American horses are noted for the variety of their coat patterns, there are only three spotted horse breeds – the Appaloosa the Colorado Ranger Horse, and the Pony of the Americas. The Appaloosa probably influenced the Colorado Ranger, and certainly played a part in the creation of the Pony of the Americas. However, colour is not a prerequisite for entry into the Colorado Ranger Stud Book; that is governed by the possession of a pedigree tracing to the required foundation bloodlines.

The history of Colorado Rangerbred Horses, i.e. Colorado horses bred under open range conditions, began not in the US but in Constantinople, when General Ulysses S. Grant was on a visit to Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey in 1878. As a token of regard, the Sultan presented Grant with two horses: a grey, pure Siglavy-Gidran Arab, foaled in the desert in 1873, named Leopard, and a pure blue-grey Barb, foaled in 1874 called Linden Tree.
At first the two were used by Randolph Huntington in Virginia as the foundation sires for a breed of light harness horses that he proposed to call Americo-Arab.

Then, as old horses, they spent a season at the Colby ranch in Nebraska siring stock from the native mares, some of them spotted or colored. These horses quickly attracted the attention of the Western breeders on account of their overall excellence as well as their attractive colors. A.C. Whipple, of Kit Carson County, Colorado, obtained an outstanding band of mares from the Colby ranch, all of which had been sired by either Leopard or Linden Tree, and he chose a white stallion with black ears, called Tony, to head the herd. Tony was “double bred” to Leopard, i.e. Leopard was the grandsire on both sides of the pedigree, and the Whipples carried on an extensive line-breeding programme using this horse and his sons.

That said, the Colorado Ranger breed was essentially the creation of one man, Mike Ruby of the big Lazy J Bar Ranch. He bought Patches, a son of Tony, and then the Barb, Max (a son of Waldron Leopard of the original line), and used them as the foundation sires for the new breed, which, increasingly, exhibited a lot of unusual colorings. The horses were named Colorado Rangers in 1934, at the instigation of the Colorado State University, and Mike Ruby was President of the Colorado Ranger Horse Association until his death in 1942.

The Rangers were bred as superlative working horses, hard as iron and possessed of great stamina. They have a particular refinement as a result of the Arab/Barb foundation, and some of their colour could be inherited from the Barb, via the Spanish horses brought to the Americas in the 16th century, for which the Barb was responsible. The Ranger is, nonetheless, a compact horse with powerful limbs and quarters. The average height is 1.57 m (15.2 hh), and most have a patterned coat. A Ranger can, indeed, also be registered as an Appaloosa, but an Appaloosa cannot be registered as a Ranger.

The Pony of the Americas is an officially recognized American breed with its own stud book and registry. Like the Ranger, it is the result of the efforts of one man: Leslie Boomhower of Mason City, Iowa. His object was to produce a conformationally correct riding pony, attractively marked, which would be suitable for children in every sort of activity whether ridden in western or English tack. Furthermore, Boomhower wanted a product that was indubitably American, as opposed to the customary British imports. He founded the Pony of Americas Club in 1956. The breed’s foundation stallion, Black Hand, foaled in 1954, was the product of a Shetland stallion and an Appaloosa mare. Later there were outcrosses to Arabs and Quarter Horses, and the breed standard calls for a pony that has the appearance of a miniature Quarter Horse/Arab cross, with Appaloosa coloring and some of that breed’s features. (There is little evidence now of the early Shetland blood.) Within 15 years registrations had reached 12,500, and they have continued to grow ever since.

Today’s ponies vary between 1.17 and 1.37 m (11.2-13.2 hh), and are all inspected before full registration to ensure that they meet the breed specifications. Emphasis is given to substance, refinement, and a stylish, straight, balanced action marked by a notable engagement of the hocks under the body.