The paint horse is an extremely popular horse in both the Western and English worlds. In fact, its popularity makes the American Paint Horse Association is the second largest registry in the United States. Because the paint horse is a type of horse rather than a specific breed, various breeds are eligible for registration as paint horses.
Ultimately this allows for a degree of variation in the height and overall size.
A colorful coat pattern is essential to the identity of the paint horse. American paint horses have strict bloodline requirements and must display a distinctive stock-horse body conformation, meaning well-muscled and athletic, which is a construction ideal for ranch work. Paint horses work the show ring and provide lessons just as often as working the ranch. Because they can be any breed and are classified only by their coat colorings, paint horses are found in every circuit.
In order to be eligible for regular registration (as opposed to stock registration), the horse must exhibit a minimum amount of white hair over unpigmented (pink) skin. Also, the sire and dam must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club (association of Thoroughbreds). At least one of the parents must be a registered paint.
Paint horses cover the spectrum of colors, coming in combinations of white, black, brown, chestnut, dun, grullo, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray or roan. While a variety of colors exist, they are classified into three coat patterns: overo, tobiano and tovero.
Tobiano horses are recognized by a dark color usually covering one or both flanks. Generally all four legs are white at least below the hocks and knees.
The head markings are typically those of a solid-colored horse: solid or with a blaze, strip, snip or star. Another distinctive feature is its two-toned tail.
On Overos, the white will not cross the back of the horse between the withers and the tail. At least one, but often all four legs are dark. The white is irregular and splashy or splotchy. The head markings include a bald-face, apron-face or bonnie face. Unlike the Tobiano, the Overos’ tail is one color.
Toveros are a combination of the color specifics of Tobianos and Overos, hence the creation of the name Tovero. They are dark around the ears, possibly forehead and eyes. One or both of the Tovero’s eyes is blue. They also have dark patches around the mouth and chest, spots that might extend toward the neck. Often spots are at the tail.
In May 1965 the American Paint Horse Association was formed through the merging of the American Paint Stock Horse Association and the American Paint Quarter Horse Association. The first record of the paint horse dates back to 1519 when Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes led an expedition to the New World and Diaz del Castillo, a world historian accompanying the exploration, recorded a horse with white stockings on fore feet and the other horse was dark roan horse with white patches. Paintings of paint horses also have been found on Comanche American Indian buffalo robes, which were used as the tribe’s form of record-keeping. The Comanches were considered to be the finest horsemen on the plains and were drawn to the paint horse’s color and performance. They adopted the loud-colored, flashy horses and are often associated with one another today.
The paint horse has a long and reputable history thus making it a staple of North America. Paint horse enthusiasts are true-blue fans of the horse and will continuously speak of the versatility and work ethic of the most highly-prized horse in the world.