Quarter Horse vs Thoroughbred Horses

quarter horse vs thoroughbred horses

Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds differs in a lot of ways including height, build and body type and its temperament. Both quarter horses and thoroughbred horses are however bred to be used for racing. The distance for the breeds is not the same though – quarter horses race between 220 to 870 yards (201 to 796 m) while thoroughbred races range between just under 1/2 mile – to 1.5 miles (804m-2253m).

Their body type is the biggest difference between the breeds with the thoroughbred breed being tall and lean while quarter horses have a shorter and stockier build. Who is faster – thoroughbred horses or quarter horses? It depends on the length of the race. Thoroughbreds are faster over longer distances while quarter horses are faster over shorter distances. Quarter horses are more known as western horses while thoroughbreds are english horses.


thoroughbred horse stallion
Photo: Racing Post

Thoroughbred horses are known as one the fastest horse breeds in the world. Many retired racehorses however also go on and have a second career in english disciplines such as eventing, showjumping and hunter. Thoroughbreds are very versatile horses which is why many of them have excelled in cross country and eventing in the last 20 years as they do well in each phase (jumping, cross country and dressage).

  • Bred For: To be fast over long-distance races
  • Body Type: Light horses – Narrow chest, lean body. Long legs. Long neck.
  • Easy/Hard Keepers: Hard keepers, requires a lot of feed.
  • Nature: High energy, Intelligent
  • Originates from: Arabian Horses in England
  • Mostly used for: Horse racing and equestrian sports such as eventing and showjumping.
  • Maximum Speed: 44mph
  • Height: 15.2-17hh
  • Average cost: Usually between $500-$10,000 (Unless they are very successful in their discipline, then there is no limit to their price tag)

Quarter Horses

quarter horse stallion
Photo: Nicklebar Ranch

The Quarter Horse breed is a popular breed in the western community. They are the best breed for barrel racing as they can speed up really fast and turn on a dime. Also a great breed if you are into trail riding or want a family horse that everyone can ride. The breed got its name from the quarter horses being so fast over short distances and their famous quarter of a mile race.

  • Bred For: To be fast over short races
  • Body Type: Broad chests, short back, stocky body. Short neck.
  • Easy/Hard Keepers: Easy
  • Nature: Good temperament, Calm, intelligent.
  • Originates from:  Different breeds of horses (Arab, Turk and Barb) in the 17th century in United States.
  • Mostly used for: Western disciplines (barrel racing, roping, rodeo), endurance races and quarter horse races.
  • Maximum Speed: 55mph
  • Height: 14.3-16hh
  • Average cost:: Usually between $1500-$15,000 (Unless they are very successful in their discipline, then there is no limit to their price tag)

Understanding the difference between Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds

If you have a closer look at both breeds – they are both versatile horses and willing to work and please their owner – they can therefore do well in any discipline with the right training. The quarter horse is a great choice if you’re looking for an everyday trail horse and pleasure riding. However if you want to excel in jumping and is not a nervous rider than a thoroughbred might be more suitable for you. Some of the thoroughbred blood is very high energy though so if you are a beginner or a Nervous Nelly then a quarter horse is probably more suitable.

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