The word palomino correctly implies a horse of a golden color with white, silver, or ivory mane and tail. Originally, Palomino horses weren’t considered either a breed or a type, but simply a color. Today, animals of Palomino color and meeting certain other stipulations may be recorded in either of two registry associations.
Origin and Native Home
When, in the course of the Mexican War—which ended in 1848, over one hundred years ago—the United States acquired what is now the state of California, many attractive golden-colored horses of the good type were found in the new territory. According to the best records available, these animals were first introduced from Spain to the New World beginning with Cortez, in 1519, and their introduction was continued by other Spanish explorers.
Evidently, these horses had long been bred for color in Spain, being used exclusively as the distinctive mounts of the Royal Family, the nobility, and high military officials. In Spain these golden-colored animals were known as “The Horse of the Queen,” and their use by commoners was forbidden.
It is also known that the Spaniards obtained the golden horse from Arabia and Morocco, but further than this its origin is clouded in obscurity. In the early days of California, Palominos were extremely popular. Spanish gentlemen took pride in ownership of these beautiful mounts, which were also used as the racehorses in early California.
However, with the importation of the Thoroughbred and other horses of light horse extraction from the eastern seaboard and Europe, the golden horse was threatened with extinction. Only in recent years has its popularity again come to the fore, finally resulting in the formation of two breed registry associations; the Palomino Horse Association, which was incorporated in 1936, and the Palomino Horse Breeders of America, which was organized in 1941.
The Palomino horse must be golden in color (the color of a newly minted gold coin or three shades lighter or darker), with a light-colored mane and tail (white, silver, or ivory, with not more than 15 percent dark or chestnut hair in either). White markings on the face or below the knees or hocks are acceptable. The skin and eyes shall be dark or hazel. The usual height range is from 14-2 to 16 hands and the weight from 1,000 to 1,200 pounds. As might be expected, in an attempt to form a new breed with a color requirement as first and foremost, considerable variation in type exists.
Adaptation and Use
The American Horse Shows Association rulebook states that competition for Palomino horses may exist in any one of the following classifications: (1) pleasure horses, (2) parade horses, (3) stock horses, and (4) all other types such as saddle, fine harness, walking horses, etc., provided that color shall count at least 25 percent in judging these events. Perhaps these classifications constitute the best summary of the diverse adaptations and use now being made of Palominos.