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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 colours. Developed from a base of spotted horses with Quarter Horse and Thoroughbred bloodlines, the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) breed registry is now one of the largest in North America. The registry allows some non-spotted animals to be registered as "Solid Paint Bred" and considers the American Paint Horse to be a horse breed with distinct characteristics, not merely a colour breed.

The American Paint Horse's combination of colour and conformation has made the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) the second-largest breed registry in the United States. While the colourful coat pattern is essential to the identity of the breed, American Paint Horses have strict bloodline requirements and a distinctive stock-horse body type. To be eligible for registry, a Paint's sire and dam must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, the American Quarter Horse Association, or the Jockey Club (Thoroughbreds). At least one of the parents must be a registered American Paint Horse. There are two categories of registration, regular, for horses with colour, and solid Paint-bred, for those without colour.

Regular APHA registration

In addition to bloodlines, to be eligible for the Regular Registry of the American Paint Horse Association (APHA), the horse must also exhibit a "natural paint marking", meaning either a predominant hair coat colour with at least one contrasting area of solid white hair of the required size with some underlying unpigmented skin present on the horse at the time of its birth. Or, in the case of a predominantly white hair coat, at least one contrasting area of the required size of coloured hair with some underlying pigmented skin present on the horse. Natural Paint markings usually must cover more than two inches and be located in certain designated areas of the body.

Solid Paint-Bred

Solid coloured offspring of two registered Paint parents, called "Solid Paint-Breds" or "Breeding Stock Paints," are also eligible for registration, with certain restrictions. They are able to participate in some recognized Paint breed shows, and there are alternative programs offered, and many incentive programs within the registry are available to Solid Paint-bred horses. If a solid-coloured horse is bred to a regular registry Paint horse, it is possible to produce a spotted foal. In some cases, such as the recessive sabino patterns, described below, even a solid coloured horse may still carry genes for colour. However, in the case of the dominant tobiano pattern, a Breeding Stock Paint will not carry these colour genes, though it may retain other desirable traits.

Terms for colour 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: A group of spotting patterns 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. The APHA recognizes three overo patterns:
    • Frame: The most familiar overo pattern, the gene for frame has been genetically mapped and in the homozygous form, results in Lethal White Syndrome (LWS). Visually identified frames have no health defects connected to their colour, and are characterized by ragged, sharp white patches on the sides of the body, leaving a "frame" of non-white colour that typically includes the topline.
    • 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.
    • Splashed white: The least common spotting pattern, splashed whites typically have blue eyes and crisp, smooth, blocky white markings that almost always include the head and legs. The tail is often white or white-tipped, and body markings originate under the belly and extend "upwards".
  • 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.
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