Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 2/1/97; 10:00:00 AM.

The American Paint Horse - Birth of a 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 effort of like-minded horsesmen 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 the 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 untied to become the American Paint Horse Association (APHA).

Not satisfied to be only a color breed based entirely on coat patterns, the founders of the 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 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 (U.S. Thoroughbred Registry), 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 the 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. And 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.

Three Coats of Paint
Paint Horses come in a multitude of colors and an endless variety of patterns. Their coat is always a combination of white with any of the basic colors common to horses: black, bay, brown, chestnut, dun, grulla, sorrel, palomino, gray and roan. Each Paint Horse has its own markings, and no two horses are exactly alike in color and coat pattern.

You may have heard the terms "Pinto" and "Paint" used interchangeably to describe horses with particular spotted coat patterns. This came about because the Spanish called all spotted horses "caballos Pintos," which translates into "Paint Horses." Prior to the establishment of the APHA, a spotted horse could have been called by the English term "Paint," or by the Spanish term "Pinto."

However, now, because of the existence of both a Paint Horse and Pinto registry, these terms can describe two entirely different types of horse. The Pinto Horse Association registers any breed of horse that meets the minimum color requirements established by that registry. The APHA registers only those horses that can prove parentage from one of the approved registries and that meet a minimum color requirement.

Some spotted horses can be double-registered with the APHA and the Pinto Horse Association if they meet the breed standards specified by both registries. However, the two registries are not related. They operate under the guidance of separate governing bodies and have different rules and registration requirements.

For registration and breeding purposes, American Paint Horses are categorized by their distinctive coat patterns.

The Tobiano (pronounced tow be yah' no) pattern is distinguished by head markings like those of a solid-colored horse; their heads may be completely solid, or have a blaze, strip, star or snip. Generally, all four of the tobiano's legs are white, at least below the hocks and knees. Their spots are regular and distinctivly 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 a tobiano may be either pre-dominantly dark or white. The tail is often two colors.

The overo (pronounced oh vair' oh) pattern may also be either predominantly 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, one or all four legs will be dark. Also notable is that overos have bold white head markings, such as a bald face. Overos generally have irregular, scattered markings. The horses's tail is usually one color.

However, not all coat patterns fit neatly into the tobiano or overo categories. For this reason, a number of years ago the APHA expanded its classifications to include "tovero" (pronounced tow vair' oh) to describe horses that have characteristics of both the tobiano and overo patterns.

Interestingly, the terms "tobiano" and "overo" have a Spanish heritage, a discernible tie to Cortez and the conquistadores who reintroduced horses to the North American continent in the 1400s.

The "cropout" is an interesting phenomenon in the Paint breed. A cropout is an overo whose parents were solid horses not registered with the APHA.

The overo gene is a recessive trait. A cropout occurs when a solid horse with an overo gene factor is bred to another solid horse with an overo gene factor, and both transmit that genetic factor to their offspring. All cropouts are overos.

Because the tobiano gene factor is dominant, all tobianos have a least one tobiano parent.

What is especially fascinating about Paint Horse breeding is that the genetics of coat color inheritance is still not readily understood. Like when diving for treasure not every oyster produces a pearl, not every breeding of two Paint Horses results in a colored foal. This makes each Painted foal that much more valuable.

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