Thursday, December 4, 2014


Not just any spotted horse can be an American Paint Horse.  To be an official member of the breed, a horse has to have one parent who is registered with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA).  The other parent can be registered with the  APHA, the American Quarter Horse Association, or the Jockey Club (which registers Thoroughbreds).

Paint Horses got their start back in 1519, when Hernán Cortés and his buddies, the Conquistadors, came to the New World looking for gold and other things to make them rich.  They brought horses with them, and after a while, whole herds of horses were running around loose in North America.  The Indians realized right away that it would be a good thing for them to have horses of their very own.  So they began capturing the horses and riding them to hunt buffalo and to travel and to make war on other tribes.  The pinto horses were special favorites with the Indians because of how flashy they looked, and also because they performed well.  Comanches are thought by many authorities to have been the best horsemen on the Plains.

You may be wondering what the difference is between a pinto and a paint horse.  Well, it all has to do with bloodlines.  Lots of breeds can have pinto horses, such as even draft horses or mules.  But Paint Horses, as I mentioned before, have to have one parent who is a registered Paint Horse, and the other can be a Paint, Quarter Horse, or Thoroughbred.

There are categories for the different types of markings on Paint Horses.  I will try to explain these, but they have to do with genetics, which is a complicated subject.  So remember that I am just a cute little chihuahua who doesn't always understand these things!

Some Paint Horses have blue eyes,
which is strange to see, if you're not used to it!

Okay, well, every Paint Horse has white, plus some other color.  The most usual colors are black, bay, brown, chestnut, or sorrel.

TOBIANO is the spot pattern you will see most often.  It consists of rounded markings with white legs and white across the back.  The head markings are solid, with a blaze, strip, star, or snip of white.   A tobiano can be either mostly dark or mostly white.  The tail is often two colors.

A Tobiano Paint
Wikimedia Commons, posted by H20

OVERO (oh-vair-oh) horses have a group of spots that are sharp, splashy, and irregular, running horizontally. The face may have a distinctive look with a lot of white.  Usually there is more dark color than white, and at least one leg is dark.  The overo tail is usually one color.

Overo pattern of markings

The TOVERO spotting pattern combines the tobiano and overo.  There is dark color around the ears, which may also cover the forehead and eyes.  One or both eyes may be blue.  Chest spots of various sizes may extend up the neck.  There are flank spots of different sizes, with smaller spots that go up the horse's sides and loin.  In addition, there may be spots at the base of the tail.

    A tovero horse with blue eyes and "Medicine hat" markings 
Wikimedia; uploaded by Montanabw

Paint-bred horses who are a SOLID color may also be registered with the APHA, if everything about their breeding qualifies them otherwise.

Chestnut Splash Foal
"Splash" is a version of overo,
and it is the rarest spotting pattern.

Paint Horses are well-balanced and muscular.  They have powerful hindquarters and a low center of gravity.  They are calm, intelligent, and willing to please. Training and handling them is easy, so they are a good choice for most riders.  They do well with driving, jumping, dressage, trail riding, and ranch work.

My personal opinion, as a chihuahua, is that Paint Horses are really cool-looking.  If my legs were long enough to reach the stirrups, I think this might be the kind of horse I would like to have!

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