A Palomino can be any type of horse featuring a buttery, caramel colored body and a platinum mane and tail. The historical “Golden Dorado,” of Spain, however, was considered a true breed, likely developed from horses of Arabic and Moorish descent.
Her Majesty, Ysabella de Bourbon, famous for pawning her crown jewels to finance the expeditions that “discovered” the New World, was instrumental in establishing Palominos in the West. The queen kept 100 pedigreed animals in the Remuda Real of Spain, reserved for only royals and nobles to ride, but sent a prized Palomino stallion and five mares to “New Spain” (Mexico).
From there, the sunny horses made their way to Texas and eventually to California. Where the Palomino horse originally appeared however, is still uncertain. Tapestries and paintings from ancient Europe and Asia depict golden horses with ivory manes and tails, and classic Japanese and Chinese art feature Palominos.
One of the earliest recorded encounters with Palominos was during the Crusades, when medieval chain-mail clad warriors encountered Palominos ridden by the desert chiefs of Saladin. In fact, the Emir Saladin of Egypt gave Richard-Coeur-de-Lion two majestic war horses, one of which was a Palomino.
The modern Palomino was popularized largely by one gentleman, Dick Halliday, who established the modern western registry of the breed in California in 1935. His golden stallion, El Rey de los Reyes, became the harbinger of the Palomino resurgence.
(Originally published in the January/February 2010 issue of Cowgirl Magazine).