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A Solid Win or a Colorful Conundrum: APHA Passes Rule to Eliminate the Solid Paint-Bred Showing Division in 2025

APHA's decision to eliminate the solid horse show division is certainly a hot-button issue. We break down all the details, benefits, and disadvantages.

The American Paint Horse Association made waves on Tuesday afternoon when it announced that SC-325 had passed, thereby eliminating the Solid Paint-Bred showing division and allowing “regular registry” and “solid registry” horses to show together beginning in 2025.

Naturally, this monumental change was met with a massive online response, with reactions ranging from high praise and enthusiasm, to doubts for the future, to outright panic that the Association had set a course for the decimation of single-registry, colored Paints.

GoHorseShow spoke with APHA breeders to get their hot takes on the benefits and possible negative implications of this change.

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We spoke to Amber Duckett of Double A Performance Horses, owner and trainer of the popular Multiple World Champion homozygous tobiano stallion, One And Only Asset.

We also heard from Branson Buckalew of Buckalew Show Horses, owner of the AQHA/APHA stallion A Sudden Holiday, who was instrumental in the discovery of the W35 gene.

Finally, we spoke with Laura Rogers of Star Mountain Paint Horses, owner of 27x World and Res. World Champion frame overo stallion, I Got Em Talkin.

The Rule Itself
Before we get into the implications of this new change, it is critical to understand what was passed:

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CONTROL NUMBER: SC-325—Eliminates the Solid Paint-Bred showing divisions. Regular Registry and Solid Paint-Bred Registry horses would compete and be awarded together.

This proposal was passed with 66 votes in favor of it and 32 votes against it. It is important to note, this change is to the structure of shows and is not a change related to registration requirements.

For those who aren’t familiar with APHA show divisions, each show functions in many ways as two separate shows, with the same classes offered twice: one class for the “regular registry” animals and the same class for the “solid registry” individuals.

For example, there would be the Three Year-Old Western Pleasure class, which would be offered to all regular registry animals and then the Three Year-Old Western Pleasure (Solid) class, which would be run separately for the individuals that could not get regular registration status.

The Basic History
In order to understand why this dichotomy exists, it is important to understand the history of the American Paint Horse Association. The Association as we know it began in the early 1960s. It resulted from the merger of two separate, smaller “color breed” associations.

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The American Paint Quarter Horse Association (APQHA) was formed in 1961 with the mission to register cropout horses from the breeding of registered Quarter Horses.

Indeed, AQHA saw excessive white as a fault and these horses needed a home where they could have value apart from traditional AQHA.

The APQHA also allowed the registering of non-cropouts (“solids”) who had Quarter Horse conformation and bloodlines, but were the product of loud parents.

The American Paint Stock Horse Association (ASPHA) was formed in 1962. The APSHA registration rules differed from APQHA in that they specifically excluded gaited horses and mandated that horses that were mainly dark colored must have a minimum of three white spots, that were at least three inches wide on their body.

It also required that mostly white horses must have a dark spot of at least six inches wide on their body. Both registries agreed to merge in 1965, although the current APHA claims its roots lie in the rules of the APSHA.

APHA differs from the Pinto Horse Association in that it requires horses be of AQHA and/or Thoroughbred breeding.

Whereas Pinto allows a wide variety of horses, included gaited, Arabian, miniature, hunter, and stock-type animals to hold regular registry status so long as they have the pinto color patterns, i.e. tobiano, overo, splash, sabino, etc.

Therefore, Pinto’s primary characteristic for regular registration is color pattern and APHA requires stock lines + color pattern…or, at least, they did.

Recently, APHA has made multiple efforts to help “solid” division horses become eligible for regular registry in hopes of curbing the financial strain of a solid APHA horse on breeders – these animals were typically sold for much lower numbers, making APHA breeding a risky endeavor. If you get color, you hit the jackpot. If you got a solid, you had to be prepared to “give them away” for a loss.

The new registration rules began taking effect within the past decade and have resulted in, what some have referred to as, the slow death of noticeable color patterns in APHA.

The APHA World Show used to be a sea of color patterns and now, many members complain that it looks like the AQHA world show, with some “regular registry” horses simply having a star and a sock.

This brings us to the future elimination of the solid division in 2025. While many Paint breeders are thrilled that their “solid” babies will get the same opportunities in the arena, others have their doubts about the trajectory of the once colorful association.

In an effort to bring value to solids, is APHA now devaluing the single-registry color that built its foundation?

The Positive Implications of Combining Divisions
Buckalew is hopeful that this rule change will promote growth in both the breeding and showing divisions of APHA.

I have been a Paint breeder for many, many years,” Buckalew explains. “I recently became a stallion owner when I purchased A Sudden Holiday, but I still very much identify with the mare owner aspect of the industry.”

He continues, “Not long ago, I produced a solid Paint foal with no color markers. He was out of a loud mare and we were just unlucky. I literally ended up giving him away for free to a good home because they had intentions to show him. Unfortunately, they haven’t shown him because the solid classes were so small, it wasn’t worth it to haul him out and pay show fees. I worry this is a story that is all-to-familiar to many Paint breeders.”

Buckalew wants to believe that this rule change will change that narrative of the worthless foal or the quality horse that never shows up to breed shows because it isn’t worth the investment. He hopes the reduction of breeding risks created by this change will also increase breeders’ willingness to try new outcrosses.

“I want to see more genetic diversity in Paint horses,” Buckalew admits. “There are some disciplines in which nearly all the top horses are related and that creates a genetic bottleneck. Reducing breeding risks allows for more creativity in crosses and will hopefully make the breed stronger long-term with fewer instances of genetic disease or abnormality.”

Buckalew asks, “How many single-registry solid Paint horses don’t even get registered? Now that they can show together, I’m hopeful we will see an increase in registration. This should bring more money into the Association and more money into the Breeder’s Trust so that everyone wins.”

“This elimination of the solid division will work to expand the classes overall,” Buckalew explains. “The more horses you have showing, the more points you get, the more incentive money you are eligible for, and the more opportunities you have for yearend awards. You don’t have to win to get lots of points now – even finishing further down the podium could be worth more points than a win under the old system.”

Buckalew admits, “I feel the Association had to do something. I think numbers of entries are decreasing around the country, so splitting the divisions that already have small numbers was hard on exhibitors and also on regional clubs trying to host a show.”

“Additionally, I would like to think that eliminating the solid division will reduce the overhead costs of the shows – no need to rent so many arenas, you could shorten show length, and reduce costs on buying double the awards,” he explains. “I hope this would either allow for less-expensive show fees or the savings could be put back into the Association for bigger incentive payouts.”

“I want to see the positives here, but I also understand that those gains won’t come without anticipated and unanticipated repercussions,” he admits.

The Negative Implications of Combining Divisions
I’ve been on the mare owner end where I spent a lot of money getting a foal on the ground, only to have it come out solid. I also want to see increased numbers in classes and give exhibitors chances for better payouts,” Duckett admits.

“However, I am Paint enthusiast and single-registry tobiano stallion owner,” she emphasizes. “And I fear, that without limitations on this rule, we are steering the Association away from its original mission.”

APHA was founded as a ‘color’ breed,” she highlights. “I worry that we might be missing the forest through the trees a bit on this one. The primary goal of the Association should be to promote what sets it apart, while protecting breeders (both those that get the ‘favored’ color and those that get solids), and encouraging exhibitors. I think we got some things right with this change, but we may be doing more wrong,” she warns.

Buckalew understands Duckett’s concerns, which make him hesitant to jump “all-in” on the support train.

He admits, “My market for double-registered foals was still Paint people – I didn’t find many Quarter people caring whether a horse could show Paint. However, those Paint people still wanted a ‘regular registry’ foal. Now, this change will make that irrelevant. This certainly helps me out as the owner of a double-registered stallion. But will it be at the cost of promoting color in our Association? I have to concede that is probably true.”

Rogers warns, What will stop someone from taking an AQHA horse, breeding to an AQHA/APHA stallion, and getting a solid baby that now will show will full APHA rights? This is technically a Quarter Horse with no color and they are just as valuable, if not more valuable now, than a full-qualifying, true-color APHA horse. And what is the incentive to breed that solid animal to get color, when you could keep breeding generations of solid doubles?”

“It breaks my heart to read comments online that this is the knife in the throat to single-registry Paint stallions,” Duckett laments. “I still believe in the quality I am breeding – I’ve staked my livelihood on it. My stallion is siring desirable movement, correct conformation, trainable minds, and the color that made our Association stand out. That is the type of animal I want to see APHA promote with its rules, not due to any bias, but due to that fact that I feel it’s what our Association was founded on and what makes us unique.”

“I worry that changes like these will discourage people from standing new up-and-coming single-registry APHA stallion prospects,” Rogers says. Standing a stallion takes a ton of time, effort, and, money. If people think this is the end of single-registry stallions, what will convince them it’s worth investing in one? And if there aren’t any quality single-registry stallions to breed to in the future, how will we avoid becoming AQHA 2.0?

Recommendations for Protecting “True” Paints
Buckalew would like to see APHA create incentives for true colored horses. “I think it is important to reduce the breeding risks without shooting yourself in the foot. APHA should start developing incentives for horses with true APHA patterns (tobiano, frame overo, splash, sabino, etc.),” he suggests.

“I’d like to see APHA add ideal classes, like what Pinto does, where horses are judged on the rail based on movement, and then brought to the center to be judged at both performance halter and by color pattern. Horses that do not have a characteristic pattern wouldn’t be eligible for these type of incentive classes,” he recommends.

“I’d also like to see Paint offer a high point overo and high point tobiano horse at the major shows – again to incentivize the color,” Buckalew suggests.

“I want to see restrictions and guidelines on these new rules,” Duckett admits. “I’m supportive of anything that supports breeders on the one hand, but not at the expense of a different group of breeders on the other. We need a way to keep people breeding within the original color parameters of the Association.”

Duckett notes that all other major associations have clear color restrictions: AQHA has “disfavored” or “excessive” white restrictions, Appaloosa has its color patterns, Pinto requires color patterns for regular registry and still has a vibrant solid division, and even NSBA restricts its color division in a way that encourages breeding back to color. She believes APHA should be at the forefront of these important restrictions and not at the tail.

“We need to put limitations in place that require visually solid horses to be bred back to color in order to have foals that are eligible to show.” Duckett explains, “So, if you have a solid, that’s not a ‘problem’ the way it was in the past. But, if you intend to breed that solid, you can’t breed it to another visually solid horse and expect full showing and registration benefits.”

Rogers agrees with Duckett. Unfortunately, APHA changes the registration and breeding rules each year and they haven’t allowed us breeders time for our programs to catch up,” Rogers laments. “I breed horses to create World Show quality animals, but I breed Paints as opposed to Quarters because I love the color.

Rogers emphasizes, “I agree that we must put breeding restrictions in place that allow for less-risky outcrosses and promote genetic diversity. But it is so important to push people to continue breeding with color in mind through restrictions on solid breeding. I don’t want to see our unique color disappear down the road.

Rogers continues, “Honestly, I’d like to see the Association go back to the original ‘so many inches of qualifying white’ rules. Now that solids are able to have full showing rights, I don’t see the need to use non-pattern genetic markers to force regular registration through the back door.”

“Once we revert back to the original registration requirements, we can put a rule in place to require that solid horses must be bred to an individual with qualifying white to have a registerable foal,” Rogers recommends. “Horses with true Paint color would be allowed to breed to any AQHA animals and, if their foal is solid, it could still show without issue. But horses without true qualifying Paint color must stay within our association for breeding purposes and could only have a registerable foal with a mate that does have qualifying white. This way, everyone would be a first-class citizen when it comes to showing, but to be a first-class breeding citizen, you must have a true color pattern. My hope is this would protect breeders from risk and prevent devaluation of solids, while preserving the coat patterns that set us apart.

***

“I want to believe there is still a market and desire for color,” Duckett hopes. “It’s what brought me to Paint horses, and I will continue to strive to breed quality animals that also have color. Paints are supposed to be ‘marked for greatness’ and I will continue to hope that stallions like mine will leave a true color mark on the breed for many generations to come.”

Author’s Note: We reached out to APHA in an attempt to get comments from its leadership, but did not receive commentary by the time of publication.


About the Author: Megan Rechberg is a World Champion pleasure horse enthusiast who works as a full-time mom, part-time litigation attorney, and owner/operator of Bred N Butter Equine Management – a company that focuses on social media management for stallions, consulting, and sales and breeding contracts. She currently shows her APHA filly SmoreThanAPrettyFace under the guidance of Double A Performance Horses.
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