The Appaloosa Horse Breed – Young Rider Magazine

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The Appaloosa comes in a diverse range of mottled patterns, including leopard and roan variations. Photo by Bob Pool / Shutterstock

For the most part, horse breeds share common coat colors, such as brown, bay leaf, gray, and black. Likewise, most horses share the same type of white markings, such as star, blaze, socks, and stockings. But a group of coat patterns – splash spots, varnished roan, snowflakes, and more – are made famous by the beautiful and instantly recognizable Appaloosa horse breed. Let’s take a closer look at this popular breed.

An American original

Young Rider Magazine LogoSpanish explorers and settlers brought horses to North America on ships about 500 years ago. Within a century or two, the descendants of these horses were spread across the continent. It didn’t take long for innovative Native American tribes, including the Nez Perce, to put horses to good use.

The name “Appaloosa” is a funny example of how words and language change over time. Originally, the Appaloosas were known as “Palouse horses,” named after the Palouse River in the northeastern United States, where the Nez Perce developed the breed in the 1700s. Eventually, the Palouse horse became “a Palouse horse”, then “Appaloosa”.

Appaloosa with Native American costume.
The Appaloosa played a major role among the Nez Perce tribe of Native Americans. Courtesy of Appaloosa Journal

American explorer Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) noted the speckled coat patterns of these horses when he visited the Northwestern Washington Basin area as early as 1806:

“Some of these horses are pided with large patches of white irregularly scattered and interspersed with black, brown, bey [sic] or some other dark color.

He also described the horses as “active,” “durable,“ elegant ”and“ excellent. ”Sounds a lot like today’s Appaloosa!

A western horse

Other horse breeds have influenced the Appaloosa horse breed, including American Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and Arabs. In fact, the influence of the American Quarter Horse in the Appaloosa contributes to making some horses a decidedly “stock horse” appearance, and it is popular among Western riders.

The Appaloosas excel in Western yachting classes as well as other events like reining, chopping, lassoing, and barrel racing. They are also good ranch horses. And of course the Appaloosa wouldn’t be a true Western breed unless he made a great touring horse, which he does! In fact, the Appaloosa Horse Club (ApHC) even offers sanctioned hiking tours.

Thanks to their natural athleticism and talent, the Appaloosas can also shine in English disciplines including hunter / jumper, dressage and eventing. And you’ll even find Appaloosas at work as team horses, pulling carts for show or pleasure.

A colorful breed

Appaloosa horse close up.
In addition to their spots, the mottled skin and white seal around the eyes are two notable features of Appy. Photo by Nicole Ciscato / Shutterstock

The first pattern that may come to mind when thinking about the colors of Appaloosa horse breeds is the polka dot blanket, but there are other coat patterns as well. In fact, ApHC recognizes several different coat patterns, as well as 13 base coat colors. But some horses seem to defy boundaries and display multiple designs, which adds to the fun!

Some of the Appaloosa coat designs you might find include:

?? Blanket: This popular pattern involves a sturdy coat with a white speckled blanket on the hindquarters.

?? Snow cap: This pattern looks a lot like the polka dot blanket, but without the stains. Looks like the horse got some frosting on the back!

?? Frost / Varnish: These are two distinct models that look alike; they have white hairs scattered throughout the horse’s coat, with a roan-like appearance.

?? Marble: Imagine a spotted blanket that continues and covers the entire body of the horse, accompanied by a stroke of roan, and you get the mottled pattern.

?? Leopard: A striking color pattern that features a white base coat covered in dark speckles – think the equine version of a Dalmatian.

?? Snowflake: This is basically the inverted version of a leopard pattern. This time it is the base color which is dark and the spots which are light. There may also be fewer spots.

?? Solid: It is also possible that an Appy is just a solid color with no spots. But many of these horses retain the Appaloosa characteristics of striped hooves, mottled skin around the face, or white sclera around the eyes, all of which go with the breed’s unique coat patterns.

Spotted and smaller

Love the eye-catching coat patterns of the Appaloosa but want something a little smaller? You’re in luck, because the Pony of the Americas (POA) brings flashy Appaloosa coloring in a smaller package. POAs were developed through a combination of Appaloosa, Shetland Pony, Welsh Pony, Arabian and other breeds.

Purebred registry

Appaloosa horse in the snow.
Photo by Alla-Berlezova / Shutterstock

Because the ApHC allows crosses with Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds and Arabs for registration, the International Colored Appaloosa Association (ICAA) was formed to preserve the breed and its heritage, promote these versatile horses. and athletics around the world and develop the purebred. Appaloosa.

Using the accepted method of breeding strictly registered Appaloosa with Appaloosa registered without crossbreeding for eight generations, the goal of the ICAA is to one day achieve purebred Appaloosa horses.

This article on the Appaloosa horse breed appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe !

Did you know?

Appaloosa horses on equestrian trail.
The Appaloosas are excellent mounts for young people and excellent in Western and English sports, as well as trail running. Courtesy of Appaloosa Journal

The Appaloosa is the official horse of the state of Idaho.

Appaloosas are typically 14-16 hands tall.

◆ The Appaloosa Horse Club was established in 1938, and over 700,000 Appaloosas have been registered.

◆ John Wayne rode an Appaloosa named Zip Cochise in the 1966 movie El Dorado.


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