The modern Palomino is only a color and not a breed, as evidenced by the color being present in most equine breeds. The ideal body color is that of a golden coin, but the shade can vary from light, medium, to dark gold. The mane and tail should be white, ivory, or silver, with not more than 15% dark or sorrel hair mixed in. The word "Palomino" is a Spanish surname which was derived from a Latin word meaning "pale dove" and many Palominos are pale. Additionally, the coat of many Palominos changes shades from cream in the winter to golden in the summer, and these are referred to as seasonal Palominos.
Palomino horses are found among the finest bloodlines of many breeds; their coloration and appeal is clearly international. They are admired not only for their beauty but for their versatility, maneuverability, and endurance and multi-purpose use across all disciplines within all breeds. Some have even become TV stars such as, Mr. Ed, Trigger, and Trigger Jr., all of which were registered with The Palomino Horse Association. And of course, who can forget the strikingly beautiful dark golden Palomino in the movie "Blazing Saddles"?
But nowhere has the history of the Palomino been recorded and the origin of the golden horse will probably never be determined since myths and legends of various countries cloud its beginnings. Although most agree that all light colored horses have descended from the Arabian and the Barb, they still aren't sure where it may have come from before that. The golden horse with ivory-colored mane and tail appears in the ancient tapestries and paintings of Europe and Asia, as well in centuries old Japanese and Chinese art dating back 2000 years. It was the choice of ancient royalty and also the beloved steed in Greek mythology. There stories about them among the Arabs and the Moors. There are stories linked to the maille-clad Crusaders who saw the Golden Horses on the battlefield when they fought the desert chiefs of Saladin who rode them. During the days of the Crusades, the Emir Saladin presented Richard the Lion-Hearted with two splendid war horses; one was a gray and the other a Golden Palomino.
Palominos were favored by her Majesty Queen Isabella de-Bourbon of Spain who kept 100 of these animals in the Remuda Real. Only the members of the royal family and the nobles of the household were permitted to ride them and commoners were forbidden to own one. History records that Queen Isabella sent a Palomino stallion and five mares to her Viceroy in Mexico to perpetuate the Golden Horse in the New World, and from there, the color spread from sea to shining sea in the Americas.
The Palomino of Spanish times was known as the Golden Dorado and was very close to being a breed. The Dorado was of Arabian, Moorish Barb and Spanish blood and was not bred by being crossed with sorrels as the modern Palomino is. The Spanish had many shades of golden horses, and when they used corral breeding (a way of isolating a mating pair); a light color Palomino mare would be mated with a very dark-colored Palomino stallion. This has been noted in a book that was printed in Barcelona in 1774.
There are two Palomino Horse Registries in the United States that began in the 1930's. The Palomino Horse Association (PHA) is the original Palomino registry which officially began in California in 1935, with the registration of the golden stallion El Rey de los Reyes by Dick Halliday who had researched the golden horse for many years. He wrote many articles that brought the Palomino into the attention of the public, and created a great deal of interest in the Palomino. Within a few years, hundreds of breeders were specializing in the production of this color. Horses from many different countries and from every breed have been registered with the PHA.
The PHA does not discriminate against any breed and recognizes all breeds based on color and conformation. If a particular horse is not registered with a breed registry and the color proves to be Palomino it will be registered on color. In the last few years they have decided to allow the creme colored horse with blue eyes claiming it has been researched and proven that these light colored Palominos always produce a Palomino and therefore, they are definite breeding stock for the Palomino. Yet on many horse genetics websites it is stated that Palomino horses do not breed true at all -- they produce both chestnut and cremello foals when bred together because the Palomino color is defined by a heterozygous dilution gene. However, Champagne is a dominant gene that dilutes pigment from black to brown and red to gold; and Champagne on a chestnut background (gold) produces a gold body color and often a flaxen mane and tail that can be mistaken for Palomino.
The other one is the Palomino Horse Breeders of America, Inc. (PHBA) that was founded in the late 1930's in California by a group of horse lovers who had a passion for the golden horse. PHBA became a corporation in 1941 as a member-owned, non-profit organization for the purpose of registering and improving the breeding of Palomino Horses. It is a color registry for Palomino horses standing between 13 and 17 hands high and exhibiting body color, with variations from light to dark, of a 14-karat gold coin. The Palomino's skin is usually grey, black, brown, or mottled without underlying pink skin or spots except on the face or legs. The eyes are usually black, hazel, or brown, never blue. The mane and tail must be white with no more than 15% percent of dark, sorrel or chestnut hairs.
There are three basic divisions for the Palomino horses within the registry. The Stock type is the western horse that is mainly represented by the Quarter Horse. The Golden American Saddlebred division is typically represented by Saddlebreds and the Pleasure type is represented by the Morgan, Arabian, and Tennessee Walking Horses.
Horse enthusiasts who own Palominos that are registered with any of the following breed registries: American Morgan Horse Association (AMHA), American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), American Saddlebred Horse Association (ASHA), Arabian Horse Registry (AHR), International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA), Jockey Club (TB), and the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association (TWHBEA) are eligible to file for color registration and participating in events with the PHBA. Palomino Horses not registered with any of the above recognized breed registries are eligible for registration with PHBA only if one of the parents is registered with any of the above recognized breed registries. However, owners are asked to provide documents to verify bloodlines. Individuals with Palomino geldings and spayed mares of unknown parentage may also apply for PHBA registration based on color and conformation standards since they are incapable of reproducing.
Now, in these trying financial times, wouldn't you really rather invest in gold? The gold of a Palomino, that is.