Breed evolution: Spanish explorers first brought "painted" or two-toned horses to North America. The Spanish breeds - Barb, Andalusian, and Arabian Horses - eventually formed the foundation for the wild mustang herds found throughout the American West. Native Americans prized their painted ponies, and tribal communities assigned magical properties to their mounts' resplendent, colorful markings.
As the centuries passed, Thoroughbred horses - brought to North America by English settlers - added to the mustang gene pool. Soon, early breeders sought to create working stock with stamina and good minds to be good ranch and trail partners.
Records show that some of the best-known foundation sires of the Quarter Horse breed had sufficient color to be regarded as American Paint Horses today. In fact, Quarter Horses and Paints shared a common history and gene pool until 1940, when the American Quarter Horse Association was formed. At that time, the AQHA excluded horses with "excessive white"- in other words, Paint Horses - from its registry. Even cropouts, the painted offspring from two registered Quarter Horse parents, were denied entry.
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Twenty years later, this virtual shutout resulted in the formation of two organizations, the American Paint Quarter Horse Association and the American Stock Horse Association. Both registered Paint Horses with Quarter Horse ancestry. In 1965, they merged to form the modern American Paint Horse Association.
Each Paint Horse has a unique combination of white and color - colors include black, bay, brown, chestnut, dun, grulla, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray, or roan. Markings can be any shape or size, and located virtually anywhere on the horse's body.
Although Paint Horses come in a variety of colors and markings, there are only three specific coat patterns: tobiano, overo, and tovero.
• The tobiano typically shows white over his back and up his legs, with white below his hocks and knees. His head is a solid-color, possibly with star, snip, or blaze. His mane and tail are usually two colors.
• The overo's white originates on the horse's underside (but rarely crosses his back), and he tends to show color on his legs. Typically, he has lots of white on his head, and one or both of his eyes are blue.
• The tovero exhibits a combination of tobiano and overo characteristics. For example, the tovero might have basic tovero coloring, but with a bald face.
Paint Horse Pattern Terms
Each Paint Horse has a particular combination of white and any color of the equine spectrum: black, bay, brown, chestnut, dun, grulla, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray, or roan. Markings can be any shape or size, and located virtually anywhere on the Paint's body. Although Paints come in a variety of colors with different markings, there are only three specific coat patterns: tobiano, overo, and tovero. Here's a rundown of these patterns, plus a few common variations.
Tobiano: The tobiano (or "toby") typically shows white over his back and up his legs; it's common for two, three, or all four of a tobiano's legs to be white below his hocks and knees. His head is normally like that of a solid-color horse, either solid or showing a star, snip, strip, or blaze. His spots are regular and distinct, with clear borders. His mane and tail are usually two colors.
Overo: With the overo, the white originates on the horse's underside, and rarely crosses his back. He tends to show color on all four legs. There's typically a lot of white on his head; overos may be bald-faced, apron-faced, or bonnet-faced. Often, one or both eyes will be blue. Where color meets white, the borders are often irregular, and the spots of color may be "bordered" (surrounded by a mixture of colored and white hairs).
Tovero: The tovero horse shows both tobiano and overo characteristics. For example, this horse might have basic tobiano coloring, but with a bald or "apron" face. Or, he might be almost all white, showing base color only on his muzzle, ears, chest, and flanks.
Sabino: The sabino has an entirely different white pattern, usually including wide blazes and completely white legs. Some have so much white that color may appear only on his ears and chest (see medicine-hat coloration, below), or on the dock of his tail. The sabino's base coat color isn't solid, but mixed with white hairs - this looks like roaning, but it's not. He might sport a "roany" white that begins on his belly and reaches up his sides.
Medicine hat: A dark-colored cap at the horse's poll is called a "medicine hat." Horses distinguished by this marking usually have a predominately white coat, often with a dark "shield" pattern across their chest. Native Americans believed these markings carried special spiritual protection as they rode into battle.
Splashed white: Splashed white is a spotting pattern that often makes the horse look as though it's been dipped in white paint. For instance, on a dark-colored horse, the legs and bottom portion of the body are often white, with a white head and blue eyes. Normally, there's little or
Today, the APHA represents more than 100,000 members in the United States, Canada, and nearly 40 other countries and territories. The APHA recognizes that no matter what riding discipline its members primarily pursue, more than 76 percent are trail riders, too. To welcome trail devotees and their colorful mounts into the organization, it developed such programs as Ride America and the APHA-sponsored extended-day wilderness rides.
Owners tell us: "The pattern of his coat and my horse's color are outstand-ing," says Patti Bronikowski of her Paint Horse gelding, Mica, who's boarded at B&S Ranch in Centennial, Colorado. "I saw a part of his coat that was silver, black, and white, and that coloring inspired his name."
Bronikowski confirms that it was her horse's looks that first attracted her to her steady trail mount. His intricate patterning coupled with his compact size made her ask for a test drive. Once on his back, she loved the horse's smooth stride and easy turns. Mica's reining training background means he has lots of skills, and knows how to bend and flex on command. He's also had substantial training, which boosts his confidence on the trail.
"I fell in love with Mica's looks first, then rode him and just loved his responsiveness and great attitude," says Bronikowski.
While Mica's attitude is calm and willing during rides, he's also a bit of a ham. "Mica loves to be involved in conversations," Bronikowski says with a laugh. "When I'm hanging out by his stall chatting with another horsewoman, Mica often hangs his head over the door to be right in the action - he even moves his mouth as though he has plenty to add.
"Because he's in the center stall at our boarding barn, he's the first horse people see as they enter. His friendly attitude makes him a great barn greeter and makes him a good friend to me."
Bronikowski says Mica has been a great friend to her during her single years. "Now that I'm involved with a very good man, we'll be looking for another Paint Horse, so we can ride together," she says.
On the trail: Now, Bronikowski and Mica often trail ride through Colorado's state parks. The horse-friendly Cherry Creek State Park and Chatfield Reservoir are close to Mica's boarding facility and become usual weekend haunts for the trail-riding pair. The pair is even shown on Cherry Creek State Park's printed brochure.
"Mica truly loves to go out on the trails," Bronikowski says. "When we ride to the top of the hill at Cherry Creek State Park, I stop to look at the water, mountains and clouds. It's so peaceful. Mica gets to graze while I get to gaze. When our ride is half over and we turn around to head home, Mica's walk slows - instead of speeding up to get home like most horses would - and he keeps looking over his shoulder at the park he didn't get to see. It's as if he's hoping I'll get the hint and head back up the trail."
Julie Anderson of Rivendell Farm in Litchfield, Maine, can attest to the Paint Horse's appeal and trail readiness: Her longtime trail mounts are all spotted. Anderson enjoys the trails in the Northeast. She and her two teenage daughters hit the trails together - riding mother-and-daughter horses.
"Echo, the youngest mare, has the loud coloring that matches her mom," Anderson says. "She's spunky and is never boring to ride on trails. She doesn't love motorcycles or 18-wheelers, but we know what to look for and can quickly quiet her down. At 16 and 19, my daughters are both excellent horsewomen."
The Anderson family traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, with their horses for some ultimate trail-ride bonding time. "We rode the horse trails through Gettysburg's Civil War battlefields. It was quite an experience, historically and family-wise. It took 13 hours to get to the ride site. The horses did well on the trailer and on the trails - no problems. Of course, we trailer all the time to various rides in Maine, but never for such a long trailer haul."
Anderson says the history-making trip and her family's many other trail-riding experiences have helped the group grow close to one another. "We go camping with our horses in the summer time," she says. "Riding and horse responsibilities have given us a healthy outlet that we all love. We try to ride together every weekend and sometimes during the week. My favorite time is trail-riding time. My horse and I are so relaxed, the girls are happy, and all the cares melt away - we just enjoy the day."
Selection savvy: Although Bronikowski admittedly was drawn to Paint Horses for their chrome and flash, she emphasizes the importance of finding a horse that's calm and willing. She says she looks for horses with soft eyes. "The eyes are such an indicator of temperament," she says. "A horse's willingness and responsiveness are also high on the list. And, if you have a chance to ride or take a horse to a trail before you buy, make sure to observe the horse's level of spookiness. Too much fear can spoil a trail ride."
Anderson recommends looking for a horse that's a good match for your riding level. "There are a lot of good horses out there, and buying a horse that is too much for the rider is just no fun and it's dangerous, too. Once you have your dream horse, keep in mind it takes a bit to get to know that individual. I have learned a lot about my horse - what scares her on the trail, the spot on her neck where she likes me to scratch."
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