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The American Paint Horse

        Orren Mixer's Paints        

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.

The Breed
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.

Colors & Conformation

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.

  Gotta Wear Shades, our own Stallion 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, but it is becoming increasingly common to see white legs as well. The overo will usually have bold white head markings, such as a bald or apron face, and one or both eyes can be blue. Overos generally have irregular, scattered and splashy markings. The horse's tail is usually one color. The palomino pictured is Diamond Eyes, a well known APHA sire. The overo pattern is what we at the Cactus Rose Ranch breeds, and our own stallion, Gotta Wear Shades (right) is considered a frame overo.

  The Tobiano (toe-be-yah' no) pattern is distinguished by head markings like those of a solid color horse. Their heads are completely solid 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. The tail is often two colors. The stallion on the left is Drums Royal Art and the mare on the right is Game Points Ivory, by Bingos Game Point.

 Eyes a Diamond Miss, aka: Nuggets, a predominately white palomino tovero, and our own top broodmare  The Tovero (Toe vair' oh) pattern shows traits of both the Overo and the Tobiano pattern, and can be predominatley 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 increases the chance for color. The palomino mare (left) pictured is our own top broodmare, Eyes a Diamond Miss, who is a granddaughter of the palomino stallion, Diamond Eyes, in the "Overo" section above. The stallion on the right is Boston Classic.

Sabino pattern, with less white The Sabino (Suh bee' no) pattern is classified as an overo, but the pattern 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 cannot throw the lethal white gene, which makes them valuable as breeding stock. The stallion on the left is First Class and on the right is Prime Bonanza.

Gambling Man, a crop out, Splash White Stallion  Barlink UltraLite, a Splash White mare  The Splashed White is considered to be the rarest and most unusual of the overo patterns, and is best 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 of the horse 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. The filly on the right is Barlink UltraLite.

I have just revisited Janet Piercy's "Colorful World of Paints & Pintos"
and I can see I have lots of updating to do when it comes to pattern descriptions. This will have to be done slowly when I have time, as it can be complicated, and I now believe that several of our own horses, including Shades, Mocha and Crystal, show Sabino characteristics also!

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Last Updated 8/06/05