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Horses of different colors: Grit's guide to 16 noteworthy breeds.


The outside of a horse is good for the inside of man," Winston Churchill said. Today, with American Horse Council statistics indicating more than nine million horses in the United States, the American love affair with horses is alive and well. Although innumerable horse breeds are available in this country, we have chosen to take a closer look at breeds that originated in the United States and have registries.

Owning a horse is a major commitment, an outdoor activity the entire family can enjoy, and a satisfying pursuit whether your dream is meandering down the trail, enjoying nature or aiming for the Olympics. In the horse world, if you like horses and are considerate in their care, you will be welcomed into countless owner groups where you can talk animals and improve your skills.

As one father of two teenagers involved with horses put it, "The cheapest money you can spend on kids is to get them a horse. Much cheaper than psychiatrists." Horses aren't just for youngsters. Senior citizens are staying younger longer thanks to their commitment to horses.

Sound intriguing? First, invest in sound basic riding and horse-handling lessons to become proficient at keeping your seat as you guide the horse through a ride.

Riding not for you? Investigate learning how to hitch a horse to a carriage and go for a drive.

Participating in equine competitions may be exciting, but time spent exploring the countryside with your equine companion will do much to bring a satisfying peace of mind. Invite a couple of horses into your life, and rein it in a new direction.


American Quarter Horse

The world's most prolific breed with 5.5 million registered today. Quarter horses are popular among working ranchers and cowboys. The breed is so-named because a good quarter horse can blaze a quarter mile in 21 seconds or less. Racing lineages have infusions of thoroughbred blood.

American Quarter Horse Association

P.O. Box 200

Amarillo, TX 79168



Tennessee Walking Horse

Walking horses are prized for their unique 4-beat flat foot walk and rolling rocking-horse canter--walking horses give a ride with a glide. Folks faced with spending a day in the saddle value the comfort of these horses.

Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' and Exhibitors' Association

P.O. Box 286

Lewisburg, TN 37091




Ancient drawings document the early existence of spotted horses. Spain is responsible for bringing them to America in the 1600s. The Nez Perce Indians, known for their horse sense, acquired them, and soon the spotted horses were known as the "Indian Ponies." Not all Appaloosas have spotted coats. The registry officially began in 1938.

Appaloosa Horse Club

2720 W. Pullman Road

Moscow, ID 83843



Missouri Fox Trotter

Treasured for its comfortable ride and agreeable attitude, this horse performs the "Fox Trot" with a reaching walk in front and a trot behind with a noticeable sliding action. The result is a smooth gliding gait without swinging. Registry began in 1948.

The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association

P.O. Box 1027

Ava, M0 65608



American Morgan Horse

Progenitor of the breed, Figure (owned by Justin Morgan; also known as Justin Morgan's horse, or "The Justin"), was foaled in Massachusetts in 1789. Registry began in 1894. Estimated 95,000 Morgans are alive today. Energetic, loves challenges, hates boredom. Only horse the U.S. government ever bred.

American Morgan Horse Association

122 Bostwick Road

Shelburne, VT 05482-4417



American Miniature Horse

The look of a refined horse, but must be under 34 inches to be registered. Popular for today's smaller farms and ranches as well as for people who love horses, but do not want to get into daily handling of a full-size horse. Registry began in the 1970s.

American Miniature Horse Registry

81 B Queenwood Road

Morton, IL 61550


American Miniature Horse Association Inc.

5601 South Interstate 35W

Alvarado, TX 76009




America's harness racing horse, the Standardbred was so named because the animals met a time "standard" for the mile. They race as trotters (diagonal 2-beat gait) or pacers, also known as "sidewheelers" (lateral gait). Pacers are more efficient, reaching a higher top speed. Standardbreds can make excellent saddle horses with nearly limitless stamina. The registry dates back to 1871.

The United States Trotting Association

750 Michigan Ave.

Columbus, OH 43215



American Cream

Holds the distinction of being the only draft horse breed that originated in the United States. Rising from America's Midwestern farming heritage, these handsome, golden horses emerged at a time when farmers were turning to tractors. The registry began in 1944; fewer than 400 exist today.

American Cream Draft Horse Association

193 Crossover Road

Bennington, VT 05201

Cream Acres Ranch

Dave and Carol Pshigoda

63125 Johnson Ranch Road

Bend, OR 97701




Feral horses living in western United States. The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act was passed in 1971 to protect, manage and control wild horses and burros on public lands in order to ensure healthy herds and healthy rangelands. These horses are trainable, but adopters experienced in horse care are recommended. They come from many generations of wild horses and are resilient, loyal and sturdy.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

1849 C St.

Washington, DC 20240


National Wild Horse Association

P.O. Box 12207

Las Vegas, NV 89112



Nokota Horse

Less than 1,000 Nokotas remain worldwide. This tough and willing horse is related to historic ranch and Indian horses, including a herd confiscated from the Lakota in 1881. The conservancy was organized in 1999 to provide a permanent sanctuary and promote the breed. A breed registry began in 1990.

Nokota Horse Conservancy

420 S. Broadway

Linton, ND 58552



Mountain Horse

This term covers several registries that began circa 1986. They are medium-size horses known as the Rocky Mountain Horse, Kentucky Saddle Horse, Mountain Pleasure Horse and Spotted Mountain Horse. All are prized for their gentle temperament and easy-to-sit ambling four-beat, ground-covering gait. The United Mountain Horse Inc. was formed in 2000 to join the four breeds.

United Mountain Horse Inc.

860 Kiddville Road

Winchester, KY 40391



American Saddlebred

Considered the elegant peacocks of the horse world, these graceful, long-necked horses were the mount of choice for several Confederate generals. Three-gaited Saddlebreds perform a walk, trot and canter. Five-gaited Saddlebreds walk, trot, canter, and perform a slow gait (slow 4-beat trained gait) and a high-stepping, speedy rack (4-beat, trained gait). The breed organization was established in 1891.

American Saddlebred Horse Association

4083 Iron Works Parkway

Lexington, KY 40511



Chincoteague Pony

A pony breed immortalized by Marguerite Henry's Misty of Chincoteague, these horses are the darlings of Assateague Island on the Maryland-Virginia line. Part of the herd is managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Co., which earns funds from their sale. The rest of the herd is managed by the National Park Service. For more see "An Island's Living History" in the November/December 2007 issue of GRIT.

Chincoteague Pony Association

P.O. Box 407

Chincoteague, VA 23336



National Chincoteague Pony Association

2595 Jensen Road

Bellingham, WA 98226


Lingo to learn

A horse is measured in "HANDS," a term developed from the width of an average man's hand. One hand is 4 inches, and the height is taken from the bottom of a front hoof to the highest part of the horse's WITHERS (the bone at the base of the mane). Animals shorter than 14 hands and 2 inches (14.2) are considered PONIES, unless they are registered with a horse breed that accepts smaller animals.

DRIVING horses are hitched to CARTS, WAGONS, BUGGIES, CARRIAGES and SULKIES. The straps that secure them to the cart comprise the HARNESSES. It's not necessary to have an expensive wagon to take family and friends for a drive, but there are those who enjoy perfecting elaborate TURN-OUTS of correctly appointed gleaming carriages and horses in a patent-leather and brass harness.

In the equine world, DRAFT horses are to saddle horses as Peterbilts are to Porsches. Long age they carried armor-laden knights to battle. More recently, they partnered with farmers to till the land and worked alongside lumberjacks hauling timber. Often worked in TEAMS, PAIRS and HITCHES (4-8 horses), modern draft horses can provide fun and valuable labor on today's small farm.

CONFORMATION relates to a horse's physique; and certain conformations are best suited for specific endeavors.

GAIT is the sequence in which a horse uses its legs for locomotion. The walk (4-beat), trot (2-beat diagonal) and the canter (3-beat rolling gait) are inherent to horses. A number of breeds are prized for the manner in which they execute variations of the three basic gaits. Some gaits are revered for rider comfort, some for speed, some for beauty, some for endurance.


THOROUGHBRED is a specific horse breed that's best known for racing. In this country, no matter what kind of horse one enjoys, horse people stop On the first Saturday of May to watch the best 3-year-old thoroughbreds compete in the Kentucky Derby. The registry originated in England.

WARM BLOODS are smaller than draft horses, but they are larger, more substantial horses than the typical pleasure horse. They do well in show-ring jumping and are often expected to clear high fences. They excel in dressage and eventing.

DRESSAGE horses are trained to perform carefully planned patterns with precision, balance and beauty. These animals might find their way to the Olympics--with the right rider.

JUMPERS are expected to be comfortable clearing 3-foot, 6-inch fences; however, it isn't unusual for horses to clear 6 feet or more. Close cousin to jumpers, HUNTERS emphasize smooth, organized performances over a hunt course where riders chase through field and forest jumping natural obstacles in their path. The sport has existed since colonial days and was enjoyed by farmers and landed gentry alike.

WESTERN riding has a major following. Riders not only enjoy pleasure riding and camping, but more serious pursuits that evolved from actual activities of a working ranch horse. Thousands of horses still earn their living on working cattle ranches. Other Western horses excel at REINING, ROPING and even RODEO. TEAM PENNING is one of the fastest growing equine sports open to all horses and riders. Three teammates cooperate to cut out and drive their assigned three head of cattle into a pen. The team with the lowest time wins,

The GYMKHANA is a collection of timed games involving horse and rider. These events typically include BARREL RACING, KEG RACING and POLE BENDING. In the West, these are known as "O-Mok-See," which is derived from a Native American phrase meaning "games on horseback."

From grassroots gatherings to world championships, there are limitless numbers of HORSE SHOWS and competitions for every kind of animal and riders of every skill level. Stop in at local or regional horse shows to learn more about horses and horse-handling.


Color Breeds

Some people place a great deal of emphasis on the color of a horses coat. That premise led to the establishment of several major 'color' breed registries in the United States. Many individuals are "double registered" because riley meet the criteria of both a color registry and a breed registry. For instance, Roy Roger's Trigger met the criteria to be registered both a Palomino and a Tennessee Walking Horse. Older terms for these horses are skewbald (brown and white) and piebald (black and white).



Endless combinations of colors splashed with white, all of which fall into Tobiano (mostly white with spots of color), Overo or Sabino (mostly colored with white splashes), or Tovero (characteristics of both Tobiano and Overo). Pintos often have blue eyes. The horse can be of any breed. This registry was established in the 1950s.

Pinto Horse Association of America Inc.

7330 NW 23rd St.

Bethany, OK 73008




These golden horses made their way to America with Spanish explorers. They are a color breed whose coat must approximate some light to dark variation of a U.S. 14 karat gold coin. Manes and tails must be white, ivory or silver. They may be, but don't have to be, a registered horse of another breed. Two registries recognize the golden horses.

The Palomino Horse Association Inc.

Route 1, Box 125

Nelson, MO 65347


The Palomino Horse Breeders of America, Inc.

15253 E. Skelly Drive

Tulsa, OK 74116-2637



American Paint

This second largest breed registry in the United States includes 854,000 horses. The organization formed in 1962. Eligibility is mainly contingent on bloodlines--at least one parent must be a registered Paint, and the other must come from Quarter horse or Thoroughbred bloodlines. The amount and location of color as well as its conformation also determine if a horse is eligible, and the colors are described the same way as a Pinto.

American Paint Horse Association

P.O. Box 961023

Fort Worth, TX 76161-0023

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Author:Brooks, Patricia
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2008
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