FAQ & Activities: What is an Appaloosa?
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What Is An Appaloosa?


Activities: What is an Appaloosa?

Appaloosas are most commonly recognized by their colorful coat patterns, but there are actually four identifiable characteristics: coat pattern; mottled skin; white sclera (the area of the eye which encircles the iris); and striped hooves. For a horse to receive regular registration, the horse must have a recognizable coat pattern or mottled skin and one other characteristic.

Guide to Identifying (pdf 3mg)

Location of Patterns
There are five classifications of blanket pattern locations used by the Appaloosa Horse Club.

  • Hips
  • Loin and hips
  • Back and hips (markings extend over a portion of the back, up to the withers)
  • Body and hips (markings extend from the hips, inclusive of a portion of the shoulders and/or neck, but do not cover the entire horse)
  • Entire body (markings cover the head, neck, shoulder, back, loin hips and upper legs)

Facial Markings

  • Star is always found on the forehead and may be of any size or shape.
  • Stripe is a vertical marking found below eye level and above the imaginary horizontal line connecting the top of the nostrils.
  • Snip is any mark found below the top of the nostrils, down to and including the lower lip.
  • Blaze is a large or wide marking which connects a star, stripe and snip. A blaze is always a combination of all three of these marks.
  • Bald Face refers to a very large blaze, which can extend outside of the eyes in the forehead and/or center of face. It usually covers the width of the nose and the entire muzzle.

Leg Markings

  • Heel refers to a white marking that may be found across the entire heel or just on one side.
  • Coronet is a mark that occurs as the first inch above the hoof and extends all around the hoof including the heel.
  • Pastern is a mark extending from the top of the hoof to the bottom of the ankle or fetlock joint. A pasterns marking which is irregular and extends to the ankle joint at only one point is called a partial pastern.
  • Half-Pastern is a white marking that extends to midway between the coronet and the ankle. Ankle: An ankle marking extends from the top of the hoof to the top of the ankle joint.
  • Stocking refers to any white marking extending from the hoof and covering the leg up to or above the knee or hock is considered a stocking.
  • Half-Stocking is a white mark that extends from the top of the hoof to the midway point on the cannon bone, not the midway point from the ground to the knee or hock. Partial markings can occur in both the stocking and half-stocking categories.
  • Lightning Marks are irregular white markings on the legs that do not contact the hoof.

Base Coat Colors
The Appaloosa Horse Club recognizes the following base colors:

  • Bay
  • Dark Bay or Brown
  • Black
  • Buckskin
  • Grulla
  • Dun
  • Palomino
  • Cremello/Perlino
  • Chestnut
  • Gray
  • Bay Roan
  • Blue Roan
  • Red Roan

Coat Patterns

A remarkable aspect of the Appaloosa is the myriad of color and pattern combinations s/he can exhibit. There are seven common terms used to describe Appaloosa patterns, but Appaloosa patterns are highly variable and many do not easily fit into specific categories.

  • Blanket refers to a horse which has a solid white area normally over, but not limited to, the hip area with a contrasting base color.
  • Spots refers to a horse which has white or dark spots over all or a portion of its body.
  • Blanket With Spots refers to a horse with a white blanket which has dark spots within the white. The spots are usually the same color as the horse's base color.
  • Roan develops a lighter colored area on the forehead, jowls and fotal bones of the face, over the back, loin and hips. Darker areas may appear along the frontal bones of the face as well and also on the legs, stifle, above the eye, point of the hip and behind the elbow. Note: Without an apparent Appaloosa blanket or spots, a horse with only the above-listed characteristics will also need mottled skin and one other characteristic to qualify for regular registration.
  • Roan Blanket refers to a horse having the roan pattern consisting of a mixture of light and dark hairs, over a portion of the body. The blanket normally occurs over, but is not limited to, the hip area.
  • Roan Blanket With Spots refers to a horse with a roan blanket which has white and/or dark spots within the roan area.
  • Solid refers to a horse which has a base color as is described above pages but no contrasting color in the form of an Appaloosa coat pattern. This horse will need mottled skin and one other characteristic to receive regular papers.

Appaloosa Foals
It is not always easy to predict the color a grown horse will be from the shade it appears to have as a foal. For instance, most foals are born with lighter colored coats than they will have when they shed their baby hair, but gray horses are born dark and progressively become lighter.

Most foals start to lose fuzzy baby hair around their eyes, nostrils and at the base of the tail fist, followed by the legs. Look for smooth hair in these areas because the color of this hair will usually indicate the foal's permanent color. If the foal coat on the legs is replaced by chestnut hair and the mane and tail are not black, the foal will most likely be a chestnut. If the foal coat is replaced by black hair on the legs, expect a bay. Most often, a black horse is born mousy gray.