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11 Useful Facts about the American Paint Horse Breed

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While looking for a new horse, I ran across a talented American Paint Horse. Besides knowing they’re colorful and flashy, I’m not familiar with any facts about the breed, so I decided to research them to find out more.

The American Paint Horse encompasses many fascinating facts, some that distinguish them from other breeds. For example, American Paint Horses are versatile enough to compete in many equine activities, and they are strongly influenced by two of the world’s fastest horse breeds.

Many people buy an American Paint horse because of its fascinating color pattern. But there is a lot of facts horse owners should know about the unique breed.

american paint horse,

American Paint Horse Facts.

1. The American Paint Horse competes in horseracing.

The American Paint Horse Association officially sanctioned Paint horse racing in 1966. Since that time, Paints have proven to be one of the fastest breeds on the track.

Their races are run at a similar distance to the Quarter horse race. Many of the top running Paints display champion Quarter horse studs in their pedigree. It’s rumored that an American Paint Horse reached the amazing speed of 55 mph, matching the top speed of any horse.

2. American Paint Horses make excellent rodeo horses.

Cowboys used Paints on the ranches, and they have continued to excel in ranching events in rodeos.

Paint has the conformation needed to be successful as a roping horse, barrel horse, or steer wrestling horse. The powerful hindquarters of Paints provide the explosiveness needed by ropers to fire out of a shute and catch his calf.

Similarly, barrel racers need horses that can sprint down an alleyway to their first barrel and stop, spin around the barrel, and fire towards the next barrel. A barrel horse must be athletic, quick, and smart. In a Paint horse, you get all the characteristics needed to make a good barrel horse.

3. American Paint horses compete in western halter competitions.

American Paint Horse Association (APHA) organizes Paint horse exhibitions in many disciplines. These athletic and versatile horses compete in Halter, Showmanship, English, Western, and Trail classes.

You can check the APHA website to learn more about the world show and events they offer. You may find one that you would enjoy competing in.

4. American Paints are excellent for pleasure riding.

Pleasure riding is an enjoyable pastime you can participate in alone or with family and friends. It’s also a time you can bond with your horse and teach him a few things without pressure.

The American Paint horse makes a great trail riding companion. They are intelligent and have an easygoing temperament with sturdy conformation. Plus, you have the benefit of riding a horse that stands out from the rest of the pack.

5. American Paints can be successful showjumpers.

If a horse is athletic and a willing learner, you can train them to perform most equine sports. And we know Paints have a good head and generous disposition and are athletic, which makes them the ideal candidate to be a jumper.

6. Paint horses trace back to 500 A.D.

Paint horses have been recorded in Europe since 500 A.D. They became popular in Spain and made their way to the Americas with the Spanish Conquistadors in the 1500s.

When the Conquistadors migrate away from an area, they frequently left horses behind. Either intentionally or they escaped. These horses roamed free and eventually became part of the wild mustang herds.

7. Native American leaders often rode a Paint horse.

From the wild mustang herds, Native Americans domesticated the animals. The Paint was desired because of the uniqueness of its coat, pleasant disposition, and athletic ability. The leaders of the tribe would often ride a Paint.

Eventually, thoroughbred and quarter-horse bloodlines were introduced to the paint horses. The crossbreeding heightened, even more, the desirable qualities of the Paint horse by increasing their athletism and speed. In the 1940s, the American Quarter Horse Association was formed.

They included strict rules governing how many white horses could be registered as Quarter horses upon its formation. Horses with white extending above the knee could not register as quarter horses.

In response, owners of Paint horses formed the American Paint Horse Association in the 1960s. The APHA is now the second-largest horse association in the world. If you’re interested in learning more about horses that are native to North America I suggest you read my article on the topic.

8. No two Paint horses have the same pattern.

Paint Horses can come in any combination of white and other equine colors, such as chestnut, dun, grulla, brown, bay, black, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray, or roan. Like a snowflake, no two paint pattern is precisely the same.

The pattern can be anywhere on the body and in any shape or size. With all the possible combinations, you would think that there would be a sizable amount of names for the patterns; however, this is not the case.

9. American Paint horses come in three major coat patterns.

Tobiano horses typically have solid-colored heads.

A tobiano (or “toby”) pattern has white over some of his back and on his legs. It’s common for multiple legs of a tobiano to be white below his hocks and knees.

A toby’s head is commonly a solid color with a star, snip, strip, or blaze. His color pattern is distinct, with clear borders, and the horse’s mane and tail are ordinarily multi-colored.

american paint horse,
By Chandely – self-made by Chandely,

Overo‘s often have one blue eye.

Horses with overo patterns have white on their underbelly, legs, and head. The white doesn’t extend over the horse’s back. Some look like they were held by their withers and dipped in white paint, with white splashing on their head as they played.

It is common for Paints with this pattern to have one blue eye. The borders of the designs are not regular like the toby.

american paint horse,
By Bonnie U. Gruenberg

Tovero is a mixture of tobiano and overo color coat patterns.

The tovero pattern is a catch-all category for the combination of tobiano and overo patterns. Toveros have more white in the face and chest area. They also can have blue eyes.

american paint horse,
Anna from British Columbia, Canada [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

Sabino looks similar to a roan horse with extra white.

The sabino pattern is mostly solid-colored with white legs and full blazes. Although the horse may look like he has a lot of white, he has a light base coat or a base coat with a mixture of white and another color. Picture a light roan with indistinct white patches; this best describes the sabino pattern.

american paint horse,
Michael Fiegle [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

10. Not all Paint horses qualify as American Paint Horses.

The American Paint Horse Association determines what horse qualifies to be registered as a Paint horse. To qualify as a registered Paint, a horse must meet the following criteria:

Sire and dam must be registered with an association.

For a foal to register as an American Paint Horse its sire and dam must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, the Jockey Club, or the American Quarter Horse Association.

Horses must have a characteristic of a Paint horse.

The attributes of a Paint include: White leg markings above the knees or hocks, blue eyes, apron face or bald face, white on the jaw or lower lip, blue zone around a natural Paint marking, and two-color mane (one color must be white), dark spots or freckles in white hair on the face or legs, white areas in the non-visible zone, or a contrasting area of another color in the non-visible region (for a predominantly white horse)

A horse must carry a Paint pattern gene.

A horse must carry a Paint pattern gene, confirmed through APHA genetic testing from an APHA-approved lab. The Paint pattern genes are: Tobiano; Frame Overo; Sabino 1; Splash White 1, 2, or 3; Dominant White 5, 10 or 20

Approved labs are the University of California–Davis, and Etalon Diagnostics, you can click here to go to the American Paint Horse Association Website for all information you need to see if your horse qualifies for registration.)

Contact the American Paint Horse Association to register a Paint.

The American Paint Horse Association (APHA) provides useful resources to help you obtain information about showing and registering your Paint horse.

If you have any concerns about your Paint’s registration, I highly recommend visiting their site. The APHA has recorded over 59 million horses since its inception and provides a wealth of useful information.

There are two genetic disorders associated with American Paint horses: Deafness and overo lethal white foal syndrome. Foals born with overo lethal foal syndrome often die within days of birth.

11. Paint Horses can register as Quarter horses.

A registered Paint horse can also register as a quarter horse with the AQHA if it meets their requirements. To register a horse with the AQHA, the horse must meet one of the following:

  • Registered Appendix bred to Registered Quarter Horse
  • Registered Quarter Horse bred to Registered Quarter Horse
  • Registered Thoroughbred bred to Registered Quarter Horse

To be registered as a Paint, a foal’s sire and dam must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, the Jockey Club, or the American Quarter Horse Association.

The AQHA will accept horses with some white spotting. There have been some horses that qualify for triple registration, such as Living Large.

Living Large was a registered Quarter horse with enough color to be eligible for Paint registration and registration in the Pinto Horse Association.

Picture of an American Paint horse.

What are American Paint Horses used for?

When looking at a potential pleasure horse, I want an animal that is versatile enough to use in multiple equine activities. I wasn’t sure if the American Paint Horse fit the bill, so I checked around to learn more about the breed.

American Quarter horses and Thoroughbreds strongly influence the American Paint Horse breed. They are athletic and intelligent horses that perform well in many equine activities, including pleasure riding, racing, ranching, eventing, or rodeoing.

Paints have been treasured since the days of the old west for their durability and color patterns. Today’s Paint horses are a recognized breed requiring adherence to strict bloodline rules that have ensured a horse of superior conformation and ability.

More often, they have the body composition of quarterhorses, muscular hindquarters, medium height, and a well-balanced body. These qualities translate well for most equine events.

What is the Difference Between an Appaloosa and a Paint Horse?

Recently I saw an Appaloosa with a lot of white coloring on its coat. The amount of white color on its body made me wonder if there is any difference between Paints and Appaloosa horses, so I decided to find out. 

The Appaloosa breed has a different color coat pattern than a Paint. The Appaloosa’s coats are a mixture of white hair with a base color, and a Paint typically looks splashed with white. Further, an Appaloosa has an LP gene not found in Paint horses that causes striped hooves and visible sclera.

Appaloosa horses were bred and raised by the Nez Perez Indians in the North-Western United States. The Nez Perez liked them for their endurance and willingness to work.

Paints have been crossed with quarter horses and thoroughbreds, transforming their bodies to resemble a typical quarter horse’s frame. Paint horses also have a color pattern that looks more like splashes of white across their coats.

Both Appaloosas and Paints have a formal association that requires specific standards for registration. If neither the Appaloosa nor Paint horse had much white in their coat, it would be hard to distinguish them from one another.

Below is a YouTube video showing the versatility of Paint horses.