The Difference Between a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred

Various breeds have their individual characteristics that influence their treatment, care, and training. In the world of horse racing, it’s crucial to know the breeds’ conformation and endurance level to evaluate their worth at the competition. Thus, we’d like to highlight the critical difference between American Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred.

Both a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred are great for racing as they are claimed as speedrunners. However, the Thoroughbred breed has longer striding legs, which makes its stature look taller. Having said that, both horse breeds can be up to 65 inches tall. People may think the taller a horse, the faster it is, but frankly, it doesn’t work like that.

In terms of performing, the Quarter Horse is great for short-distance races. Whereas the Thoroughbred is a great option for extended racings of a mile or even longer. That means you should think wisely over the breed you’re about to purchase, what purpose you’d like to satisfy. Thus, we made up a detailed guide describing the difference between a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred. Keep reading to learn more about these amazing horse breeds.

quarter horse is playing in sand

Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred: Breed Comparison

ThoroughbredQuarter Horse
Country of originthe UKthe USA
Height65 inches65 inches
Weight1000 pounds1000 pounds
Conformationlong neck, short body, high withers, long legspointed ears, strong neck, wide chest, long legs
Life expectancy25 to 28 years25 to 35 years
Top Speed40 mph55 mph
Colorany colorany color and color pattern
Useracing, jumping, dressage, huntingracing, showing, dressage, trail riding, ranching
Temperamentgreat stamina, laid back, easy to handleenergetic, great endurance, willing to train

Therefore, we can conclude that both of these breeds can be considered top-notch racehorses. They may be involved in various equestrian sports, including racing, jumping, showing, dressage, and many others. Both a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred Horse are quite tall and they have the same average weight.

On the other hand, these breeds have a few crucial differences. For instance, a Quarter Horse has a top speed of 55 mph whereas a Thoroughbred Horse can speed up to 40 mph. In terms of running, a Quarter Horse is accelerating at the first phase of the race, while a Thoroughbred Horse has a consistent pace during the run.

One more thing we should outline here is that Thoroughbred horses took part in developing the Quarter Horse breed. That’s why they have similar characteristics and temperament. However, the American Quarter Horse also inherited some traits from other horse breeds, which are different from the English horses.

That’s why let’s plunge into a detailed description of each of these breeds to find out which horse is better for you.

Thoroughbred horses competition

Characteristics of the Thoroughbred Horse

The Thoroughbred horse is popular to be chosen as a mid- and long-length racehorse. The breed was developed in the 17th century in England as a result of crossing Arabian, Barb, and Turkoman horses. Soon after it has been spread all over the world including the USA, Europe, Australia, etc. Hundreds of thousands of brand-new foals are registered yearly.

In fact, Thoroughbred horses are typically used for racing, but they also perform jumping, dressage, hunting, and many other equestrian disciplines. The breed is crossbred with other horses to create new breeds with better traits.

As for the conformation (horse built), a Thoroughbred horse has a well-chiseled head and a long neck. The body is short and lean with a deep wide chest, high withers, the coat is smooth. The horse’s limbs are long, slim but strong enough.

The average height of the Thoroughbred breed is 64 inches. And the average weight is 1000 pounds. The horse’s coat can be different in color: bay, brown, black, gray, chestnut. But the bay color is more frequent. White face marks as well as white “socks” on the legs may occur. However, the coat has always one color with no markings.

The Thoroughbred horse is a hot-blood breed that is loved for its great stamina and agility, fast speed, and bold character. Besides, life expectancy is about 25 to 28 years, which is solid.

As this breed is commonly used in racing, these horses are at a high risk of getting into an accident. In addition, the Thoroughbred prone to have orthopedic health issues such as fractures. Apart from that, some Thoroughbred horses have smaller hooves comparing to other breeds. Having thin soles and poor cartilage mass, foot soreness may appear, which is common among racehorses.

bay quarter horse is running

Characteristics of the Quarter Horse

The Quarter Horse is a well-known breed that is used for short sprints. That’s why it is called “quarter”, as the horse can beat its competitors in quarter-mile racings. The breed was developed in the 17th century, as the Thoroughbred. The Quarter Horse is a result of crossbreeding Spanish breeds. In addition, the Thoroughbred also has a great impact on improving the breed.

The country of origin is the USA, however, the breed is extremely popular in the UK as well. The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) claims there are millions of Quarter Horses living worldwide. The breed is generally used in racing, showing, dressage, trail riding, ranching – options are quite versatile. Both English and Western events are suitable for this horse due to its fascinating characteristics.

The Quarter Horse tends to have a small head with pointed alert ears and a muscular neck. The body is strong and muscular with a deep wide chest and sloping shoulders. The legs are long and strong, but the feet are small.

The average height of the Quarter Horse is 65 inches. And the average weight is 1000-1100 pounds. Unlike the Thoroughbred, the Quarter Horse can be any color and color pattern. This can include bay, brown, black, chestnut, palomino, dun, roan, and others. But the common ones are chestnut, bay, brow, and gray.

The American Quarter Horse is a breed that is known for its endurance and speed. They have a mild temperament, hence, they are perfect for eventing, pleasure riding, and ranching. Additionally, their life expectancy is about 25 to 35 years, which is awesome.

As for health issues that you may face with the Quarter Horse, there are several genetic diseases you should be aware of. The first one is Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) that can lead to muscle tremors, paralysis, or even death. Another disease is Polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM), which is reflected in muscle stiffness and painful movement.

Thoroughbred horses competition

Can a Quarter Horse Beat a Thoroughbred?

It’s claimed that the top speed of the Quarter Horse is higher than the speed of the Thoroughbred. So can a quarter horse beat a thoroughbred? The answer is yes.

The study shows that the American Quarter Horse speeds up faster at the beginning of a race. Such a breed is known for its wonderful stamina and agility. That’s why no wonder why this horse is faster than the Thoroughbred horse and many others.

However, the truth lies in the way of training these horse breeds. As a Quarter Horse and a Thoroughbred are horseraces, they are trained duly. The thing is, the Thoroughbred can save some energy at the beginning and use it as a push at the final stage, unlike its foes.

On the contrary, the Quarter Horse is usually trained to speed up as fast as possible at the beginning, so they tend to slow down by the end of the race. This shows how acquired skills affect the overall riding experience.

Therefore, a Thoroughbred Horse is a perfect companion for long-distance races. They accumulate the speed and spread it evenly throughout the race. The horse starts to accelerate at the final part of the run. It will be complicated for the Quarter Horse horse to compete with the Thoroughbred Horse because they act the opposite way.

Having said that, the Quarter Horse is claimed to be the winner in a short-distance running. As they are durable, have great stamina, and their willingness to race is incredible. Not every horse breed can brag with such an outstanding endurance as the Quarter Horse has. And horse owners take advantage of it to the fullest.

golden quarter horse close up

Final Thoughts

The Thoroughbred and the Quarter Horse are great breeds in order to compete in racing. Despite the fact they have similar characteristics, their behavior at equestrian disciplines is quite different. Thus, you should know the main characteristics of each of the breeds and differ them properly.

Depending on the breed you’re going to choose, you should pick different types of competition. The Quarter Horse is good for a short-distance run, while the Thoroughbred is perfect for a long-distance race. The Quarter Horse has a higher top speed than the Thoroughbred, which could also be taken into account.

In addition, both horse breeds described here are wonderful companions. So when you think as quarter horse vs thoroughbred, remember, that they can be used not only in racing but also in dressage, ranching, trail riding, showing, and others. As they have decent traits of character, they may be saddled up for various purposes.