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The Spotted Horse: The Paint & Pinto
For its contribution to our predecessors dating back as far as history is recorded, the horse has been immortalized in story and song. A key part of civilization, it is also well represented in art. Studies of this art history reveal the early existence of what we recognize today as the Paint and Pinto Horse: a horse whose dual-colored coat pattern is comprised of white areas combined with another of the basic coat colors common to horses, making each Paint/Pinto unique.
Although there are two separate breed registries, the Paint Horse and Pinto, the differences in these two groups has to do with bloodlines and not color. The American Paint Horse Association is limited to horses of documented and registered Paint, Quarter Horse, or Thoroughbred breeding. The Pinto Horse Association also allows for the registration of miniature horses, ponies, and horses derived from other breed crosses, such as Arabian, Morgan, Saddlebred, and Tennessee Walking Horse, to name a few.
Though commonly associated with the Native American for its legendary magical qualities in battle, the Paint/Pinto horse was actually introduced to North America by European explorers, chiefly those from Spain, bringing their Barb stock that had been crossed with native European stock years before. It is believed that the color patterns may have arrived in Europe via the Arabian strains, as these markings appear in ancient art throughout the Middle East. However, evidence of the more dominant Tobiano pattern among the wild horses of the Russian Steppes suggests the introduction of the Paint/Pinto coloring to Europe possibly as early as during the Roman Empire.
In 1519 the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes sailed to the North American continent along with his entourage of conquistadors. He also brought horses to help his men travel across this new world in search of riches and glory. He left behind the bloodstock that would provide the foundation for a variety of unique, distinct, American-bred horses. According to the Spanish historian Diaz del Castillo who traveled with the expedition, one of the 16 war horses that carried Cortes and his men was a sorrel and white horse with spots on its belly. That spotted horse bred with native American mustangs and laid the foundation for what is today the American Paint Horse breed.
After the arrival of these European horses, great wild herds infused with the flashy color patterns we know today began to develop across America, eventually to be domesticated by the Native American. The white man continued to import many of the well-established and stylish European breeds as his foundation stock. Over time, however, with the civilization of the Native American and the white man's migration to the frontier, it often became necessary to cross these fancy, but less suitable breeds of the Eastern seaboard with the wild mustang stock to increase size and attractiveness as well as availability of a horse better suited to the strenuous working conditions of the day. By the early 1800s, the western plains were generously populated by free-ranging herds of horses, and those herds included the peculiar spotted horse.
Because of their color and performance, flashy, spotted horses soon became a favorite mount of the American Indian. The Comanche Indians, considered by many authorities to be the finest horsemen on the Plains, favored loud-colored horses and had many among their immense herds. Evidence of this favoritism is exhibited by drawings of spotted horses found on the painted buffalo robes that served as records for the Comanches.
Throughout the 1800s and late into the 1900s, these spotted horses were called by a variety of names: pinto, paint, skewbald, piebald. In the late 1950s, the first group dedicated to preserving the spotted horse was organizedthe Pinto Horse Association. In 1962, a second group of spotted horse enthusiasts organized an Association, but this group was dedicated to preserving both color and stock-type conformationthe American Paint Stock Horse Association (APSHA).
Color is what makes these horses unique. The Paint Horse Association recognizes three color variations: The Tobiano, Overo and Toverro, . The Pinto Horse Association only recognizes the Tobiano and Overo variations.
The TOBIANO color variation has a dark color which usually covers one or both flanks. Generally, all four legs are white, at least below the hocks and knees. The spots are regular and distinct as ovals or round patterns that extend down over the neck and chest, giving the appearance of a shield. Head markings are like those of a solid-colored horse--solid, or with a blaze, strip, star or snip. A tobiano may be either predominantly dark or white. The tail is often two colors.
In the OVERO color variation, the white usually will not cross the back of the horse between its withers and its tail. At least one and often all four legs are dark. The white is irregular, and is rather scattered or splashy. Head markings are distinctive, often bald-faced, apron-faced or bonnet-faced. An overo may be either predominantly dark or white. The tail is usually one color.
There are two sub categories of Overo: The SABINO and the SPLASHED WHITE.
The SABINO pattern is another form of overo, but the pattern can be similar to snowflakes. The horse can be predominately dark or light. The Sabino has become increasingly popular, and many sources claim the sabino pattern cannot throw the lethal white gene, which makes them valuable as breeding stock.
The SPLASHED WHITE pattern is considered to be the rarest and most unusual of the overo patterns. This pattern usually sports the apron face, while having 4 white legs with the white continuing up on to the belly of the horse in an unbroken pattern. This makes the horse appear as if it were "dipped" part way into a vat of white paint, but not completely submerged.
The TOVERO color variation has dark pigmentation around the ears, which may expand to cover the forehead and/or eyes. One or both eyes blue. Dark pigmentation around the mouth, which may extend up the sides of the face and form spots. Chest spot(s) in varying sizes. These may also extend up the neck. Flank spot(s) ranging in size. These are often accompanied by smaller spots that extend forward across the barrel, and up over the loin. Spots, varying in size, at the base of the tail.
You can read more about these beautiful spotted horses at www.apha.com and www.pinto.org