american paint horse

American Paint Horse

American Paint Horse

The American Paint horse is one of the most recognizable breeds, with distinct colorings, and they are very common in both Western and English riding disciplines. It is very likely that you have seen more than one American Paint in the ring! In addition, the American Paint horse has a fantastic temperament, being calm and intelligent— this makes the breed a great fit for beginning riders. Below, we will go over more about this beloved breed of horse. 

American Paint Horse Characteristics

It is very easy to recognize the American Paint horse, as they boast a coat of gorgeous spotted colors. This is the first thing you will hear about when people start to talk about the American Paint horse! They also have an elegantly built body. When a horse is a registered American Paint, it will have the characteristics of a Western stock horse as well as the spotting pattern of dark and white colors on their coat. Another requirement is that the horse must have Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred in their bloodline to be considered part of the American Paint horse breed. 

American Paint Horse Size

another face of a paint horse

When it comes to the size of the American Paint, they typically stand between 14.5 and 16 hands high. They are an average sized horse, being neither very tall nor very short! This makes them a good size for just about any rider, and makes them comfortable rides for many equestrians. Their body has a sporty build and is not too broad, which affects their comfort level— making them more comfortable. Height and size between male and female American Paints does not vary too much. Those that have Thoroughbred blood are usually taller than the ones that have Quarter Horse blood, though. 

American Paint Horse Weight

The American Paint horse is between 900 to 1200 pounds in weight on average. This is normal for a light horse breed. After all, the American Paint is not one of the largest breeds of horse, and is a pretty average size for this animal! The American Paint horse does have a solid bone structure, though, and this is beneficial because it allows for them to participate in just about any of the horse sports there are. They are strong and muscular, with good height to weight proportions. The breed is also very good at jumping and Western competition. It is also important to note that American Paints that have Thoroughbred blood will typically be heavier than those with Quarter Horse blood, because they are usually taller as well. 

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American Paint Horse Colors

The coloration and color variations of the American Paint horse is what really sets the breed apart and makes them so distinct. A fun fact about the color variations of the American Paint is that the coat of this breed is like our fingerprints, as each coat and variation is completely unique! No two Paints will have the exact same coat. The colors that are considered official and accepted by the APHA association are combinations of a white coat and any of the many standard colors to make a pattern. These include grullo, buckskin, bay, sorrel, black, brown, palomino, cremello, gray, and blue, gray, or red roan. The horses are divided into the Black Family or the Red Family by the APHA. It is important that there is a specific amount of white coat with some underlying pink skin. There are three different patterns for horses that are APHA recognized, and they are as follows— tobiano, overo, and tovero.

another paint horse standing in a field

American Paint Horse Temperament

This breed of horse is one that is known to be calm, friendly, and social. They are also a highly intelligent breed and are quick learners! One of the many reasons that the American Paint is so popular is due to their easy temperament— along with their striking coats, of course. Another wonderful thing about the breed’s temperament is that it makes American Paints one of the best breeds for riders of all levels, even beginners. The intelligence of American Paints also makes them perfect candidates for dressage. They are a breed that is often exhibited and safe to be around children, too. 

American Paint Horse Care

Like any horse, the American Paint horse is going to need a certain amount of care and maintenance, even though they are known to be an easy going breed. Still, they are animals and need to be cared for just as any living creature would! There are several requirements when caring for your American Paint, but these are crucial in order to keep your horse living at its best and its healthiest. We will go over some of these requirements, such as diet and grooming, further in the article. 

American Paint Horse Diet and Nutrition

Your horse being healthy and having the proper diet and nutrition is important not only for the horse’s overall wellbeing, but for riding your horse, too. This is because you as a rider will usually be able to feel poor diet or nutrition while riding your horse, if this is the case with your horse’s diet. The diet of an American Paint horse is one that is typical of a grazer. It should consist of hay, grass, and some veggies, too. You should take pains to ensure that all of these are high quality, so that your horse requires its necessary nutrition. If necessary, you may need to provide dietary supplements such as vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, as well as omega 3 oils and probiotics. The size and activity levels of the horse will dictate the food intake of the horse in question! 

American Paint Horse Health Problems

Like all breeds of horse— and all animals in general— there are a few different health issues that you may run into with an American Paint horse. There is a pretty bad genetic problem called lethal white syndrome, or LWS. Foals who are born with this are usually euthanized after birth, as otherwise, they tend to die soon afterwards of intestinal complications. That being said, this is otherwise a typically healthy breed of horse! The crossbreeding of Quarter Horse and Paint horse has also introduced some of the genetic issues that the Quarter Horse has. These issues include hyperkalemic periodic paralysis or HYPP, equine polysaccharide storage myopathy or PSSM, and hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia or HERDA. These can affect the skin of a horse or the bowel system of the animal. 

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American Paint Horse Grooming

American Paint horses do not have a very demanding grooming or maintenance schedule. They do, however, still need to be maintained often to keep them healthy. Of course, cleaning out their stalls is incredibly important, too. It is easier to maintain the mane, tail, and coat of the American Paint than it is to maintain that of some other breeds. You should first brush the coat of your American Paint to clean out any tiny particles. Using a curry comb will remove tough dirt and grease from the horse’s coat. It also stimulates blood flow. The horse’s hooves should also be inspected at least once a week to prevent infection or injury, and you should use a hoof pick to clean the hooves and remove any packed dirt or debris. 

American Paint Horse History

The American Paint horse originated with the Spanish conquistadors. This is true of many other horse breeds that are from North America. The horses then became part of a group of wild horses that roamed the country. It did not take long for the cowboys, as well as the Native Americans, to domesticate them and put them to work! We will go into more details on the history of the American Paint further in the article.

American Paint Horse Origin

The origin of the American Paint horse comes first from Spain and England. The ancestors of the American Paint horse came to the Americas with Spanish Conquistadors. The modern day American Paint horse is descended from Spanish horses and Thoroughbreds, a breed of horse that was exported from Spain and England in the 15th century. When the horses came to the New World, the horses ended up teaming up and forming wild herds. Cowboys and Native Americans crossed these horses with Quarter Horses, because they appreciated the appearance of the Paint horse and their great stock qualities, too. 

American Paint Horse Historic Development

Cowboys and Native Americans started domesticating the wild horses so that they could be ridden and otherwise put to work. The Native Americans said that Paint horses had magical powers, and the horses were beloved by them for their unique patterns and spots, as well as their spirit. Even after being crossbred with the Quarter Horses that were already domesticated, the original character of the coat of the American Paint horse stayed intact and distinctive! The breed was bred to be slightly less stocky than the original Paint horses. 

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Notable American Paint Horses

As the American Paint horse is a popular choice for many riding disciplines, and is a beloved breed for appearance and temperament, too, it is no surprise that there are more than a couple famous American Paints! They are well known in a variety of ways, from being in movies to being successful show or competition horses. We will go over a few of these famous American Paint horses further in the article. 


Gunner was a Paint stallion and became the first to to reach the million dollar mark in siring in the history of the NRHA. Not only was he famous for that milestone, but Gunner also was the 7th World Champion in 1996, in the Paint Horse Show Open. 


Hidalgo was another famous American Paint horse— or so people believe! The horse is well known for playing a lead role in the movie Hidalgo, alongside Viggo Mortensen. That being said, Hidalgo is technically not a Paint horse. Hidalgo does have a spotted, colored coat and is therefore called a Paint. However, to be considered part of the American Paint horse breed, a horse must have some bloodline of either a Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse. Since Hidalgo does not, he is technically not a Paint horse, though he appears to be one based on his looks! 

Zippos Sensation

When we say Zippo, we are referring to a horse’s name, not the lighter brand that may first come to mind. Zippos Sensation was the name of a horse that was added to the National Snaffle Bit Association, which is also known as the NSBA. The NSBA is a prestigious hall of fame for horses. Zippos Sensation was an American Paint, and was the first of this breed to be added to the NSBA. He sired around 800 foals, most of which have show records.

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American Paint Horse Myths and Legends

This breed of horse was one of the ones that is most beloved by cowboys and Native Americans, too. There are some legends and myths about the American Paint horse that they passed down over the generations. Of course, history in North America is not as far-reaching as the history of Europe or Asia, but there are still plenty of historical stories about the Paint horse on this continent!

The Medicine Hat

The Native Americans said that the American Paint had magical abilities— at least, some of the horses of this breed did! One of these was the Medicine Hat of an American Paint horse. If an American Paint horse was almost entirely white coated and had some dark spots on the ears and forehead, this is known as the Medicine Hat pattern. The Medicine Hat pattern was said to protect the rider in battle.

All Horses Originate From North America

Paleontologists have found proof that horses originate from North America. Bones and fossils of ancient horse breeds were found in North America. It is believed that, when the continents were still closer together and had not completely separated, all horses across the globe came from what is now North America. They migrated across the Aleutian land bridge into Asia a millennium ago.

Blue-Eyed Horses Mean Trouble

The eye color of an American Paint horse has its own special myth. Horses with blue eyes were believed to be temperamental and uncontrollable. However, Native Americans prized blue-eyed Paint horses and it made the horse worth even more. Others believed that American Paint horses that have blue eyes were a load of trouble and uncontrollable, but there is no proof of it— just that it is a superstition.

Modern American Paint Horses

These days, the American Paint horse is the second most populous breed of horse across the globe! The breed already had a great image and track record, and the last 50 years or so only helped to improve that image. American Paint horses are beloved for their calm temperament and their versatile uses, too. Breeding of the Paint horse is popular in North America, and they are crossbred with American Quarter Horses still, just as the Native Americans and cowboys used to do. 

American Paint Horse Breeding

American Paint horses are easily distinguished by their spotted coats and interesting coloration. Rebecca Lockheart founded the APHA association with the goal of regulating American horse breeding. By doing so, they could strive to achieve the most stunning paint horse pedigrees. Currently, the APHA is the second-largest horse breed association across the globe. They are second only to the horse breed association for the American Quarter horse. The breeding of American Paint horses is most popular in North America. There are 100,000 members of the APHA, and these members hail from about 40 countries all around the world! It is truly a testament to how beloved this breed is. 

American Paint Horse Population

When it comes to the population of the American Paint horse, the breed has one of the largest populations in the world. The American Quarter horse has a larger population than the American Paint horse does, but the American Paint horse comes in at a close second! There are around 953,000 American Paint horses that are registered across the globe. An average of 30,000 new American Paints are registered with the American Paint Horse Association each year. There may be even more American Paints that are simply not registered. 

American Paint Horse Uses

One of the great things about the American Paint breed is that they are versatile and can adapt to many different uses or riding disciplines. Commonly, the breed is used for activities such as cattle and stock activities, ranch, dressage, show jumping, cowboy duties, pleasure riding, reigning, and long-distance riding. Paint horses are also great family horses and are good around young riders or children. This is a breed that is a quick learner, reliable, and has an athletic build, which makes them the perfect choice for just about any use you could think of! 

American Paint Horse Prices

Prices for American Paint horses can vary greatly. They depend upon a number of factors, such as the health, diet, age, size, training, and purpose of the horse in question. Each individual horse will be priced slightly differently than another horse of the same breed. For instance, you could end up paying as low as $500 for a foal that has yet to be trained or broken in. On the other hand, if you are looking at a champion stallion with a fantastic pedigree, you could pay $1,000,000. On average, though, for a middle-aged and well-trained American Paint, you can expect to pay around $5000 to $7000.

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Frequently Asked Questions 

What is an American Paint Horse good for?

American Paint Horses are a breed that can be found being used in many different equestrian disciplines! However, they are the most common in Western events, like Western pleasure and reining, among the other Western types of events. That being said, you can also find American Paint Horses being ridden English style, in hunt seat or show jumping competitions. They are a versatile breed! 

Are American paint horses good for beginners?

The American Paint horse is one of the best horses a beginner can try to work with. This is due to a few different factors, namely, their temperament. American Paint horses are known for having a calm temperament and this makes them good for beginner equestrians or those who are not yet very familiar with horses. American Paints are also patient and easy to handle, which can be good for someone who is just starting out with their horseback riding journey. They are also very intelligent and are quick learners, meaning that they are able to pick up on things quickly and can learn alongside their rider! 

What are the 3 types of American paint horses?

When someone refers to the different “types” of American Paint horses, they are referencing the different coat colorations or coat patterns of this breed of horse. There are three different coat variations of the American Paint horse. These are known as Tobiano, Overo, and Tovero. Tobianos are mostly dark or white and have a two-colored tail, with oval-shaped patterns or ink spots. Overo is usually mostly dark or white with one-colored tails, with usually white faces or legs. The Tovero is a bit of a combination of the other two, with a white coat that is most of the body and then regular, contrasting markings. They also have dark pigmentation on the face and usually have spots around the tail, too.

How much does an American Paint Horse cost?

The price of an American Paint horse can vary greatly, depending upon features such as the horse’s health, age, and bloodline— among other things. As they are very popular, though, there are a lot of people breeding American Paints, which means that they are fairly prevalent. Due to this, the breed averages between $1000 and $5000 if you would like to purchase an American Paint horse. This price can be higher, though, depending on some of the factors we mentioned above.