appaloosa horse

Appaloosa Horse


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Appaloosa Horse

The Appaloosa is a distinct horse that is well known for its unique spotted coat and versatility in the ring. They are descended from the Spanish Horse, though their true origin can be traced all the way back to Ancient Greece and China. While these horses are best suited for experienced riders, their gentle temperament and loyalty can make them well suited to working with less experienced equestrians as well. Read on to learn more about the Appaloosa breed and some of their special characteristics and breed history, too. 

Appaloosa Horse Characteristics

The Appaloosa breed of horse is most easily identified by its coat. The Appaloosa is well known for having a leopard spotted coat, making it easy to pick an Apaloosa out of the crowd a mile away! There is not necessarily one type of body for an Appaloosa horse. In fact, their body types range quite a bit. What is common, though, is the small and well defined Appaloosa head, which features a set of alert ears. All in all, this breed is typically a tall and rangy breed of horse. Appaloosa also often feature striped hooves and a white sclera, which ends up making their eyes look close to human like. 

Appaloosa Horse Size

The average height of an Appaloosa is measured between 14.2 to 16 hands high. Thus, the breed is considered to be a medium to tall sized horse. When it comes to the heights of male and female Appaloosa, these are more or less the same. Appaloosa mares can sometimes be about an inch smaller than the stallions of the breed— but this is not a very large discrepancy! That being said, the Appaloosa stallion is still taller than the Appaloosa gelding. This is a versatile and beautiful breed of horse. 

Appaloosa Horse Weight

A healthy Appaloosa will weigh between 1000 and 1100 pounds, and this is common for horses of this size, if you were to compare this weight to similar sized breeds. The Appaloosa also has a light conformation, which is still sturdy at the same time. They have a good, solid bone structure. This kind of bone structure makes the breed a good choice for various equestrian uses, including pleasure rides and the more demanding or strenuous show jumping. The Appaloosa is compact, with strong legs. Some Appaloosa are heavier than the average, and the stockier, more compact Appaloosa horses can even weigh up to 1250 pounds! 

Appaloosa Horse Colors

Now, of course, the Appaloosa is most famous for its gorgeous coat and coloring. The breed has a distinct leopard complex spot pattern on their coat. However, this is not the only unique thing about them, or the only determining characteristic of the breed. Skin muzzling, or spotted skin, often appears on Appaloosa horses in areas such as the muzzle, around the eyes, anus, and genitalia. Appaloosas may also come in a variety of base colors, such as black, bay, fun, grulla, palomino, roan, buckskin, and cremello. It is then on top of these base colors that the pattern variations occur, such as the leopard complex spots. Similar to a Paint horse, the Appaloosa’s patterns are unique to the individual horse! 

appaloosa horse running
Appaloosa Horse running
appaloosa horse
appaloosa horse

Appaloosa Horse Temperament

The Appaloosa has some characteristics that can make it a good breed for beginners, but overall, it is a much better breed for equestrians who have more riding experience. The Appaloosa is kind, calm, and loyal, but it can also be very high-strung. Appaloosa horses are known to be fiery and full of courage, which is much easier for an experienced rider to handle. You need to be able to confidently harness this horse’s energy. The Appaloosa was used as a war horse breed by the Native Americans, once upon a time— this is due to their bravery. An Appaloosa can be a challenging horse for someone who is not confident in the saddle, so it is something to keep in mind if you are a new rider and searching for the perfect equine partner.

Appaloosa Horse Care

Each breed of horse has its own unique set of requirements to keep it healthy and happy. The Appaloosa is just another one of these. You will want to be sure you are following guidelines so that you can keep your Appaloosa looking and feeling its best.

For example, they should be held in large grassy areas where they can graze a lot. They are also unfortunately susceptible to parasites, which makes frequent grooming very important. Luckily, the Appaloosa is an intelligent breed of horse and will not hesitate to tell or show you what it needs. We will go over the care and maintenance of this breed in more detail further on in the article, so buckle up and keep reading!

Appaloosa Horse Diet and Nutrition

Diet and nutrition can vary based on the needs of a breed of horse, as well as on the individual horse’s needs. For instance, the Appaloosa horse’s needs are closest to that of a grazer. Their diet does not vary much from the common horse diet.

The Appaloosa is a breed that loves to graze, meaning that their diet needs to be made up of mostly good quality grass, hay, grains, as well as some fruits and vegetables, too. If an Appaloosa has enough space in the pasture, then they should be able to get enough of their needed nutrients.

Otherwise, you may need to add supplements to the diet of your Appaloosa. These may include Omega 3 oils, in addition to vitamins A, B,C, D, E, and K. The quantity of food needed will of course depend on the energy or exercise level of the individual horse, as well as the horse’s size. 

Appaloosa Horse Health Issues

There are some health problems that appear in this breed, too.

A light colored Appaloosa is prone to getting sunburnt. Any pink skin areas on the horse should be taken care of accordingly, by applying zinc oxide cream to them. Some of these pink skin areas may be the muzzle or ears of the horse. You should also try your best to keep your light colored Appaloosa out of the strong midday sun to protect against sunburns. Night blindness is another issue that occurs in Appaloosa horses, pretty uniquely to this breed.

Be aware of this, and avoid riding your Appaloosa at or close to dusk. You should also be sure to take your Appaloosa inside before darkness falls. The LP gene that causes the spotted coat of the Appaloosa is thought to be the cause of this. The horses are also more likely— 8 times more than other breeds of horse, unfortunately— to go completely blind.

Appaloosa Horse Grooming

Grooming is very important for any breed of horse, and especially so for the Appaloosa. Luckily, though, they are not too demanding with the complexity of their grooming routine. The horses are prone to parasites, which makes daily grooming important.

You should brush their body with a curry comb, which not only removes dirt and debris, but also stimulates the horses blood flow. Their mane and tail are easy to take care of, and will only need to be groomed or brushed 2 to 3 times a week. It is also important to check the Appaloosa’s hooves every week in order to prevent injury or infection. You should use a hoof pick, too, to clean out the packed dirt from their hooves.

Appaloosa Horse History

The Appaloosa is a breed with a particularly colorful history— colorful like the Appaloosa horse itself! They are considered to be an American breed of horse, and the name comes from the Nez Perce.

The Nez Perce were a Native American tribe who lived beside the Palouse river. In the 16th century, Appaloosa horses were respected and revered once the Spanish brought them over to the New World. We will go over the history of these horses in greater detail further in this article. 

Appaloosa Horse Origin

The origin of the Appaloosa horse is often linked to the Nez Perce tribe and to the Spanish settlers who brought the horses over to America with them. However, the origin of the breed can actually be traced even farther than Spain.

The horses have been around for longer than the 16th century, and there is proof linking the breed to Ancient Greece and to dynasties in Ancient China such as the Han Dynasty. Appaloosas may have also been in Ancient Persia. These indications of where the Appaloosa did truly originate from are typically art where the horses and their distinct leopard spot patterns feature. Some of the places where the Appaloosa have appeared are in paintings on the walls of ancient caves!

Appaloosa Horse Historic Development

There was plenty of historic development of the Appaloosa breed over the years, too. The 11th and 12th centuries are when paintings and artworks of these horses first appeared in the countries of Spain and France. Many decades later, in the 16th century, the Spanish took what are the ancestors of the Appaloosa we know today and brought them to North America.

This is when the Nez Perce Native American tribe came into contact with the breed. However, the Appaloosa breed also had some struggles. They almost went into extinction back in the year 1876. This is when English, French, and Spanish settlers all began to evict the Nez Perce from their own native land. This caused many fights, battles, and conflicts between the settlers and the Nez Perce tribe. These battles resulted not only in the deaths of the people fighting them, but many of the Appaloosa horses being ridden into battle, too. 

Notable Appaloosa Horses

As the Appaloosa is a breed that is easy to identify, it makes sense that it is also a breed that has been used in films or art, besides just participating in equestrian competitions. They are gorgeous horses, but have great friendly temperaments, too, which have made them more versatile of a breed. There are plenty of Appaloosa horses who are famous for a myriad of different reasons! We will go over some of these famous horses below.

Raksh, The Spotted Warhorse of Rostam

The early Persians, who lived in what is now modern-day Iran, had a belief that the ancestor of all the spotted horses were a horse who was named Raksh. The coat of this particular horse was described as “rose leaves that have been scattered upon a saffron ground”. Raksh was the spotted warhorse of a Persian hero known as Rostam. This hero, Rostam, was the son of Zal and is the greatest folk hero of Iran to this day. His life, and Raksh’s life, can be traced back to around 400 BC. 

Cojo Rojo and Marlon Brando

Cojo Rojo was another famous Appaloosa, and this particular Appaloosa was a movie star! He was the horse in the movie “The Appaloosa”, which came out in 1966. Naturally, they needed an Appaloosa, not just any breed of horse, to play this part!

He was ridden by Marlon Brando in the movie— another famous movie star! Interestingly, the director of the movie wanted a horse with a black blanket, but Cojo Rojo was originally a blood bay. They solved this problem by dyeing Cojo Rojo’s coat black for the duration of the movie. This role made Cojo Rojo famous, and he was able to be sold shortly after filming wrapped. 

Pay N Go and Paul McCartney

Pay N Go is still one of the most famous Appaloosa horses to this day. Pay N Go was an Appaloosa with a bay leopard coat, and stood at 16.2 hands high! This is pretty tall for an Appaloosa, coming at the high point of the breed’s average height.

Pay N Go also received a very special request from none other than Paul McCartney of Beatles fame. He had Pay N Go, a Grand Prix dressage horse, at the memorial for his late wife Linda McCartney in 11998. This ceremony took place in Manhattan, New York.

Appaloosa Horse Myths and Legends

The Appaloosa is a breed that piques the interest of anyone who sees it, but it can be especially charming for artists and storytellers. This beautiful breed of horse has collected several myths, stories, and legends about it over the years. Some of the carvings of the horses that date all the way back to 18,000 BC are even said to represent dreams and visions of these horses, as they just seem so divine!

Celestial Horses of China

The emperor who refined in China around 100 BC was known as Emperor Wu Ti. He sent officials to Uzbekistan because the leopard spotted Appaloosa were said to have been seen there. The emperor considered this breed of horse to be superior and even called them Heavenly or Celestial horses.

Another belief of some of the Chinese about the Appaloosa is that these horses are prophesied in the Book of Changes to be “the heavenly horses that will come from the northwest”. This can also be linked to how the emperor referred to them as Celestial or Heavenly horses! 

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

Many of us are familiar with the term the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. But how are the Appaloosa linked to this? In the British museum, located in London, there is a book called Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John Saint Beatus de Liebana. In the book, there is actually a miniature illustration of a spotted horse that resembles the Appaloosa! The illustration is of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, showing that one of them is a leopard complex spotted horse like an Appaloosa. The book was also written in 776, around the 8th century, showing that the origin of the breed can possibly date even this far back. 

General Howard and Chief Joseph

Chief Joseph was a Nez Perce chief who surrendered to General Howard and the white settlers. It was then that all of the Appaloosa horses were taken and confiscated from the tribe. Later on, Chief Joseph received a request— to teach the son of General Howard, named Erskin, his Native American ways. In return, he would be granted a wish or favor. Chief Joseph wisely chose to ask for one Appaloosa to breed with his mares. However, his request was never acknowledged, which became a great regret of Erskin’s.

Modern Appaloosa Horses

The Appaloosa has a far reaching history, but the modern Appaloosa is still popular and beloved, too! They are well known for their high stamina and strength. The Appaloosa Horse Society was founded in 1933 to re-establish the breed and helped to bring about an Appaloosa resurgence. 

Appaloosa Horse Breeding

These days, the Appaloosa can be found worldwide. The Appaloosa Horse society introduced certain hot blooded horses, like Arabians, during breeding to re-define the Appaloosa breed. This helped to give Appaloosa horses a more fiery, fierce temperament. Breeders also pay attention to the spotted coats of the horse, and there are many popular bloodlines such as REDHEART PASCALIUS of 2013 and PRINCESSE PASCALE of 2009.

Appaloosa Horse Population

The Appaloosa breed almost went extinct, but luckily that is not the case anymore! The current population of Appaloosa horses across the globe is documented at around 570,000. They are no longer a rare breed, as can be seen by this number. That being said, some equestrians do find there to be a difference between the common Appaloosa popular today, and the Appaloosa they consider to be the true foundation Appaloosa that has not been cross bred. There are only about 200 of these “true Appaloosas” left.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are Appaloosa horses good for?

Appaloosa horses are a striking breed of horse that is easily recognizable due to its unique coat. There are many events that we see the Appaloosa participating in. Many of these are English riding discipline events. These include fox hunting, show jumping, and eventing. We also commonly see the Appaloosa in endurance riding competitions and casual trail riding, too— they can be used for recreational use and not only for competing! 

Are Appaloosa horses good for beginners?

There are many breeds of horse that can be good options for beginner horseback riders or beginners in specific equestrian events. The Appaloosa is one of these breeds that is a good fit for beginner equestrians or those who have a nervous disposition around horses, and need a horse that is gentle and patient as they start out. The Appaloosa horse is known to be friendly, loyal, and calm, too. They also have a wonderful ability to bond with their owners, riders, or handlers. It is very important for beginner riders to build a strong bond with their equine partner. 

Are Appaloosas fast horses?

As we know, there are many horses that are very fast and can be used in different races. One of these is the American Quarter Horse, for example! The Appaloosa is another of these very speedy breeds. It is very fast in a quarter mile distance, just like the Andalusian and American Quarter Horse breeds. The Appaloosa is able to run at speeds of up to 55 MPH when they are traveling a distance of a quarter mile. The Appaloosa breed is among one of the fastest breeds of horses in the world! 

Are Appaloosas good riding horses?

It is important to look at the breed of horse that you are considering, and then look at the purpose you are looking for your equine partner to fill. For example, if you are looking for a horse that is good for casual rides or trail rides, you will want to know if the breed you are considering is well suited for this. The Appaloosa is one of these breeds that can be a good riding horse. They are used for many purposes and events, some being competitive, like show jumping. However, they are also well suited for pleasure riding and long distance trail riding, too.