The Appaloosa: All About These Beautiful Spotted Horses

Appaloosas have bee a favorite breed of mine for a long time due to their remarkable coat coloring. These horses, sometimes called Appys, are known for being kind of temperamental and sometimes difficult to work with. I conducted a lot of research on this breed and wanted to share what I’ve learned with you.

What Is An Appaloosa Horse?

An Appaloosa is a horse breed that is especially known for its significance to the Nez Perce Native American tribe. This breed is recognizable by its spotted coat that can come in many patterns and colors. Known to be temperamental at times, this breed isn’t the easiest to get along with and can be ornery. The Appaloosa breed typically stands at 14.2 to 16 hands high and can be seen in English and Western riding. This breed is classified as a warmblood and was descended from Spanish horses brought to the New World in the late 1400s.

The History Of The Appaloosa

The Appaloosa is a breed, like many found in America, that was descended from Spanish horses when the “New World” was discovered. The ancestors of the Appaloosa breed were used by travelers and Conquistadors when exploring the “New World.” It is thought that the Spanish horses that escaped, were stolen, or abandoned were taken by the Native Americans in the area.

The Appaloosa was bred especially for its coat pattern which helped the horse to be camouflaged in the trees when the Native Americans were sneaking up on enemies and hunted animals. Another great trait of the Appaloosa is its incredible endurance and stamina making it a great warrior horse, hunting horse, and traveling horse.

Fun Fact: The Nez Perce Native Americans would paint spots on pregnant mares in hopes that she would give birth to a spotted foal.

What Makes The Appaloosa Unique? How To Identify This Breed

The Appaloosa is easily identified by several traits that it carries, the primary trait being its coat.

The Appaloosa’s Coat

The Appaloosa’s coat coloration and patterns are the key defining characteristic that it has. Appaloosas are basically the Dalmation of the horse world. This breed can come in virtually any coat color and the coat patterns that these horses can include:

  • Leopard – White coat with dark spots from head to tail. Sometimes the horse can be a dark color with white spots.
  • Blanket – Dark coat with a white patch on the hindquarters. White can reach further forward to the midsection or lower neck. A completely white blanket pattern with no other spotting is sometimes called a ‘snow cap’ coat pattern
  • Roan Blanket – The horse has a roan base coat color with a white blanket patch on its hindquarters. Sometimes the foal is born a solid color with white spots and the spots fade out or ‘roan over.’ This is called a varnish roan
  • Solid: Yes Appaloosas can be solid colors though it is rare. The way to identify an Appaloosa when it is a solid color is striping on the hooves or genetics.

The Appaloosa’s Skin

Appaloosas, whether they are solid colored or spotted, will have mottled skin. Mottled skin is basically pink skin with dark flecks but can be dark with pink flecks in some cases.

Appaloosa horses will always have mottled skin

The Appaloosa’s Eyes

Appaloosas can be identified just by looking at their eyes. They will almost always have the whites of their eyes showing at all times as opposed to having dark eyes like other breeds.

What The Appaloosa Excels In

Trail Riding

Appaloosas are a hardy type of horse so they do really well when trail riding as riding in the wilderness is what they were bred to do. These horses are in their natural element when trail riding so this area of western riding is easy for them.


Appaloosas used for English riding aren’t as frequently seen as the breed used for western purposes, but the taller lankier Appaloosas really do great in the jumping arena.

The Appaloosa and Appaloosa crosses are amazing in the jumping arena not only because of their skill but also because of their unique appearance. Most jumpers, especially those used in Showjumping, are bay, gray, and chestnut. When a gorgeous spotted horse enters the arena and puts on a great show, they take the judge’s attention more than your average ‘brown’ horse.


The Appaloosa does great as a hunt horse because they also can put on a show in the arena. These horses stand out especially in the English area of riding because they typically aren’t used as English horses.

Western Pleasure

This is of the most popular areas of riding that this breed competes and participates in. These horses make great western horses and ranch horses because of their ancestry and what they were bred for.

These horses are known for being very smooth to ride with an easy going gait.


Appaloosas make great endurance horses because traveling and frequent riding is in its blood.

Though the Appaloosa has great stamina and is used in endurance riding, the Arabian is actually the better option for this sport.

Barrel Racing

Appaloosas are fast and coordinated animals who, when they are given a job, do it well with the help of these traits. Appaloosas make great barrel horses because of their speed and coordination. They are also very driven so when they gallop towards and maneuver around the barrels, they do their best.

FAQs On Appaloosas

Are Appaloosas good with children?

Yes and no. These horses are known for being kind of temperamental and don’t make the best beginner horses. Appaloosas can sometimes be good with children, but typically they aren’t the best choice.

Appaloosas, though they are warmblooded and not hotblooded, are still high-strung and are better for an experienced rider or handler.

Are Appaloosas expensive?

Like most breeds of horse, it depends on the horse’s size, age, and conformation. Some of these horses sell for a pretty penny, but the older Appaloosas without very good conformation typically are on the cheaper end.

How long do Appaloosas live?

Appaloosas live to be about thirty years old or older. This breed is very hardy and lives a longer life than your typical warm blood.

To learn more about age and the longest living horses, check out my article here.

Is Appaloosa a breed or a color?

Appaloosas are a breed of horse, though there are some coat colors and patterns on other horses that may resemble that of an Appaloosa, they are not actually Appaloosas.

There can actually be solid colored Appaloosas, which proves further that this is in fact a breed not a color.

Hailey Sipila

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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