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The American Paint Horse

Colorful breed continues to grow in popularity


Combine an ideal horse’s best qualities—sound conformation, versatile athletic ability, intelligence, a calm temperament and willing disposition—mix in some color and you have the ingredients for one of the most popular breeds in the world, the American Paint Horse.

These desirable qualities were first and foremost on the minds of APHA’s founders when they established the breed registry nearly 40 years ago. As a result of their efforts, the Paint Horse has become one of the most treasured horses in the world, experiencing phenomenal growth.

By the end of 1962, the year the association was founded, 150 members had joined the organization and 250 horses were registered. To date, APHA has registered more than 579,000 horses. In August 2000, APHA registered 7,733 new Paint Horses—an all-time high for one month.

Membership in the association has also experienced dramatic increases over the years, and now totals more than 85,000 Paint Horse enthusiasts. Based on the APHA’s current growth rate, it is expected that more than 100,000 people will be members by the end of the year.

While the colorful coat pattern is essential to the identity of this popular breed, American Paint Horses have strict bloodline requirements and a distinctive stock-horse body type. To be eligible for the American Paint Horse Association’s Regular Registry, horses must come from stock registered with one of three recognized organizations: the APHA, the American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club (U.S. Thoroughbred Registry).

The APHA also maintains minimum color requirements for registration in the Regular Registry. Stallions, mares and geldings that meet the bloodline requirements and have a “qualifying area” of a white color spot on a dark horse, or dark color spot on a white horse, are placed in the Regular Registry.

Those horses that do not have sufficient qualifying areas for the Regular Registry, but meet the bloodline requirements, can be considered for the Breeding Stock Registry. "Breeding Stock" is reserved for stallions and mares that are ineligible for the Regular Registry, or registration with AQHA or the Jockey Club. Geldings with one Paint parent can be registered as “Identification Status.”

Each Paint Horse has a unique combination of white and any color of the equine spectrum: black, bay, brown, chestnut, dun, grullo, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray or roan. Markings can be any shape or size, and located virtually anywhere on the Paint's body.

Although Paint Horses come in a variety of colors with different markings, there are only three specific coat patterns recognized in the Regular Registry: overo, tobiano and tovero.

The tobiano pattern is distinguished by oval or round spots that extend down the neck and chest of the horse. White often crosses the horse’s back between its withers and tail. The tobiano’s head markings may be completely solid, or have a blaze, strip, star or snip. Generally, the legs are white, at least below the knees and hocks. The tail is often two colors.

The overo pattern may be mainly dark or white. Typically, the white will not cross the back of the horse between its withers and tail. Overos often have bold white head markings, such as a bald face. Also, an overo’s body markings will be irregular and scattered, and one or all four legs will be dark. The horse’s tail is usually one color.

Because not all coat patterns fit precisely in these two categories, the APHA expanded its classifications to include the tovero pattern, which describes horses that have characteristics of both the tobiano and overo patterns.

No matter what the color pattern, the American Paint Horse has established itself as an accomplished athlete in and out of the show arena. Whether on the trail with only its rider, or performing before thousands at competitions worldwide, the American Paint Horse’s combination of beauty and performance is unmatched.

About the APHA

More than 160 people are employed by the APHA at its world headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. They work not only to record Paint Horse pedigrees, but to preserve and promote the history, breeding, training, racing, showing, sales and enjoyment of American Paint Horses.

Recently, the association created a European Affairs position. Markus Rensing of Nordeau, Germany, heads that office. He is responsible for assisting APHA with youth and amateur activities, special events, shows, color inspections, registration applications and transfers of ownership throughout Europe.

Find out more about APHA and Paint Horses

For more information about APHA or APHA programs, call (817) 834-2742, ext. 788, or log on to To contact Markus Rensing, call (49) 02975-800 96, or write to him at Astenstrasse 13, 57392 Nordenau, Germany.


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