The Paint Horses are a people loving breed and enjoy social interaction with their owners!

The Paint horse is sturdy horse with a stocky build and an agreeable disposition. The American Paint horse is quiet and dependable, and known for its intelligence and calmness. It’s striking color patterns, strong hindquarters, and refined heads combine to make an eye catching breed of horse valued by both beginners and advanced riders.

The anscestors of the American Paint horse were among the 17 horses brought to the New World by Hernando Cortes in 1519. By the early 1800’s, These spotted horses became wild horses, free ranging across the North America by the early 1800’s and and today is considered one of the native American horses.

Although “Pinto” is used interchangeably with Paint, Paint refers specifically to a horse with a stock type confirmation whose sire and Dam are registered with the American Paint Horse Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, or the Jockey Club. One parent must be APHA registered.

Scientific Classification


    Horse Breeds

    The Paint Horses are a light horse breed. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
    Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type (sport horse), saddle type, or ‘other’. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the ‘other’ classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. In some cases the ‘other’ types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
    The horse class the American Paint Horse fits into is both the stock type and the hunter-type class.

    two paint horses up close
    Image Credit: Zuzule, Shutterstock

    Horse Backgrounds

    When Hernando Cortes came to the New World in 1519, he had among his 17 horses the ancestors of the American Paint. By the early 1800’s, these spotted horses were wild horses, free ranging across the North America. The Native American peoples particularly valued these wild horses, believing the unique coloring of these now native American horses gave them magical properties which protected them in battle.
    Although “Pinto” is used interchangeably with Paint, Paint refers specifically to a horse with a stock type confirmation whose sire and Dam are registered with the American Paint Horse Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, or the Jockey Club. One parent must be APHA registered.
    In the late 1950’s the Pinto Horse Association was founded. It was followed in 1962 by the American Paint Stock Horse Association whose founder, Rebecca Tyler Lockhart, was dedicated to making the stock type confirmation an important criteria. In May of 1965 these two associations merged, and had 1300 members and 2,800 horses. Today, there are more than 600,000 Paint horses registered in the U.S.


    Paint horses generally stands less than 16hh (hands high), however often weigh up to 1400 pounds. For regular breed registry it must have a minimum amount of white over unpigmented skin. White plus any other color is allowed and it may have markings of any size, shape or placement.
    There are three main color patterns;

    • Tobiano – The tobiano is dark on one or both flanks with regular oval or round white areas over the neck and chest. The head markings are the same as a solid color horse; either solid or with a blaze, stripe, star or snip. The tail is often two colors.
    • Overo – The overo usually does not have any white across the back and generally all four legs are dark. The white is found in irregular patterns and the horse may be predominately dark or white. They often have distinctive head markings and often the face is bald. The tail is usually one color.
    • Tovero – The tovero is dark around the ears, and this may extend to the forehead or eyes. One or both eyes are blue. The chest, flanks, and base of tail have spots of varying size.

    There is also a Solid Paint bred, formally known as a breeding stock paint, which may be a solid color.

    Horse Care and Feeding

    A diet of grass hay with minimal vitamin and mineral supplements is usually sufficient to the Paint horse. It is important to not overfeed your Paint horse as they have a tendency towards obesity and its related problems; specifically laminitis.
    The Paint horse is a fairly low maintenance breed that does well in most settings. The breed does equally well in pasture or in a barn or box stall. They tend to be on the lazy side, and generally require less exercise to stay fit than most other breeds. Like the mustang, the Paint horse’s ancestors ran wild in the Americas, and they developed into a hardy breed with simple nutritional requirements.

    Paint horse running on meadow
    Image Credit: Vera Zinkova, Shutterstock

    Horse Training and Activities

    The Paint horse traditionally excels in the western disciplines such as cutting, reining and roping. Like the American Quarter horse, they tend to display a keen “cow sense”. They make excellent barrel racing horses because of their quick speed and sensible nature. For the same reason they are commonly seen as ranch horses and lesson horses. More and more, the English disciplines are discovering the potential of the breed as a sport horse, as dressage and jumping horses.

    Common Health Problems

    Hardy and robust, the well cared for Paint horse should not be prone to any special health risks. Keep in mind they are usually easy keepers, and owners must use caution to prevent them from being overfed and under exercised. Some Paint horses are carriers of a lethal white gene, and foals afflicted with this condition are born normal, but sicken and die.
    If you are considering breeding, understand that the Paint horses are known to be carriers of a lethal white gene, known as OLWS, or overo lethal white syndrome. Some foals that are born pure white do not have a functioning colon, and suffer a painful death after a few weeks. There is no effective treatment for this disease, so they are typically put down once symptoms are exhibited. While primarily carried by overo Paint horses, it has been seen in tobianos and quarter horses as well. The recessive gene is statistically passed on 50% of the time, so a DNA blood test should be performed to avoid any breeding likely to produce an OWLS affected foal.


    The American Paint Horse is usually reasonably priced. A pleasure or trail horse can be found for under $5,000. However the price will dramatically increase for a Paint Horse with a successful show record and professional training.



    Featured Image Credit: Rita_Kochmarjova, Shutterstock