History of the Breed

In 1519 the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes sailed to the New World to find his fame and fortune. Along with his entourage of conquistadors, he brought horses to help his men search the vast land for riches. According to the Spanish historian Diaz del Castillo, who traveled with the expedition, one of the horses was described as a "pinto" with "white stockings on his forefeet." The other was described as a "dark roan horse" with "white patches." These were the first known recorded descriptions of early Paint Horses in the New World.

By the early 1800s, the western plains were generously populated by free-ranging herds of horses, and those herds included the peculiar spotted horse. Because of their color and performance, flashy, spotted horses soon became a favorite mount of the American Indian. The Comanche Indians, considered by many authorities to be the finest horsemen on the Plains, favored loud-colored horses and had many among their immense herds. Evidence of this favoritism is exhibited by drawings of spotted horses found on the painted buffalo robes that served as records for the Comanches.

Throughout the 1800s and late into the 1900s, these spotted horses were called by a variety of names: pinto, paint, skewbald, piebald. In the late 1950s, a group dedicated to preserving the spotted horse was organized—the Pinto Horse Association. In 1962, another group of spotted horse enthusiasts organized an Association, but this group was dedicated to preserving both color and stock-type conformation—the American Paint Stock Horse Association (APSHA).

This group thought the varied, distinct coat patterns of the American Paint were appealing. However, being knowledgeable devotees of Western stock-type horses, they insisted that stock-type conformation had to be the first criteria for establishing a registry. Founder Rebecca Tyler Lockhart remembers how the Association began.

"Sometime in 1960, I started calling on my friends," said Rebecca. "I wanted to know if there was anyone besides me interested in starting a registry for these horses. When someone would say they were interested, I would write down the information and put the slip of paper in a box on my kitchen table. Before long, my table was covered with slips of paper, and I had to call a couple of women to help me write everything down and keep up with it. That worked pretty well until we all came down with the flu."

Looking for help and forward momentum, Rebecca called E.J. Hudspeth, Truman Moody and Charlie Moore, three men who lived near Gainesville and who had expressed an interest in the idea of creating a registry.

"When she called, Rebecca said, 'Boys, you have got to get this thing and get going with it.' She had mail from 17 states on her table and three women down with the flu," said Moody.

The first thing the little group did was organize a show. They called everyone they knew in North Texas and Oklahoma and told them to bring their Paints to a show at Junior Robertson's place near Waurika, Okla. Just that small taste of competition among like-minded horse people was all the fire it took to start the water boiling. The group decided to approach Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show organizers in Fort Worth and get a class approved for Paints. After considerable discussion, an open color class was approved for the 1961 show.

A few weeks after the show, on February 16, Lockhart and 17 people who knew that something big was about to happen gathered at the Curtwood Motel in Gainesville, Texas, to lay the groundwork for establishing a registry. Rebecca came away from the meeting as secretary of a brand new association. She also had a set of newly-elected officers and directors, a committee working on a constitution and a set of by-laws, the signatures of 20 people who entrusted her with the job of getting the plan off the ground and making it fly and a name—the American Paint Stock Horse Association (APSHA).

"I had a responsibility to a lot of people," said Lockhart. "I had told them it would work, and I had to be certain that it did."

On August 11, 1962, Rebecca sat at her kitchen table and recorded the pedigree of the first American Paint Horse, a black and white tobiano stallion named Bandits Pinto owned by the Flying M Ranch of McKinney, Texas. With continued help from friends and neighbors, Rebecca also published a newsletter and handled all of the Association's correspondence. At the end of 1962, she had attracted 150 members and registered 250 horses.

In 1963, Rebecca turned the reins over to Ralph Morrison, credited with serving as APSHA's first executive secretary, and the Association moved to Amarillo, Texas. That same year, the Association chartered its first regional club, the Gulf Coast Paint Horse Club. APSHA held its first show at the Aufils Sports Arena in Lubbock, Texas, that same year. A saddle and 19 high-point trophies were awarded at the APSHA Finals.

In 1964, the Association's records were moved into one room over a dental office in downtown Fort Worth and placed under the management of Roger Letz. Later that same year, Sam Ed Spence was employed as executive secretary. By the end of the year, the American Paint Stock Horse Association had registered 1,269 horses, had 1,005 members, had six regional clubs and had hosted its first National Show with 134 entries from 12 states. This show would lay the groundwork for what is today known as the World Championship Paint Horse Show.

Meanwhile, in Abilene, Texas, a group of struggling spotted-horse lovers had organized the American Paint Quarter Horse Association. This group was never able to gather momentum, so it struggled along for two or three years before approaching APSHA about a merger. After lengthy and heated debate, members of both groups were able to reach an agreement in May of 1965 and the consolidation resulted in the American Paint Horse Association. The old group with the new name now had 1,300 members and 3,800 registered horses.