How to Take Care of an American Quarter Horse?

Riding a horse is completely different from taking proper care of that horse.

If you own an American Quarter, you’d want to make sure that you take proper care of it.

So, how to take care of an American Quarter horse? In order to take good care of an American Quarter Horse, you need to fulfill its needs of having appropriate nutrition, comfortable living conditions, and good health. 

Quite simple, isn’t it?

Practically speaking, caring for a horse is not a piece of cake. But it is such a rewarding process that you can happily put your heart and soul into it.

How To Take Care of an American Quarter Horse?

There are four pillars of taking care of an American Quarter Horse are:

  • Appropriate Nutrition
  • Appropriate Living Conditions
  • Immunity Against Diseases
  • Essential Grooming

American Quarter Horse diet

Like all living things, the most basic need of an American Quarter Horse is good nutrition.

In order to be healthy, the American Quarter Horse’s diet needs to include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals, vitamins, and water.

What Does an American Quarter Horse Eat?

The American Quarter Horses, obtain important nutrients mainly through drinking clean water and eating forage that is fresh grass and hay.

In addition to this, they also eat grains like rolled oats, bran, and barley.

Quarter Horses have relatively small stomachs with only one compartment.

Therefore, they cannot eat a large amount of food at once.

Secondly, they are not ruminants, therefore, they cannot re-chew already eaten food.

Ideally, at all times, the Quarter horse should have access to:

  • Good quality, clean hay or a healthy pasture that is free of weeds and dust
  • Clean water to drink.

Pretty simple, right?

But there’s a catch.

The nutrient requirements for every American Quarter Horse vary and you need to be able to understand how much food your Quarter Horse needs.

Factors Impacting The Nutritional Needs of an American Quarter Horse

The nutritional needs of your Quarter Horse are determined by a number of different factors including:

  • Age
  • Body weight
  • Workload

1. Age  

Horses need different diets at different stages of life.

Let me explain with a few examples:

Diet requirements for foals              

In the first three months of a baby horse’s life, its mother’s milk is sufficient to cater to its needs.

When the baby, also called a foal, is 10-12 weeks old it needs an additional diet.

From there onwards, a feed with the right mix of important nutrients is added to the diet of the foal.

If the foal is four months old then its per day requirement of the feed would be 4 pounds.

You need to remember that this feed is extra to the normal diet of hay or fresh grass.

Nutritional requirements of pregnant and lactating horses 

If the horse is pregnant, then a feed containing the right mix of proteins, calcium, and phosphorus is served.

Generally, proteins are 30%, calcium is 4%, and phosphorus is 3% in that feed.

If the horse is a lactating mare, the energy requirements would be double than usual.

The mare is either fed with balancer pellets or formulated feeds to cater to the increase in energy requirements.

The diet of senior horses

Senior horses tend to eat less. An 800-pound horse won’t be eating more than 6 pounds a day.

As a source of extra proteins, dehydrated alfalfa can be used in such cases.

2. Body weight

In ideal cases:

The American Quarter horses should be fed 1.5-2% of their body weights.

For example:

If a Quarter Horse weighs 1000 pounds, it requires 15-20 pounds of hay or fresh grass daily.

3. Workload

The nutritional requirements of a horse change with a change in workload.

In 2006, the National Research Council published a book on the Nutrient Requirements of horses

As per that book, the workload for horses was defined in 3 different categories as under:

Light Workload

Light workload comprises of 1-3hours of work per week.

This workload is a collective sum of different activities, including:

  • Walk 40% of the time
  • Trot for 50% of the total time
  • Canter for the remaining 10% of the time

Horses which are ridden for fun or during the beginning of training programs are often in the “light workload” category.

Moderate Workload

A horse’s workload is moderate if it works 3-5 hours a week.

This workload should be a collection of:

  • Walk for 30% of the time
  • Trot for 55% of the time
  • Canter for 10% of the time
  • Gallop for the remaining 5% of the time

Examples of this workload are recreational riding and horses working on the ranches.

Heavy Workload

Heavy workload is endured by horses working 4-5 hours a week.

The horse could be doing:

  • Trot for 50% of the time
  • Walk for 20% of the time
  • Gallop and canter for 15% of the time each

A horse could be used for some other activities like skill work and jumping as well.

Examples of heavy workload horses include ones used for working on ranches, polo, tough show horses, and training for a race.

Very Heavy Workload

If the horse is doing speedy work for at least an hour or it is doing slow work for 6-12 hours in a week, this workload will fall under a very heavy workload.

Endurance racing can be categorized in this workload.

Naturally, if the workload of a horse is greater, it will be requiring more nutrients.

Why Do You Need To Get Hay Tested?

The Quarter Horses get most of their nutritional value through hay or fresh grass from pasture.

To ensure that hay or pasture is rich in nutrients, it should be tested at certified hay testing laboratories.

You can find a catalog of certified hay testing labs from the following link:

Catalog of Certified Labs for Hay Testing

If the hay is deficient in some nutrients, then you can supplement your horse with horse diet supplements and concentrates.

What to do if Your Horse’s Hay is Nutrient Deficient?

If your American Quarter horse’s food is deficient in and the horse is inappropriately fed, then it might appear underweight, overweight, sick, hyper, or lazy.

You can replace the required nutrients by giving either concentrates or supplements to your horse.

Concentrates For An American Quarter Horse

Concentrates provide the right mix of nutrients to horse food that is deficient in them.

Depending on your requirement, you can choose your required supplement.

Different concentrates are used for different purposes.

Generally, concentrates are needed for underweight horses or for overall improvement in the health of the horses.

Examples of a few natural concentrates are:

  • Barley
  • Rolled oats
  • Beet Pulp
  • Pelleted concentrates
  • Sweet Feeds Mix
  • Hay cubes

Supplements For An American Quarter Horse

In terms of horse feed, a mixture of vitamins and minerals in addition to forage is called a supplement.

For instance:

Horses that are sweating a lot or their hay is sodium deficient are provided with a block of salt to lick when desired.

This salt is supplemented in the diet to cater to the requirement of sodium in the horse’s body.

In the same way:

If any other vitamin is deficient, it should be replaced by using supplements.

A few famous supplements are those which are used for joint care and digestive support.

Similarly, you may have magnesium or weight loss supplements for your horse.

If you’re looking for top-of-the-shelf options in commercial horse supplements, you might want to try:

American Quarter Horse Habitat and Ideal Living Conditions

The American Quarter Horse is a domesticated breed of horses, therefore, it lives alongside humans.

Generally, they are kept in run-ins, barns, and stables.

To keep your Quarter Horse healthy, happy, and comfortable, you need to provide it with appropriate living conditions.

General Living Conditions for American Quarter Horses

Apart from having access to nutritious food and water, the American Quarter Horses have the following requirements.

Ideal Temperature

For horses, depending on the thickness of their coat, the ideal temperature range lies between 18-59⁰F.

Naturally, the coats of the American Quarter Horses grow thicker in winters

Dry and Clean Shelter

To protect horses from different weathers and hazards, there’s a need for shelters.

Quarter Horses may fall sick in moist, cold, and muddy shelters.

Therefore, clean and dry shelters are essential.

Size of The Shelter

For two horses that get along well, a run-in shelter of 240 square feet is enough. For every additional horse, 60 square feet is added.


Exercise is the basic need of any horse to remain healthy.

Ideally, horses should have ample space with other horses where they can walk around as long as they wish.

That’s not possible in the majority of the cases, right?

As a minimum threshold, they should have at least a 15-20-minute walk daily.

The horses that spend most of their time confined in stalls and do not fulfill their quota of exercise, end up having:

  • Joint problems
  • Constipation
  • Muscle problems like azoturia

Safety From Hazards

To effectively deal with hazards like fire, flood or earthquakes, there should be a safety plan put in action.

It’s always better to practice the plan in peacetime so that there is minimum hassle when the actual time comes. Some of the most helpful steps are:

  • Keeping a first aid box handy
  • Knowing where to take the horse in case of an emergency
  • Having a fully charged, working, and easily accessible fire extinguisher
  • Keeping inflammable materials away from the horse and barn breeze-ways
  • Keeping the horse’s paperwork at a safe place

The paperwork should include:

The details of horse identification marks, a picture of the horse with the owner, owner’s and vet’s contact numbers, current Coggins test etcetera.

Safety From Flies/pests

Flies, lice, gnats, ticks, mosquitoes are not only bothersome for an American Quarter but can easily cause diseases like EIA, EEE, WEE etcetera.

Some safety measures which may keep these creatures at bay are:

  • Keeping the stalls clean and dry
  • Using repellants and sprays. (Remember to read the label for safety instructions or consult a vet before using such products.)
  • Using fly masks, fly boots and fly sheets. We recommend checking out the Noble Outfitters Guardsman mask for this purpose.

Seasonal Living Conditions

Although the American Quarter Horse’s Habitat is spread throughout the world, there are specific needs of this horse which vary with every season.

Let’s check out what those particular needs are.

Appropriate Living Conditions For An American Quarter Horse in Winters

The American Quarter Horses can tolerate cold weather pretty well.

Without wind and moisture, they can withstand temperatures just below 0⁰F in the open. Inside a shelter, they can tolerate temperatures as low as -40⁰F.

Like all horses, Quarter Horses naturally develop a winter coat till December 22.

This coat helps to keep them warm during the winters.


If the coat gets wet, it loses most of its ability to keep the horse warm.

Here’s the deal:

In order to keep the horse comfortable, and healthy during winter, you need to:

  • Provide warm water (45⁰-65⁰F) to drink
  • Give access to a clean and dry shelter
  • Provide extra food to battle the cold

For example:

Let’s say an idle Quarter horse weighing 1000 pounds needs 16 pounds of forage at 18⁰F.

If the temperature falls to zero, the horse will be requiring 18 pounds of forage to produce enough energy to counter the temperature drop.

When To Blanket The Horse?

You might need to blanket the horse if:

  • There is a chance of the horse getting wet
  • The horse has a clipped winter coat
  • It’s very young or old
  • The horse isn’t acclimatized to the cold

Things To Consider while Blanketing the Horse

In the case of blanketing, you must ensure that:

  • The blanket fits the horse
  • The horse is dry when the blanket is put on

Appropriate Living Conditions For American Quarter Horses in Summers

In winters the American Quarter Horses grow coats to keep themselves warm whereas in summers, they use sweating to keep themselves cold.

This cooling system works best when the sum of temperature and humidity is less than 130.

If this sum is greater than 150, then the horse’s ability to cool itself is greatly reduced.

The condition could be fatal if the temperature-humidity sum exceeds 180.

For example:                    

If the temperature at a given day is 50⁰F and humidity is 80%, then the sum of these two factors equals 130. At this level, the cooling system of the horse works effectively and there is no problem for the horse with regards to the weather.


If the temperature or the humidity rises from this point, the efficiency of the horse’s natural cooling system will start decreasing and could be fatal if it crosses 180.

In summers, the Quarter Horse must have access to a clean and ventilated shelter and water at all times.

In addition, some other adjustments can also be made, like:

  • Riding at times when there is less heat. For example early morning or late at night
  • Keeping the workload light and giving time to the horse to cool down and regain normal breath
  • Using artificial cooling, like fans, to cool down the horse
  • Minimizing sun exposure by working in a shade

American Quarter Horse Health and Diseases

For all living beings, diseases are part and parcel of life. Avoiding these diseases can help improve the lifespan of Quarter horses.

In this article, we’ll be dividing the Quarter Horse’s diseases into two categories:

  • General diseases
  • Genetic Diseases

General Diseases

These are the diseases which are common in almost all breeds of horses, namely:

  • Rabies
  • West Nile Virus (WNV)
  • Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE)/(WEE)
  • Tetanus

In this section:

We’ll first discuss the symptoms of these diseases before moving on to preventing and curing them.


The common signs of rabies in horses are poor athletic performance, lethargy, lameness, convulsions, recumbency, aggressiveness, and depression.

West Nile Virus (WNV)

The common symptoms of WNV are ataxia, depression, lethargy, fever, weakness, and muscle trembling.

Eastern/Western Equine Encephalomyelitis (EEE)/ (WEE)

These two diseases are caused by bites from infected mosquitoes.

The main symptoms of these two diseases are fever, colic, anorexia, seizures, sleepiness, circling, blindness, paralysis of pharynx, larynx, tongue etcetera.


The signs of tetanus include muscle spasms, stiffness, third eye prolapse, extended neck and head, difficulty breathing and retracted lips.

Preventing General Horse Diseases With Vaccination

According to the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), there are some core vaccinations which should be administered to all horses.

These vaccinations are:

  • Rabies Vaccine
  • Tetanus Vaccine
  • West Nile Virus Vaccine
  • Eastern/Western Encephalomyelitis Vaccine

All vaccines should be administered in consultation with the Quarter Horse’s vet.

Genetic Diseases

The common genetic diseases of Quarter Horses are:

  • Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP)
  • Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM)
  • Malignant Hyperthermia (MH)
  • Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED)
  • Heredity Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA)

Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP)

Horses affected with this disease may develop muscle cramping, paralysis, collapse, or sudden death.

Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM)

The horses suffering from PSSM might show muscle tightness and cramping.

Malignant Hyperthermia (MH)

MH may cause a sudden rise in horse temperature in addition to abnormal heart rhythms, hypertension, muscle tissue breakdown, and sometimes death.

This disease can be triggered by anesthesia.

Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED)

Due to this disease mares may abort their affected fetuses or deliver dead or weak foals. If the foal is alive it won’t live long and die soon after birth.

Heredity Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA)

The horses suffering from HERDA have a malfunction of collagen which is an important component of tissues of skin, muscles, and cartilage.

The horses with this condition can survive but they can’t be used for riding or breeding purposes.

Generally, they are euthanized.

Prevention of Genetic Diseases

Genetic diseases can only be prevented if affected Quarter Horses are not used for breeding purposes.

You should consider genetic testing of the horses prior to breeding.

The American Quarter Horse Association offers a panel test for these five genetic diseases.

Essential Grooming

Primarily, Quarter Horses are groomed for:

  • Hygiene purposes
  • Beautification of the horse

Some of the common activities in horse grooming are:


The two important steps of hoof care are:

  • Trimming the hoof after every 4-10 weeks
  • Cleaning the feet from the sole of the hoof one or twice daily


Horses can be bathed either by using a garden hose or sponged off using water from a bucket.

Frequent shampooing can cause natural coat of the horse to dry out, therefore, it’s better to use shampoos in moderation.


Combing is used to dislodge dirt stuck in the horse’s hair or untangle manes and tails.

Clipping & Trimming

You may clip or trim for either beautifying a horse or for practical purposes.

If you are preparing your horse for a show, then do keep in mind the guidelines of that competition while trimming or clipping the horse hair.

Mane & Tail Care

Just like trimming and clipping mane and tail care is either done for practical purposes or for competitions.

For different purposes manes can be:

  • Braided
  • Roached
  • Trimmed

Similarly, the tail can be clipped, thinned, braided, or folded as per requirement.

Related Questions

What do you feed a Quarter Horse? American Quarter Horses mainly eat fresh grass, hay, and grains like rolled oats, bran, and barley.

You can use supplements and concentrates to increase their feed’s nutritional value.

What are Quarter horses used for? The American Quarter Horses are mainly used for cattle work, short distance racing, horse shows, recreational riding, mounted police riding, horse shows, and rodeos.

Do Quarter Horses need shelter from the rain? Yes, the Quarter Horses need shelter from rain especially if the temperature is low.

Generally, a Quarter Horse can tolerate low temperatures very well.

But when the horse gets wet, its coat is unable to keep it warm. Therefore, a shelter is extremely helpful in the rain.

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