Ask any person that is into horse racing about which horse breed is the best for barrel racing and they will say the Quarter Horse is the best without skipping a beat. That is mainly because of the popularity of this horse breed. But that doesn’t mean it is the only horse breed that you can use for barrel racing. It also doesn’t mean that everyone should go get a Quarter Horse.
What if you just want to try out barrel racing, see how it is and whether it is attractive enough for you to go pro? And even then, what if you just want to compete at your local rodeos or shows?
It all depends on what you plan on doing once you get a racing horse. If you plan on going professional and want to compete at state/national levels, then you should definitely go for a Quarter Horse. Because you will see that at all professional tournaments, all the pros use Quarter Horses. There’s no point putting yourself at a disadvantage on purpose.
But if you are someone who is just looking for some fun and compete only at local shows, then there you can choose among other horse breeds as well.
That’s what this article is all about.
So without any further ado, let’s jump right into it.
I had to list this as the numero uno horse because this horse breed is by far the best breed for barrel racing.
Once you see how this horse is able to turn on a sixpence, you will know exactly why all professionals love this horse breed.
History: The Quarter Horse breed dates back to the 1700s when the Englishmen began settling in New England. It was only a matter of time until they brought their love of racing horses with them. That’s when they started racing through the village streets on wooden tracks.
Why wooden tracks? Because there were no roads back then. And the wooden tracks used to be a quarter-mile in distance on average. First, they named this breed Quarter Pathers and then changed it to Quarter Horse. The name we use today.
On the racetrack, however, you will see that the Thoroughbred is the breed that most people either bet on or prefer to use. But when it comes to short-distance races, no breed has been able to beat the Quarter Horses. That is the reason why they are considered the breed for barrel racing.
Height: Up to 68 inches
Color: Sorrel is the most common color for this breed. But you can find them in any color
Character: The Quarter Horses are known for their calm nature and extreme friendliness. They are easy to train and you will have a lot of fun with them because they are always full of energy.
Country of Origin: USA
This is the horse breed you will see people riding for pleasure or any type of ranch work. That is mainly due to their stock-type build. The Paint Horse is known for its high intelligence and the ability to be trained very easily.
History: The history of this breed is similar to the Quarter Horse, but this time, it was the Spanish Conquistadors that brought them over. But over time some of these horses escaped and started roaming as part of the wild herds. These were the herds that used to roam the ‘Wild West’.
And over time some of these horses were captured and domesticated and also bred with the infamous Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbreds to make the horses that they are today. Intelligent, agile, and easy-going horses that are great around children.
But don’t mistake the Paint Horse as anything less than a Quarter Horse because it has the agility and the speed just like a Quarter Horse.
Height: Between 56 to 64 inches. There are some horses that can be taller than that.
Color: White coat with any other color. Typically with one of the three coat patterns – overo, tobiano, or tovero
Character: Paint Horses are known for their intelligence and kind nature. They can be trained easily. They are extremely athletic, powerful and also look very elegant. These are the horses that most people think of when they see a hero riding a horse in a Disney movie.
Country of Origin: USA
Paint Horse Facts:
- A lot of people think that Paint Horses are a relatively new breed in terms of its registry. But they are shocked when they see cave paintings dating from 4500BC that have the same coat patterns as these horses.
- Back in the day, the Paint Horses were believed to have magical powers. The more striking their coat marking, the stronger their magical powers were.
- Pintos and Paint Horses are two very different things. Pinto is color rather than a breed. So the next time someone says that a Paint Horse is a pinto, you’ll know that they are referring to its color. Also, a horse that is pinto in color can only be registered as a Paint Horse if it meets the bloodline requirements.
Pony of the Americas
This is one of those breeds that people weren’t purposedly looking to create. It was just accidentally created and they decided to go with it because they liked it.
History: The Pony of the Americas was created when an Appaloosa mare accidentally bred with a Shetland Pony stallion. The Appaloosa was gifted to a horse breeder and a lawyer named Les Boomhower. The foal that was born had a black ‘smudge’ on a pure white coat. Boomhower liked it and decided to create and establish a new breed. He would go on to use this breed as a utility pony that also happens to have a cute, colorful coat.
Height: Between 46 to 56 inches
Color: Spotted. A lot of people like to refer to this breed as the Appaloosa because they both have a similar mottled skin
Character: The Pony of the Americas is famous for its gentleness while also packing a lot of speed at the same time. So if you are looking for a pony that you can have a fun time with while also wanting to have something with which you can go really fast on, this is the one for you. They are extremely willing and also have a lot of stamina.
Country of Origin: USA
Facts About the Pony of the Americas
- The stallion with which the Appaloosa had bred was called the Black Hand because the black smudge on the back of the Pony of the Americas looked like a handprint to Boomhower.
- Boomhower also wanted this breed to be an ‘in-between’ breed that could be ridden by children who were either too big to be ponies or too small to be horses. He was able to achieve that and now this breed is capable of carrying both, children and adults.
- To give you an idea of how much stamina this pony has, it was put to test in the mid-twentieth century when a pony named Apache Wampum was able to complete a 600-mile ride from Columbus Junction in Iowa to Cheyenne in Wyoming. That’s when people realized that the stamina this pony packs is no joke. You can ride this pony across the country if you gave it enough rest and fed it well along the way.
This list wouldn’t be complete without this breed.
The Thoroughbred is the breed that was created purely out of the compassion for racing horses.
History: Back in the 18th century, this breed was created with the sole purpose of making a breed that is considered the “ultimate racing machine”. And the English pioneers certainly succeeded at creating that breed.
The Thoroughbred is capable of covering a mile at around 40mph or 64kmph which is no joke. That speed is one of the main reasons why the Thoroughbreds make one of the best barrel racers out there.
They can also change direction really quickly but there is one downside to them – they can get a little hot-headed when they are running fast.
That is one of the main reasons why it takes a lot of time and effort to train them. But once you do, they are a force to be reckoned with.
This is also one of the main reasons why people prefer the Quarter Horse over the Thoroughbred because Quarter Horses are easier to train. But they are a bit slower than the Thoroughbred. So the racers have to choose whether they would be okay with taking more time and effort to train their horse, or would they like to have fun training their horse but the horse can also be trained relatively quickly.
Besides barrel racing, the Thoroughbreds are also used in a wide variety of disciplines but most of them will come from the racing world. Almost all the Thoroughbred that are being sold are either OTTB (Off The Track Thoroughbred) or they were undergoing training for a race.
Height: Between 61 to 68 inches
Color: Brown, chestnut, and bay. These 3 are the most common colors but any color is permitted.
Character: The Thoroughbreds are highly intelligent but they can also be hot-headed. Not every horse will get hot-headed every time to hop on them, but they can be hard for inexperienced riders to handle. But on the other hand, the Thoroughbreds are known for being one of the hardest working horses.
Country of Origin: United Kingdom
- The stallion called Eclipse was one of the most successful racehorse ever. It was named after the solar eclipse of 1764, the year which it was foaled. Eclipse ran 18 races in his entire career and he won every single one of them.
- Thoroughbred horses are considered one of the most expensive horses in the world and it is the only breed that doesn’t allow breeding through artificial insemination or embryo transfer to be registered. The main reason for that is to maintain the high prices but also to make sure that the wrong parentage isn’t being assigned to a horse.
- The founding stallions are known to be all Arabians but the mares on the other hand are said to be a mixture of European breeds like the Irish Hobby that is now extinct and other oriental horses.
Speaking of Arabian horses, here it is!
This breed is one of THE most famous horse breeds in the world. But here’s a fun fact about it – nobody knows where this breed originated from.
History: There are myths surrounding the origins of this breed that the prophet Mohammad created this breed. According to the myth, the prophet kept a herd of horses enclosed without any water for a week. The horses grew incredibly thirsty and were just waiting for this enclosure to open. After a week, the prophet opened the enclosure, and all the horses charged to the water.
But then the prophet called them back. Out of the entire herd, only 5 horses came back without drinking any water. It is said that those 5 horses that returned are the foundation of the breed.
Height: 57 to 64 inches
Color: Grey, brown, black, bay, chestnut. These are all the most common colors but just like the Thoroughbred, any solid color is allowed.
Character: This breed is known for being hot-headed when people ride them. But again, not all Arabian horses are known to be like that. They are also known for their kindness and they love being around people.
Country of Origin: The Arabian Peninsula
Fact About the Arabian Horses:
- While there are myths about the origins of the Arabian horses, they are depicted in ancient cave paintings dating back to 3500 years.
- I know Arabian horses might seem like a weird choice for barrel racing, but it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. They are known for their incredible speed and their lighter frame allows them to make those tight turns. They are also starting to become common in a lot of barrel races in recent years.
- Most people know that the Arabian horse breed has one less rib than other breeds. What they don’t know is that they also have one less tail bone and lumbar vertebrae.
History: The Appaloosa is known to have descended from the Russian Don horses and the Spanish Conquistadors but by the 19th century, their numbers were reduced so much that this breed was on the brink of extinction.
And in an effort to save the breed Appaloosa was bred with a lot of Quarter Horses. That is the main reason why it is considered as one of the best barrel racing horses out there.
Appaloosa was already a fast and versatile horse, but when combined with the Quarter Horse blood, this breed also became an unstoppable force. And add a very unique coat pattern on top of that and it becomes the perfect recipe for this horse to be a crowd-pleaser.
Most people think that the Appaloosa is only bred either for its color or for racing. But that’s not it. This breed is so good that it just excels at everything they do.
Height: 57 to 68 inches
Color: This breed is known for its spotted color pattern. There are several patterns that they are recognized for like the striped hooves and the mottled skin around their eyes and muzzle.
Character: Most people don’t know this but the Appaloosa also make for a great family horse because they are easy to handle. Both adults and children can easily handle it. It is most famous for its versatility and endurance.
Country of Origin: USA
Facts About the Appaloosa Breed:
- The Appaloosa’s coat pattern is similar to a human fingerprint. Just like we all have fingerprints that are unique to every person, the Appaloosa also have coat patterns that are unique to every horse. No two horses have will have the same pattern.
- The Appaloosa was originally bred by the famous Nez Perce Indians. The Nez Perce Indians were known for their horse breeding knowledge and skills. And the Appaloosa shows all the characteristics that the Nez Perce loved.