Figure RH, Copperbottom RH and others.
There is a notable and measurable higher percentage of durability and athleticism coming from the Standardbred population in comparision to the Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred. What is the difference between them? They are closely related to each other and all carry Thoroughbred; they all carry Running Horse; so what makes the Standardbred utterly dominate in this study? Remember the Standardbred population I used was from horses that won a hundred or more racers, not just ran that many. One of them started 603 times! I could not find a comparable group in the other two racing breeds and had to lever down the criteria to examine their resilient performers.
So what is different about the Standardbred? First, it contained a higher percentage of the root Running Horse stock; a breed historically documented from the early 1600s as a premier racer, hunter and saddle horse with immense stamina and toughness. It is the Standardbred that is more concentrated in the root Running Horse than the other two. Second, the Standardbred has less inroads of less sporty stock. We discovered the Thoroughbred had incorporated considerable amounts of English Cart Horse (heavy draft), and Oriental bloodlines, and when the breeders in America experienced this new version of the English racer from imports circa 1800 and beyond, the domestic breeders of the day reported the new version of Thoroughbred was dramatically a lesser product than the earlier stock. Over time the presence of these elements has naturally homogenized in the breed, but I suspect that it might be a factor in the modern unsoundness and lack of improving speed that some wonder about.
With the Quarter Horse, after we examine the breed history with its bloodlines, it emerges clearly that it was the large amount of Mustang added, because it changed the Running Horse type which was so strong in Shiloh RH and Steel Dust RH, in that it had lost some of its original athleticism. There was no breed faster than our sprinting Running Horses; so what happened that made it necessary to add so much Thoroughbred to its racing mix to win? The type , the genetics changed with the infusion of the excellent Barb and Spanish Horse (Mustangs) because they are not fast race horses---it diluted the speed and stamina of the root stock. The Mustangs are direct descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese cavalry horse of the 1500s--the Spanish/Barb stock. Huge inroads of Mustang were added starting in the mid-1800s. In the Thoroughbred we saw it was the draft horse additions that became a determent to race performance and soundness. As far as I can tell, the Oriental inroads lessened speed but not necessarily caused unsoundness.
Does this mean the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse are not worth breeding to? Heck no! All three of these breeds are the best racehorses in the world in their respective categories...they are the height of athleticism. It might benefit breeders, however, to re-concentrate the sources of soundness, durability and athleticism in their breeding designs when it becomes diluted by lesser sport breed inroads.
We can see even in the partial known lineages that Shiloh RH is a Sir Archy TB, Herod TB and Janus TB concentrate. Steel Dust RH is a Blackburns Whip RH, Glencoe TB, Sir Archy TB potency. Old Billy RH re-concentrated Sir Archy TB and Blackburns Whip RH. Try to see this, that the movers and shakers in important gene potency...what we call typesetters, all kept the original dominance at a high.
What this means for the sport horse breeders is that building up the genetic weight of the type we originally desired is the way to go, even if there are some lines in our stock we are not happy with, or worse some that are unsound, then we can overpower their expression with the power of 'right stuff' concentrated for our goals, if we take the time to identify the bloodlines which concentrated the positive change in type.
With purebred breeds we are limited and so must take the time necessary to determine background sources of the talent, and identify if possible the lines which diluted the talent as well. Then consciously make our breeding decisions with an eye to increase the more positive genes for our goals. The sport horse breeder can achieve this type correction quicker in some cases by importing a breed or outside bloodline that brings in the dominance in the desired traits.
We all need to be able to read a pedigree to determine what is actually powering our horses, just knowing the sire or dam is not enough. And we need to learn the history and specific bloodlines of our breeds to be effective. All this takes time and effort to accomplish, but if you love horses it is a fascinating journey. If we acquire the skill on informed pedigree design then we can be sure our best equine products are ahead of us.
Study page links: