The Mixer Horse

No, he’s not your grandpa’s horse, Wimpy, The Ole Man, or any particular horse.

No, he’s not your grandpa’s horse, Wimpy, The Ole Man, or any particular horse.

Mixer Horse
Orren Mixer created the icon of the American Quarter Horse based on his idea of the ideal Quarter Horse.

By Lesli Groves in America’s Horse

The icon of the American Quarter Horse is a painting known around AQHA headquarters as “The Mixer Horse.”

At the 1967 AQHA Convention in New Orleans, the public information committee resolved to commission a portrait of an “ideal” Quarter Horse for promotional purposes.

Renowned artists weren’t grappling for the assignment. An artist’s best work is done for his own satisfaction, not someone else’s and certainly not a committee’s. Could a group of ranchers, racehorse men and show-ring regulars ever agree on what was ideal in a horse?

Orren Mixer of Oklahoma wasn’t the first person hired. But Darol Dickinson of Colorado, a respected equine artist, couldn’t read the collective minds of the committee. His masterpiece was rejected, and Mixer inherited the conundrum.

Orren hauled his ideal Quarter Horse to Amarillo for the committee’s inspection in June 1968. Warren Shoemaker of New Mexico, known for his savvy breeding practices said there was only one thing wrong with it: The horse wasn’t carrying Shoemaker’s brand.

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“I wanted to paint a horse that would please the majority, because I knew I couldn’t please everybody,” Orren said. “I’d painted some great horses – Otoe, Kid Meyers, Three Chicks, The Old Man, Tiny Watch – but for the AQHA horse, I didn’t use any particular horse for a model. This one came out of my imagination.”

Orren Mixer
Orren Mixer created artwork using many famous American Quarter Horses. AQHA file photo.

Personally, while helping out at the AQHA booth at big events, I’d heard it differently. I once wasted 10 minutes trying to convince a lady at the World Show that the free print we were handing out wasn’t a portrait of the Thoroughbred Three Bars. Others have told me that their uncle’s horse posed for the portrait, or that Mixer copied a photo of their horse.

“Roy Browning has said right in front of me that I used The Ole Man,” Orren said. “I don’t care. Lots of people say I must have used their horse, or that they’ve got one just like him at home. If it makes them feel good about their horse, well, that’s great by me.”

For 30 years, horse lovers have tacked up reproductions of the painting in feed stores, cafes, barns and college dorm rooms. AQHA has distributed hundreds of thousands. They’ve been framed, decoupaged and printed as post cards.

Just as the sight of Old Glory means more to an American, the impact of the Mixer original depends on your background – whether or not you colored the image in an AQHA activity book as a child and put a Quarter Horse window decal on your first car. Sometimes people write in saying it’s time to turn the old horse out to pasture. They say he no longer fits the Quarter horse image. The length of his tail is a typical target. Too much muscle. Not enough muscle.

They might be missing the big picture. It’s easy to do in this era of specialization.

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A subcommittee to refine the standards for judging halter classes met a couple of years ago. The members included a Ph.D., a veterinarian, halter specialists and breeders of performance horses. As they sat around the long table in the President’s Room at AQHA headquarters, they struggled to describe criteria upon which they could agree. Then Jerry Wells spoke. Jerry had shown 60 AQHA World Champions at halter and one in calf roping, had bred barrel futurity champions and won more than a million dollars with a racehorse everyone else overlooked.

“I’m looking for a horse like the one in that painting,” Jerry said as he pointed to the Mixer horse on the wall.

The committee totally agreed.

Orren, who died in 2008, is a member of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.

22 thoughts on “The Mixer Horse”

  1. THE MIXER IS THE IDEAL QUARTER HORSE JUST NEEDED A LONGER TAIL ONLY BECAUSE I LIKE LONG TAILS. I LOVE A QTR HORSE THAT HAS MUSCLE LIKE THE OLD TIME STOCK HORSES

  2. I beleive the Mixer horse is fine the he is. I agree with Jerry Wells, I would show a horse that looks like the Mixer horse. This horse looks like he could do it all. Isn’t that what the quarter horse is all about?

  3. Yes, thru careful breeding and stallion selection, I’ve had
    some pretty nice almost ideal Quarter Horses. My palomino, a
    g-daughter of Ed Echols, my Sabino Paint mare a g-g-daughter of
    Paul Waggoner, her daughter a g-g-g-g-daughter of Poco Bueno, her
    two sons, geldings g-g-g-sons of Leo, Tonto Bars Gill, Mr. Bruce,
    the line goes on. I’m very proud to own such great guys. One is stocky, the other takes after the racing side. Both have long tails.

  4. He is my ideal horse also . I do like a longer tail. just because thats what in. I love his long neck.Some would say his back looks a little long but to have a long neck you need a longer back to accomidate it and balance him out.. I have fashioned my breeding program after that horse. he is just medium muscled. not like most of the halter horses but great to look at.I’d have no problem showing this horse. All around thats what we all want right!

  5. My late palomino gelding would fit right in the Mixer category. Stocky and well built. For the fans of long tails just remember that if you are on a brushy trail ride or working cattle, a long tail can be a hazard. It can collect all kinds of stuff then you have to spend a lot of time cleaning that nice ultra long tail.

  6. I love this horse. I agree that the Quarter Horse is all about versatility. This horse could do it all. We can’t really predict what will happen in the future… shorter tails may come back into fashion. What’s important is his conformation. He’s gorgeous, and I hope my gelding looks just like him. In fact, I’m not sure how we got so divided between the halter horses and the performance horses in the first place – or in my humble opinion, the Western horses and the English horses. Thoroughbreds are just fine, but if you want a 17+ hand long-legged horse… why not buy a Thoroughbred instead of revamping the American Quarter Horse breed? Well, regardless, I’m going to show my 15.2 ish gelding in all of the classes that are available.

  7. I have this portrait framed that my Grandfather had hanging in his house, a memory I recall as early as 6 years old. Still have it and as a little girl I always said “I’m gonna have a whole bunch of those one day Grandpa!!”

  8. I coach youth horse judging for 4-H and FFA. This is typically the first picture I show, remarking that the painting is an idea of the ideal. The quarter horse breed is so versatile that I don’t think there can be an ideal for the entire breed considering how many different areas the quarter horse can excel, maybe more so a conformational ideal for each discipline. The Mixer horse doesn’t look like an ideal hunter, western pleasure, reining, jumping, or halter horse but he does embody the general aspects we look for in the Quarter Horse breed: adequate muscle definition, well laid back shoulder, structurally correct legs, and well proportioned.

    A beautiful piece of art.

  9. In my opinion it is VERY ideal. I keep looking for the rare horses like this one left. Yes, he COULD be a hunter, like the once were, or western pleasure…so many options. What I see now is SICK. He is near perfect, and all I see is Halter clases is the opposite, unproportional horses with stick straight posty legs. I’d be shocked if someone could point a horse out at Congress that had as much bend in his back legs as this perfect guy.

  10. An old timer told me that the short tail showed off the quarter horses powerful rear end. Now that I am an old timer I still agree. Not fond of the long tails that I grew up with associating with walking horses. Don’t want the tail dragging in the dirt. Luckily none of mine have an exceptionally long tail but sure would pluck it if they did. Orren Mixer’s paintings have always been awesome.

  11. I have always loved the Orren Mixer quarter horse!! I love the painting and I too have frequently looked at that painting and thought that he was the “ideal” quarter horse. He could halter, ride and go to work. He is also beautiful to look at!!! Love him!!! Please don’t change him!

  12. I remember having this poster on my wall as a kid living in the city. Always said I was going to the country so I could have a real Quarter Horse. Later had one that pointed out withers, mane, tail, ect. I eventually had 5!
    I also concur on the longer tails. So pretty and enjoyed brushing them out. I did have an older rancher tell me they cut them short back in the day to make the buttocks look bigger/muscular. Also aids in driving. Awesome print brings back some great memories. thanks!

  13. As a Australian AQHA judge, the Mixer horse is my ideal horse when ever I enter the arena to judge.

  14. Like other who have written here. I too was a 4-H leader and used the Mixer horse as the ideal to teach from. But my fondest use was in college when i was required to do a paper on a ‘Famous’ contemporary artist. This was in the 70’s. I called Oklahoma to talk with Mr Mixer, but his wife said he was too busy. So i interviewed her. I put my paper together with over 20 pictures taken directly from the old AQHA journals we had and that interview. Despite the professor never having heard of Orren Mixer, I received an A plus. The pictures alone proved how highly regarded this artist was.
    Dont change the horse. And you judges out there who put up the post legged Sumo wrestler type horses should be ashamed. Take a good look at what an all around horse SHOULD be.

  15. The Mixer is a lovely horse and he is perfect in body muscling, but as we all know the tail of the horse is for the defense against flies and such. So for him it would be of great help to have a longer tail. It doesn’t have to be to the ground but it would help him at least reach the flies on his face. It is about the whole horse and him functioning correctly. With a shorten tail this horse would require a tail extension to manage the total job of removing the flies from his face and body without the help of another animal. Just my opinion.

  16. Fads come and go even in the horse world, short tails, roached manes, fuzzy saddle pads. A great horse is “A Great Horse” no matter the color of the hair nor the length of the tail. A good horse is welcome in my barn any day, short tail, green polka dots and all.

  17. I think I do have the “mixer” horse. If you care to look at his breeding, go to the all breed pedigree, type in Sir OK Joeleo Bar and check out his pedigree. He reminds me so much of Leo and Three Bars it is uncanny. He is mostly foundation qtr but has enough TB to give him is height. His sire was a futurity halter champion and he has lots of Rom arena and race. Check out his 6th grand daddy. His 5th is Ironsides……out of Man O’War!! Even TB don’t get that close.

  18. My husband and I were friends of the Mixer’s and privledged to occasionally watch him paint. ‘The Mixer Horse’ was a compilation of several different horses… his idea of what the perfect horse should be. We felt so honored that he used our Okie Leo as the color with his markings. He loved all kinds of horses . Orren was truly ‘One of a kind’ , I don’t believe there will ever be another person that could paint like him.

  19. To me, The ideal Quarter Horse, would be Muscular, thick-necked , short-headed, flat-footed, have a short-mane or no mane, squat and easy to butcher… that would be the ideal Quarter Horse! Dull and listless, easy to slaughter. one that has a delicious flavor…

  20. I just picked up a picture of this horse by orren mixer to hang on my wall how do I tell if its real and does anyone know the value of such a painting I know its not a numbered print it has his signature on it any help would be greatly appreciated

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