Paint horses did not get their name because their riders and owners tend to be creative types who stabled them in their private studio. Paints did not get their name because they possess some unique creative gift of their own.
Instead, paint horses got their name for a far more obvious reason: in every case, whether their pattern falls into the Overo, Tobiano or Tovero category, the horse is marked by some percentage of white hair over un-pigmented skin in addition to another color: brown, tan, black or gray. The Paints' markings don't have any set location or size, they can appear anywhere on the horse's body.
So, if you have been looking at horses for sale and see Paint horses along with terms like Overo, Tobiano and Tovero, chances are good that you're going to have some curiosity about what they describe.
The Overo pattern describes Paint horses on which the white markings do not happen between the horse's withers and tail. Another characteristic of this pattern is that at least one, if not all, of the horse's legs will be brown, tan, black or gray in color. While the markings on the horse's face occur in standard patterns, the majority of its markings are irregular with the white often scattered.
On a Paint horse with a Tobiano pattern, on the other hand, the white spots are regular. The "painted spots" are often oval or round and found on the neck and chest. All four of the horse's legs are white - at least from the hocks and knees down - and at least one of the horse's flanks is dark. The tail will also be two colors - both dark and white.
Unlike the Overo and Tobiano patterns, Paint horses with the Tovero pattern have one or both blue eyes. Tovero Paint horses tend to be defined more by the location of their dark marking than where they have splashes of white. These Paints have dark pigmentation around their ears and around the mouth, on their flanks. Chest spots may also show on the horse's neck, and there may be dark spots at the base of the horse's tail as well.
When you're looking at horses for sale and see Paints, in addition to the terms that describe their marking pattern, you're also likely to see many of the following adjectives: hard working, dependable, athletic, intelligent, and friendly.
Paints earned their reputation as a hard working breed in the American West, ridden by Native Americans, cowboys, and the ordinary folks who needed transportation from the farm. For those who were looking for a horse that responded quickly, could maneuver easily, could run with great speeds to keep order on a ranch, Paint horses were a great solution. They kept a distinct, interesting look that made them stand out, and, like a Quarter Horse, they tend to have strong and muscular back legs, a low center of gravity and a good weight distribution, but not tall.
These same characteristics make Paint horses great for those who are looking for a horse that will get them around the ranch and from one area to another, for those who enjoy riding on a trail, as well as those who just like going out and taking a leisurely ride and enjoy a great afternoon on horseback. Similarly, those who are looking for a friendly, intelligent horse that can be well loved by the entire family - kids included - will find these attractive characteristics in a Paint.
As popular as Paint horses are with those who have owned and ridden them, there was not a registry for the breed until the 1960s. Previously, Paint horses - regardless of the pattern that they displayed - were widely unregistered as the American Quarter Horse Association, which included horses with the same body structure did not accept horses with the Paint markings.
Now, however, there are a number of requirements that are used to register and track the lineage of Paint horses. Either the sire or the dam must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, and, if the other is not registered with the American Paint Horse Association, he or she must be registered with either the American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club. Despite those standards, new registrations each year show that Paint horses are among the fastest growing and most popular horse breeds in the United States.