What is an Appaloosa? Two Different Views from George Hatley & John L. Baker
George Phippen´s drawing
Ever since the Appaloosa Horse club was established, interested persons have asked numerous questions about the breed such as what are Appaloosas used for? What is the preferred size? Are these horses short and chunky or lean and lanky? Is there a preferred coat pattern? What are the outstanding qualities of Appaloosas? In an attempt to make the answers representative of the opinions of owners of registered Appaloosas, not just "one man's opinion", the club, early in the 1950's, sent a detailed questionnaire to all owners on the club rolls. The answers were tabulated and summarized, and the results were adopted by the club at its June meeting, 1950, as describing the official type. Additional material on breed characteristics and conformation have been included here. In general, a key to a horse's type, size, build and qualities is given by the kind of work he does, and the type of terrain where he is used. Sixty-three percent of the owners list stock horse first, while twenty-nine percent list pleasure horse first. Parade and rodeo follow, with a small percent listing show, jumping, drill. high school, etc. Most owners list three or more different uses following the principal use. This indicates the Appaloosa is a versatile, useful horse which performs well in almost any capacity. Considering the two major uses, we conclude that the Appaloosa owner prefers his horse to be a stock horse which is a pleasure to ride, a horse which can do the job without jarring up the rider and tiring him out in the process. As Archie Soto, cattle foreman for the 83,000 acre San Simeon Ranch in California says, "you can notice the difference when you come in at night. Here the terrain is unusually rough and the Appaloosa's easy riding qualities and good disposition don't tire you out. We can compare because we've tried everything." In Appaloosas, disposition and intelligence are far out in front of the qualities most valued. It is a characteristic of an Appaloosa to have a quiet. sensible disposition combined with a keen intelligence and a willingness to learn. This checks with the use owners make of the horses --good stock horses and pleasure horses require both intelligence and good disposition. Other qualities mentioned frequently were adaptability, endurance, speed, and such qualities common to Appaloosas such as good feet and legs, a fast, easy walk, and that they are easy keepers. Now we have sketched the Appaloosa's use and qualities, let us construct the horse. In general appearance, the Appaloosa is symmetrical and smooth. The majority of owners want a well muscled, full bodied horse. Practically no one desires an Appaloosa to be extremely narrow, shallow bodied and upstanding, or the extreme opposite, wide, thick muscled and drafty. The most popular weight is from 1000 to 1100 with more preference for the 900-1000 than the 1100-1200. The popular height is from 15.0 to 15.2, with more preference for the 14.2-15.0 than for the 15.2-16.0. The Appaloosa head is straight and lean, with owners showing more tolerance for a slight dish than for a roman profile. The forehead is wide. The ears are pointed and of medium size. The jowls should be medium. The small number of owners voting for heavy jowls is about equal to those preferring light jowls. Unlike other breeds of horses, the Appaloosa has a white sclera (corresponding to the white portion of the human eye). This unusual characteristic gives the eye prominence and adds distinctiveness to the head, producing an alert and wide-awake appearance. Another Appaloosa characteristic noticeable on the head, is parti-colored skin around the lips and nostrils. This is an irregular mottling of pink and dark skin. The neck shows quality, having a clean cut throat latch and large windpipe. It blends into a deep chest and long, sloping shoulders. A long, sloping shoulder gives the horse a longer stride and absorbs more shock, and makes for easier riding. A large majority of owners favor a prominent, well defined wither with seven times more votes for a high wither than for a low wither. Appaloosa owners show they definitely want something besides a breast collar and breaching to hold their saddle in place. Owners also desire a medium chest with not too much width between the front legs. A look at the country where Appaloosas are used shows why. On the Appaloosa home range, the flat and gently rolling land is farmed, leaving the steep rough country for livestock. A horse that is wide between the front legs has trouble keeping his feet under him on steep country and rocky trails that are less than a foot wide. The forearm is well muscled, long, wide, and tapered down to a broad knee. The cannons are short, wide and flat, ending in wide, smooth and strongly supported fetlocks. The pastern is long and sloping, entering a rounded parti-colored hoof which is deep, open and wide at the heel. Owners lean somewhat to the longer pastern with four times more preferring a long pastern than prefer a short pastern. Pasterns have a lot to do with whether or not a horse is easy riding. Appaloosa owners would rather sacrifice a little strength in the short pastern for a easier ride in the longer pastern. The back is short and straight and the underline is long with the flank well let down. The hips are smoothly covered, showing a long, sloping croup. Slightly more preference is shown for a croup on the level side than for a drooping croup. The thighs are long, muscular and deep, giving the quarters a smooth, well rounded appearance. The gaskins are long, wide and muscular extending to clean, clearly defined, wide, straight hocks. The cannons are short, wide and smooth, with large tendons set well back. Viewed from behind, a perpendicular line from the point of the buttocks should fall upon the center of the hock, cannon, pastern and foot. From the side, a perpendicular line from the hip joint should fall upon the center of the foot and divide the gaskin in the middle, and a perpendicular line from the point of the buttock should run parallel with the line of the cannon. Since Appaloosas have an unusually striking yet rather variable coat pattern it is interesting to note that the three most popular patterns all get about the same number of votes, with about as many stating that they have no pattern preference as there are that prefer some specific pattern. Considering this, the breed association does not place any particular pattern of markings and does not place any weight on marking in judging Appaloosas. Color patterns can be listed in several different patterns, from which there are many variations and combinations. 1) A horse having dark roan or solid colored foreparts, white with dark spots over the loin and hips. In the Palouse country, Appaloosas with this pattern were commonly said to have "Squaw" spots. With few exceptions Appaloosas showing this pattern show it from birth. This pattern is one of the most common in the breed. old timers claim the dark blue roan, white with black spots over loin and hips, to have been the most popular with the Nez Perce. The dark spots on Appaloosas appear in several shapes such as round, oval, pointed or leaf shapes and diamond shaped. 2) A white horse with spots over entire body. One type of this spotting will show spots very close together on the head and neck, sometimes giving an almost solid colored appearance. The spots will become farther separated toward the loin and hips but will remain quite uniform in size. In the other type, spots will appear much larger over the loin and hips, becoming smaller and further apart toward the head. 3) A horse having dark roan or solid colored foreparts with white over the loin and hips. This pattern is quite common among Appaloosas. 4) A horse having mottling of dark base color with various sizes of white spots or specks over the body. 5) A horse having mottling of dark and white covering the body--this color sometimes resembles an ordinary roan except for the mottling, parti-colored skin and other characteristics. Old timers speak of Appaloosas as being either a "red" or a "blue" Appalousey, the red applying to the chestnut, bay and red roans and the blue to the black and blue roans. The term "red" and "blue" with reference to Appaloosas is very common in the Palouse country. Duns, Buckskins and Palominos, with Appaloosa markings were not known to the early pioneers. They are the result of crossing an Appaloosa to a dun or palomino. The last two of the color patterns listed above are usually foaled solid colored and changed with age. Often a horse of these patterns will first become covered with white specks as a yearling or two-year old, later becoming very mottled at three or four. Some Appaloosas turn white at old age. Too, the coat will often change color considerably with the seasons, such as being light in summer and dark in winter. Although Appaloosas of the last two patterns are not as colorful as some discussed earlier, they very often produce foals of the other more colorful patterns. There are many examples of a rather plain colored mare producing a very flashy marked foal even from a solid-colored stallion. An Appaloosa stallion will often sire foals of several different color patterns. Has this variation in color markings always existed in Appaloosas? The aged Nez Perce, Sam Fisher, stated "Some white, some many spots, some few spots." Sam Fisher was in his nineties, he had bred many Appaloosas -he had seen the Appaloosa before settlers' horses were introduced in numbers. Sam Fisher bears out the evidence of the ancient Chinese. In the Chinese painting "The Hundred Colts", dated about 600 AD, nine of the colts are definitely of the Appaloosa type and each differs from the others. In this picture we could match four of the patterns listed in this article with the nine colts. The Appaloosa's characteristically fine, often thin mane and tail, has long been a subject of controversy. Some of the people who ride the flashy colored Appaloosas as a parade mount prefer a full, heavy mane and tail, others do not like the fine thin mane and tail. However, when the owners give their opinion, 72 percent are in favor of trimming the few long tails rather than putting wigs on all the short tails. To most owners, the Appaloosa's fine thin mane and tail are as much of an Appaloosa characteristic as his spotted hips and his mild disposition. Most horses in the. various use classes such as cow horses, polo ponies, hunters and jumpers, trail horses, etc., require a lot of mane and tail trimming and thinning. Maybe mother nature was just being practical when she left the excess mane and tail off the Appaloosa. Useful qualities, unusual breed characteristics, and a variety of striking color phases contribute toward making the overall picture of the Appaloosa most fascinating. (Reprinted from The Appaloosa Horse' by Haines, Hatley, and Peckinpah, 1957. Courtesy George Hatley.)
John L Baker
In speaking of the "True" Appaloosa, I am speaking of a type not a certain individual. In the Thoroughbred there is a wide range in conformation even though the records trace for over 300 years. Many have identified and portrayed the classic type. The Arabian has five major strains and numerable substrains. Types ranging from Morgan in conformation (Justin Morgan according to the pedigree published by the Morgan Horse Club, was a line-bred Arabian in extended pedigree) to types resembling the classic Thoroughbred. The classic Thoroughbred descended from Arab (Barb or Turk) and traces in extended pedigree to about 15/16 Arabian or classic Arabian type can be defined. The Quarter Horse comes from Thoroughbred crosses with native grades and other breeds and varies also in conformation, yet a type is defined. Why then should we not be able to describe the "true" Appaloosa type? Perhaps in the opinion of many, we do not have the status of a breed. Perhaps many Appaloosa owners, breeders and judges do not believe that the Appaloosa is other than a color breed resembling their favorite breed in conformation. In my opinion, the true Appaloosa is primarily and always has been an endurance horse. It is the only breed capable of nearing and bettering the record of the Arabian in endurance events. In racing the true Appaloosa is primarily a distance horse with some individuals capable of long racing distance of 15 miles or more, although such distances are no longer used very often. Because of his versatility the true Appaloosa type is suitable for many other uses ranging from pleasure to ranch work, games, dressage and jumping. The ApHC drawing by George Phippen portrays this by proportion. Before we discard the drawing let us first analyze it: this horse can fit inside a square -that is, it is 4- square in length as compared to height. These proportions are very hard to find in a horse, and not strictly necessary -one or two inches more in length isn't bad at all. Yet, if you start checking you will find some AQHA types 4 to 8 inches longer than high. Generally speaking the long bodied horse is known for short speed and short distance -a sprinter. The short coupled horse is considered an endurance horse and a distance runner. Of course, there are exceptions, but in checking this I have compared these proportions in photos and paintings of many of the great Thoroughbreds at classic distances with added weight (1 to 2 miles), and found that most of these horses are 4-square or near to it in proportion. The Phippen drawing also portrays a horse with a rump level to the withers, a rear end higher than the front end, is what I call a "down hill horse", and the only people I've seen who accept this are the AQHA and ApHC people and judges inclined to the Quarter Horse type. The pasterns are medium in length and well sloped at about 50 degrees with a matching 50 degree shoulder slope (hard to beat); medium sized hoofs; short cannons; the croup is neither high nor low representing a happy medium; the withers are well defined; the neck is neither long nor short; the head is decent -I have seen many worse and some better; the ears are medium in length -in front view they are erect, not wide and only half erect as in many Quarter Horses or loppy as found in some Thoroughbreds; the jaws are wide enough but not over wide and meaty, exceeding the width between the eyes; the nostrils are well flared. The horse in the Phippen drawings is well muscled but not over muscled or loaded with useless, health and endurance destroying fat. The gaskins and forearms are well defined but not over bulgy. The chest is wide enough to prevent interference yet narrow enough to deter fatigue and soreness at long distances. Now I will give my idea of the ideal type of Appaloosa. In general, I agree with the proportions of the George Phippen drawing but feel that we should, in some cases, be breeding for a smoother looking horse without losing these base proportions entirely. A true Appaloosa can be of any size from 14 hands on up. I have never seen any relationship between quantity and quality- although a bigger person looks better on a bigger horse, and usually horses under 15.2 hands are better balanced and coordinated. Naturally good balance and straight legs are desirable. The true Appaloosa can be of any of the acceptable Appaloosa colors (as defined prior to 1982). The head is often the first thing people look at when viewing a horse and apart from infirmities, the straight profile head is better; slight dish not objectionable; the Roman nose and convex heads I prefer to breed away from. Eyes -bright, alert looking and intelligent (no frog eyes or small pig eyes). Ears -small to medium, well pointed and erect. Wide distance between the eyes. Jaws - medium. Muzzle -rather fine. Nostrils -well flared. Needless to say the head should be in proportion to the body. The neck should tend to be long and graceful (no ewe necks or camel necks). I nave never seen an Appaloosa with a neck too long, but nave seen many with necks too short and thick. The throat latch should be fine to medium. The back should be short. The backline should be smooth with no sudden angles over hips. The croup should be medium to high (goose rumps are out). A bit of natural tail carriage should not be counted against. The legs in the Phippen drawing are hard to beat; although at times a longer front pastern with 45 degree angle adding to flexion and riding comfort is welcome. The Appaloosa should be capable of the - three standard gaits, but since the Indian shuffle was a trait of many of the original Nez Perce horses, an Appaloosa with this smooth gait (similar to a low single-foot) should not be counted against for being more coordinated than others. The Indian shuffle is an advantage in long hours of trail riding and for superiority in long distance riding without fatigue. Consider also the use of this gait for people with back trouble and older people. The same horse should be capable of the walk, jog, trot, or extended trot also, upon command, so as not to offend "Mr. Judge". Good disposition is preferred in any home. This allows for a range in natural temperament from the easy going to the spirited. In many cases the disposition of the handler can add to or ruin the disposition of the horse, and often the horse or type is blamed for the misuse and impatience of the handler. Most horses become friendlier with proper treatment and handling, though all are different. One of the most outstanding features of the true Appaloosa is the coat and skin texture. In the mature individual in summer coat, regardless of crosses, one can always sense the concentration of Appaloosa genes by the texture of the coat, which is always finer than any other breed, provided the horse is healthy and well brushed. Very little clipping is necessary -just a few fine hairs about the head and under the chin and muzzle. There is very little feather long leg hair-just a fine, silken tassel at the point of each fetlock. The coat is so fine as to appear transparent. Indeed, it is transparent in the sweating horse, hence the ancient title "Blood sweating horse". The coat of the true Appaloosa in summer is one that could put many clipper manufactures out of business. This fine coat is a bred in feature, not man- made as in many show horses that are clipped constantly and blanketed to keep the true, coarser coat from revealing itself. This fine, transparent is also present in extensively bred, pink papered Appaloosas, but is missing in solid colored individuals -even full siblings of extensively bred, true Appaloosas. In contrast to the summer coat. the winter coat is capable of providing enough protection against sever cold that the Appaloosa has survived with only natural protection for centuries. The mane and tail are rather short and thin, but some leopard strains have rather long, silky manes and tails falling naturally below the hocks. Although solid colored horses with no characteristics from Appaloosa breeding have never been known to produce an Appaloosa when mated to other solids, these horses may have genes that are complimentary for crossing successfully with Appaloosas (modifying factors). * *(Many breeders claim that modifying factors such as a star, stripe, snip or blaze and white socks, will help in producing color when outcrossing. A chestnut or sorrel will give up its color in an Appaloosa cross better than a bay, brown or dun.) The true Appaloosa under natural conditions may mature slowly then some with draft blood, but they last longer, and after 5 or 6 years are finer, better looking than at 2 or 3 yrs. Early maturity is always a farce in relation to finished quality and elegance, so check the background bloodlines as far as possible. Many a two-year old halter champion has later sold for a fraction of its showing expenses after maturing to the semi- plow horse it was originally, coordination and good temperament. The true Appaloosa fits into this category very well. unknowingly bred to be. The idealistic breeder should not breed for the judges who are pinning for early maturity, but should breed for the continuity of the true Appaloosa features. A judge seldom has to back his selections with his own money, but the breeder ~ does, and if he breeds a truer type and promotes it a bit. the market will respond eventually. Meanwhile, watch the fads come and go. Many people are looking for finer a horse with intelligence,
Thanks to Sundance 500 International for their kind permission to share this from their 2nd Quarter, 2017, Newsletter.