Registration : Guide to Identifying  

Guide to Identifying an Appaloosa

Appaloosa Characteristics
Although Appaloosas are most commonly recognized by their colorful coat patterns, they also have other distinctive characteristics. The four identifiable characteristics are: coat pattern, mottled skin, white sclera, and striped hooves. In order to receive regular registration, a horse must have a recognizable coat pattern or mottled skin and one other characteristic. Horses which receive regular registration are issued numbers (no letters precede the number.) Those not displaying a coat pattern or mottled skin and one other characteristic will be classified as non-characteristic (N/C)) and their registration numbers preceded by the letter "N." Horses which completed the Certified Pedigree Option (CPO) program were issued numbers preceded by the letters "CN."

mottled nosemottled anusMottled or Parti-Colored Skin
This characteristic is unique to the Appaloosa horse. Therefore, mottled skin is a basic and decisive indicator of an Appaloosa. Mottled skin is different from commonly found pink (flesh-colored or non-pigmented) skin in that it normally contains dark areas of pigmented skin within its area. The result is a speckled or blotchy pattern of pigmented and non-pigmented skin. When identifying mottled skin, it is important to not confuse it with simple differences in pigmentation, patches of light and dark skin, and pumpkin skin.

white scleraWhite Sclera The sclera is the area of the eye which encircles the iris - the colored or pigmented portion. The white of the human eye is an example. All horses have sclera but the Appaloosa's is white and usually more readily visible than other breeds. All horses can show white around the eye if it is rolled back, up or down or if the eyelid is lifted. Readily visible white sclera is a distinctive Appaloosa characteristic provided it is not in combination with a large white face marking, such as a bald face.

striped hoofStriped Hooves
Many Appaloosas will have bold and clearly defined vertically light or dark striped hooves. Vertical stripes may result from a injury to the coronet or a white marking on the leg. Also light colored horses tend to have thin stripes in their hooves. As a result, all striped hooves do not necessarily distinguish Appaloosas from non-Appaloosas. Look for other Appaloosa characteristics if any of these situations apply to your horse.

pattern diagramLocation Of Patterns

In reviewing the descriptions of various coat patterns, the necessity of correctly specifying anatomical regions of the horse probably became quite apparent. The five classifications of blanket pattern locations used by the Appaloosa Horse Club are:

    1. Hips
    2. Loin and hips
    3. Back and hips (markings extend over a portion of the back, up to
        the withers.)
    4. 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.)
    5.Entire body (markings cover the head, neck, shoulder, back, loin hips
        and upper legs.)

facial markingsFacial Markings

Specific terms are used when identifying a horse's facial markings. The illustration depicts locations of face markings. True white markings are distinguished by pink or light-colored skin beneath the white hair. These white markings are evident at the time of foaling and do not change throughout the life of the horse. Be careful not to confuse roaned areas with white markings. Please refer to the accompanying illustration for examples of the listed markings. Star: A star is always found on the forehead and may be of any size or shape. Stripe: A stripe is a vertical marking found below eye level and above the imaginary horizontal line connecting the top of the nostrils. Any mark in this area regardless of size is referred to as a stripe. Snip: A snip is any mark found below the top of the nostrils, down to and including the lower lip. Snips can enter into one or both nostrils, or extend to the lip. Blaze: A 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 and therefore will never end above the nostrils. It extends close to the eyes, wide over the center of the face and bridge of the nose, and either extends almost the width of the nostrils or over part of all of each nostril. Bald Face: A bald face refers to a very large blaze, which can extend outside of the eyes in the forehead and/or center of face. It will generally cover the width of the nose and the entire muzzle. A horse with a bald face will often have a large snip on the lower lip which can extend to the under lip area or chin.

leg markingsLeg Markings

Leg markings are also important in identification. Please refer to the accompanying illustration for examples of the listed markings. Please refer to the accompanying illustration for examples of the listed markings.  Heel: A horse has only one heel on each hoof. A white marking may be found across the entire heel or just on one side. Coronet: The coronet occurs as the first inch above the hoof and extends all around the hoof including the heel. Pastern: A pastern extends 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: 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: 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: This white mark 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: Irregular white markings on the legs that do not contact the hoof.

  Base Coat Colors - The Appaloosa Horse Club recognizes the following base colors: (Click on any picture to see a larger version)


Dark Bay or Brown









Bay Roan

Blue Roan  

Red Roan

It is not always easy to predict the color a grown horse will be from the shade it appears to have as a foal. Most foals are born with lighter colored coats than they will have when they shed their baby hair, with the exception of gray horses, which are born dark and progressively become lighter. Most foals will 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 - 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.

  Coat Patterns

A remarkable aspect of the Appaloosa is the myriad of color and pattern combinations he can exhibit. The following are seven common terms used to describe Appaloosa patterns. The description used by the Registration Department differs slightly. Appaloosa patterns are highly variable and there are many which may not fit into specific categories easily.
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 - A horse exhibiting the Appaloosa roan pattern develops a lighter colored area on the forehead, jowls and frontal 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. 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.