The Allure of Golden Horses

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Palomino Sport Horse

“Golden horses. That’s what they call the palominos.”

So begins one of the best of the Roy Rogers movies, My Pal Trigger. The film tells the (completely fictional) story of one man’s bond with an amazing golden horse, and even though the story is a work of fiction, the real-life bond between Roy Rogers and Trigger is well-known. The two made history together on the silver screen in dozens of movies and television episodes, not to mention hundreds of personal appearances, and the surging popularity of palominos in the 1950s was undoubtedly influenced by the fame of Roy’s Trigger.

But obviously, Trigger is not the only reason that palomino horses have been beloved for so long. Ride along with us as we explore the allure of the golden horse—what they are and why we love them.

The Beauty

Golden from head to toe, palomino horses epitomize beauty. The coat color of palomino horses can range from deep gold to ivory, with manes and tails of white. It’s an eye-catching combination, and the beauty of palominos has won the hearts of hundreds of horse-lovers all over the world. The Palomino Horse Association was established in 1936, and the Palomino Horse Breeders of America followed in 1941. Both organizations provide registration for qualifying horses of palomino coloring.

One Cream, Please

Genetically speaking, a palomino horse is actually a chestnut horse with one cream dilution gene. Not all horses with a cream gene are palominos, though; a bay horse with a single cream gene is buckskin, and a black horse with a single cream gene is smoky black. (The cream gene does not exist in all horse breeds so palomino is not found in those breeds.)

Palomino Saddlebred

Here are some of the many breeds in which palomino coloring is found:

  • American Paint Horse
  • American Quarter Horse
  • American Saddlebred
  • American Warmblood
  • Andalusian
  • Appaloosa
  • Connemara
  • Gypsy Vanner
  • Icelandic
  • Irish Draught
  • Miniature Horse
  • Missouri Fox Trotting Horse
  • Morgan
  • Oldenburg
  • Paso Fino
  • Peruvian Paso
  • Rocky Mountain Horse
  • Shetland
  • Tennessee Walking Horse
  • Welsh Mountain Pony
  • Welsh Pony
  • Welsh Pony of Cob Type
  • Welsh Cob.

Famous Palominos

The little golden colt who would come to be known as Trigger was born on Independence Day 1934, and was originally named Golden Cloud. No one knows exactly what his breeding was; some sources claim that he was a Tennessee Walker, others say half-Thoroughbred. His career in movies began not in Westerns, but in The Adventures of Robin Hood, where he was ridden by Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian. After that, he was among several horses offered to Rogers as possible movie mounts, and according to legend, Roy had only to ride the horse once before announcing that Golden Cloud was the right one. Golden Cloud was then renamed Trigger, and from there the legendary relationship of horse and rider blossomed.

Trigger was an impressively clever animal, eventually learning well over a hundred different tricks to perform onscreen and in front of audiences. He was also very fast, but in his later movies, he had “stunt doubles” to do the more strenuous chase scenes and running shots. He was deemed too valuable to waste in shots where no one could tell for sure if it was really him.

Then there’s the Golden Stallion series. First appearing in print in the 1950s—and perhaps inspired by the success of the immensely popular the Black Stallion series—The Golden Stallion series by Rutherford Montgomery never achieved quite the same level of fame as The Black Stallion but not for the lack of an appealing eponymous equine character. The series followed Charlie Carter and his favorite horse (guess who) as they solved mysteries, settled feuds, and embarked on adventures.

And who can forget Mister Ed, the mischievous talking horse played expertly by palomino actor Bamboo Harvester? Throughout six seasons, Mister Ed was both the bane and the blessing of Wilbur Post’s life by never behaving as a horse really should. He was undoubtedly one of the most ambitious horses in television; in various episodes Mister Ed wanted to become a doctor, a musician, and an astronaut.

Tell us about your favorite palomino horses in the comments.

Samantha Johnson is a freelance writer and the author of several books, including The Field Guide to Horses, (Voyageur Press, 2009). She raises Welsh Mountain Ponies in northern Wisconsin and is a certified horse show judge. Follow her on Twitter: @miraclewelsh

2 COMMENTS

  1. I loved the article! I have a old cardboard stand up of Roy Rogers that I hope soon will be in my renovated “western” basement get away.
    I’ve LOVED Palomino horses since I was in the 4th grade and wrote a story about,King,my dream horse.
    I bought my first Palomino, in 1974.
    I raised one from birth,Sport,who lived for 20 years.
    When he died,it took me 2 years to get over it before I could even think about another Palomino.
    I did get another one though, even though these days I can’t ride.
    I’m 64 years “young” BUT will never loose my love of golden borses!!!

  2. My palomino, Docs or Goldie Docs is a AQHA built forintuitive, trail savvy and so gold that she glistens. What a wonderful partner!

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