The Spotted Saddle Horse is defined by two variables; the wonderful patched or spotted coat and the gaited way of movement. Without either of these two features the horse cannot be registered as a Spotted Saddle Horse in the major Spotted Saddle Horse registries. The gait itself must be natural and cannot have been taught using any type of corrective, mechanical or chemical means.
The spotting or pinto type pattern exhibited by the Spotted Saddle Horse really sets it apart from the other gaited breeds in America. Although the Spotted Saddle Horse does have the basic conformation of the Tennessee Walking Horse, with the unique and individual color patterns of the pinto horse.
There are four basic pattern types for the Spotted Saddle Horse and they correspond with the same pattern types in most other spotted or pinto type breeds. The amount of white on the horse is not the deciding factor in the pattern type; rather it is the location and type of white markings that make the determination. The actual variable colors such as roaning, white mixed with colored hairs, around the edges of the pattern is not considered a different pattern, rather it is an acceptable variation. Unlike the paint horse registration there are no solid colors allowed in the National Spotted Saddle Horse Association so at least some white must be present on the body, separate from white found on the lower legs and face.
Tobiano is a color pattern that must be inherited from at least one of the parents, either the sire or dam. The Tobiano pattern has white across the spine between the withers and the tail, and also has relatively large, round patterns in the coat. Often the rump will have white and the tail may be dual colored. The Tobiano typically has either high or low white markings on all legs but occasionally a tobiano may have one or more solid colored legs. Typically the Tobiano will have white on the face in the form of a blaze, snipe or star, similar to the facial white markings seen on a solid colored horse.
Overo is just the opposite with the white markings seeming to come from the underside of the horse moving upwards. The legs are often dark and solid in color and the face will be predominantly white with a bald face or all white face very common. The patterning tends to be jagged and irregular in shape and roaning or halos around the irregular spots are not uncommon. Often the spots almost seem like they have been paint splashed horizontally across the horse.
Sabino is more of a distinctive roan pattern either in the color or in the pattern. The horse will often have darker hair color along the top of the body with more pronounce roaning patterns over the lower belly, legs and sides. The face is often like an overo with lots of white and the legs typically have lots of white as well. Sometimes unconnected, irregular white markings are seen above the knee. Many Sabino colored Spotted Saddle Horses will have one or both eyes that are blue in color.
The Tovero is a mixture of the Tobiano and Sabino colors. This may mean a horse with large, rounded spots with white legs and an all white or bald face.