The American Paint Horse is a breed of horse that combines both the conformational characteristics of a western stock horse with a pinto spotting pattern of white and dark coat colors. Developed from a base of spotted horses with Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred bloodlines, the American Paint Horse is now one of the fastest-growing breeds in North America.
Each Paint Horse has a particular combination of white and another color of the equine spectrum. Most common are horses with white spots combined with black, bay, dark bay (called brown by the APHA), and chestnut or sorrel. Less common are horses with spots that are palomino, buckskin, gray, cremello, perlino, various shades of roan, or various shades of dun, including grullo.
Spots can be any shape or size, except Appaloosa patterning, and located virtually anywhere on the Paint's body. Although Paints come in a variety of colors with different markings, these are grouped into only four defined coat patterns: overo, tobiano and tovero and solid.
Breeding Stock Paints can sometimes showcase small color traits, particularly if they carry the Sabino gene. Such traits include blue eyes, pink skin on lips and nostrils, roan spots, and minimal roaning.
Terms for color patterns defined
Tobiano: The most common spotting pattern, characterized by rounded markings with white legs and white across the back between the withers and the dock of the tail, usually arranged in a roughly vertical pattern and more white than dark, with the head usually dark and with markings like that of a normal horse. i.e. star, snip, strip, or blaze.
Overo: Spotting pattern characterized by sharp, irregular markings with a horizontal orientation, usually more dark than white, though the face is usually white, sometimes with blue eyes. The white rarely crosses the back, and the lower legs are normally dark.
Sabino: Often confused with roan or rabicano, sabino is a slight spotting pattern characterized by high white on legs, belly spots, white markings on the face extending past the eyes and/or patches of roaning patterns standing alone or on the edges of white markings. In some registries, sabinos are registered as having the overo pattern
Tovero: spotting pattern that is a mix of tobiano and overo coloration, such as blue eyes on a dark head.
Solid: A horse otherwise eligible for registration as a Paint that does not have any white that constitutes a recognized spotting pattern.
"Color": An informal term meaning that the horse has a spotting pattern. (The opposite of "Solid.")
"Chrome": An informal term of approval used in some geographic regions to describe a particularly flashy spotting pattern.
Paint or Pinto?
A Pinto differs from a Paint solely by bloodlines. A Pinto may be of any breed or combination of breeds, though some Pinto registries may have additional restrictions. (Some do not register draft horses or mules, for example.) For a horse to be registered as an American Paint Horse however, it must have registered American Quarter Horse, American Paint Horse, or Thoroughbred parents. Therefore, all Paint horses (except for the small number of "solids" allowed into the Paint registry) could be registered as Pintos, but not all Pintos qualify to be registered as Paints.