Imagine yourself back in the Old West, when wild horses ran free. Imagine the time when Native American horsemen followed the vast herds of buffalo across the Great Plains. When cowboys travelled hundreds of miles on cattle drives. A time when the horse was vital to survival in the great adventure that was the American West. Among the most treasured of these horses was one decorated by nature with loud splashes of color - the American Paint Horse.
Descending from the horses introduced by the Spanish conquistadors, these Paints were once wild horses that roamed the Western deserts and plains. The history of the American Paint Horse has been woven into a Western blanket of songs, stories and artwork.
That colorful part of our Western heritage still exists. We invite you to discover the West's most colorful horse - the American Paint Horse.
It is significant that American Paint Horses share a common ancestry with the American Quarter Horse and the American Thoroughbred. The American Paint Horse Association sprang from the efforts of like-minded horsemen and women who loved the ability and speed of the Western "stock" type horse, but who also appreciated the extra eye appeal of the American Paint.
However, when the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) emerged in 1940 to preserve stock horse pedigrees, it adopted standards that excluded horses with painted coat patterns. Regardless of the AQHA registry's color requirements, many American Paints, both then and today, are the result of matings between two AQHA-registered parents.
In response to AQHA restriction on horses with "excessive white" markings, two groups formed to preserve the Paint Horse's rightful heritage: The American Paint Quarter Horse Association, founded in 1961, and the American Paint Stock Horse Association, founded in 1962 by Rebecca Tyler Lockhart. In 1965 the two organizations united to become the American Paint Horse Association.
Not satisfied to be only a color breed based entirely on coat patterns, the founders of APHA also set strict standards of conformation, athletic ability and performance, as well as demanding intelligence, a calm temperament and a willing disposition. As proof of their commitment to these ideals, the founders instituted a stringent stallion inspection program that remained in effect until the breed was well established.
To be eligible for registry with the APHA, horses had to come from stock registered with one of four recognized organizations: the American Paint Quarter Horse Association, the American Paint Stock Horse Association, the Jockey Club, or the American Quarter Horse Association. Today, the three recognized organizations are the APHA, the AQHA and the Jockey Club. And even though solid-colored horses with Paint Horse bloodlines are included in the APHA registry as Breeding Stock, the association maintains color requirements for registration in the Regular Registry.
The colorful coat pattern is essential to the identity of the breed, and preserving these unique coat patterns is the purpose for which the association was formed.
A registered American Paint Horse is more than a horse with a distinctive coat pattern. While color is perhaps the most obvious trait, American Paint Horses also possess a distinct stock-type conformation.
In horseman's lingo, this refers to the physical conformation and characteristics that make a horse especially well-suited to working with livestock. These same traits also make them extraordinarily versatile, and capable of activities requiring tremendous speed, strength and agility.
When looking at a "stock horse," such as a Paint, you will notice that it is well muscled and powerfully built. American Paint Horses are generally short-coupled, strong-boned and well-balanced. Yet Paints display a remarkable degree of refinement and beauty, especially about the head and neck. While there is some individual variation in the size and substance of today's American Paint Horses, it is clear that each individual is cast from the same quality mold.
For breeding and registration purposes, American Paint Horses are catagorized by their distinctive coat patterns. The 5 most recognized patterns are described below.
Tobiano (toe-be-yah' no) is distinguished by head markings like those of a solid color horse. Their heads are completely solid, like a quarter horse, or have a blaze, star, strip or snip. Generally, all four of the tobiano's legs are white, at least below the hocks and knees. Their spots are regular and distinctively oval or round, extending down the neck and chest, giving the appearance of a shield. Usually a tobiano will have the dark color on one or both flanks although they may be either predominately dark or white and the tail is often two colors. This pattern is what the T Bar T Ranch breeds. The
Overo (ohvair' oh) pattern may be either predominately dark or white. But, typically, the white on an overo will not cross the back of the horse between its withers and its tail. Generally, all four legs will be dark, although there are exceptions to every rule. Also notable is that overos have bold white head markings, such as a bald or apron face. Overos generally have irregular, scattered and splashy markings, with the horse's tail usually one color. The
Tovero (Toe vair' oh) pattern shows traits of both the Overo and the Tobiano pattern, and can be predominately dark or white. The body is usually patterned like a tobiano, but the head is frequently bald or apron, with one or both blue eyes, like the overo. This pattern has become extremely popular, because it is believed to increase the breeders chance for color. The
The Sabino (Suh bee' no) pattern is classified as an overo, but the markings can be similar to snowflakes, which some people might confuse with the Appaloosa. The horse can be predominately dark or light. The Sabino has become increasingly popular, and many sources claim the sabino pattern will not carry the overo lethal white gene, which increases their value as breeding stock.
The Splashed White overo is considered to be the rarest of the overo patterns, and is frequently represented by the stallion Gambling Man (far left). This pattern usually sports the apron face, while having 4 white legs with the white continuing up on to the belly in an unbroken pattern. This makes the horse appear as if it were "dipped" part way into a vat of white paint, but not completely submerged.
For a far more detailed account of Paint patterns and markings,
please take the time to visit Janet Piercy's page:
The Colorful World of Paints & Pintos
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Last Updated 6/13/01