The American Quarter Horse, sometimes described in more elaborate terms as the famous and celebrated Colonial Quarter Pather, was first bred during the early 1600s in Virginia. The first colonists crossed the imported English Thoroughbred with assorted native horses that descended from Spain and were brought to what is now the Southeastern United States by the Conquistadors. This new breed was small, tough and quick. They were recognized as a versatile work horse during the week and an explosive racehorse on the weekend.
The sports-crazy English settlers raced their horses over quarter-mile stretches run through the brush, plantations and villages. Local entrants often triumphed, with some sprinters being clocked at up to 55mph. For this reason the animal became known as the Quarter Horse. In the 19th century, pioneers heading west began crossbreeding the Colonial Quarter Horse with the wild mustangs of the Great Plains. The resulting new breed had an innate "cow sense", a natural instinct for working with cattle. Its speed, balance and agility made it the ideal cow pony.
The American Quarter Horse is still popular today as a race horse, show horse, reining and cutting horse, rodeo competitor, ranch horse and all-around family horse. When I return to my parents home, I often find myself back in the saddle again. I can assure you that Diamond, one of the quarter horses pictured above, is an excellent trail riding mount. There is nothing prettier than coming down out of the hills and gazing to the west at the dark silhouette of historic Chimney Rock set against a fiery-orange, Nebraska sunset.