appaloosa-horse

Appaloosa Horse Breed: The Beginners Guide (2022)

The Appaloosa Horse is popular for its magnificent spotted coat pattern.

Those stunning equestrians are descendants of the Spanish Horse and their true origin dates back to Ancient Greece and China.

This article informs you about the rich history, myths, and legends of this breed.

If you are thinking about buying an Appaloosa, you will find all the information about the Appaloosas’ characteristics, their care, similar breeds, and the costs for an Appaloosa in this article.

Breed: Appaloosa Horse
Adult Weight: 1,000-1,100 pounds
Adult Height: 14.2-16 hands (64-72 inches)
Origin: Ancient: China, Uzbekistan, France – nowadays North America
Use: Western, English, dressage, jumping, farming
Colors: black, bay, palomino, dun, grulla, roan, cremello, and buckskin
Features: leopard-complex spotted coat, small head, elegantly built
Lifespan: 26-30 years
Character: fierce, intelligent, smart, playful
Gait: lateral gait, smooth, spirited
Best for: Experienced Riders

Appaloosa Horse Characteristics

The most distinctive feature of the Appaloosa is its leopard-complex spotted coat.

The body type of this horse exists in many variations with a rather small and well-defined Appaloosa horse head and alert ears.

Overall the Appaloosa is a tall and rangy horse. They often have striped hooves and a white sclera – this makes their eyes look almost human-like. 

Size

The American Appaloosa Association states a height of about 14.2-16 hands which is 57-64 inches or 144-163cm (1). The Appaloosa horse size is considered to be a medium to tall-sized horse breed.

The range of Appaloosa size and the height between the two sexes, Appaloosa mare and Appaloosa stallion, does not differ considerably from one another. Sometimes mares tend to be one inch smaller than stallions.

Though it is proven that the Appaloosa stallion is likely taller than the Appaloosa gelding (2). Appaloosa horse uses are very versatile. They are used extensively for English and Western riding and appear often in movies due to their pleasant size and special appearance.  

Weight 

The Appaloosa Horses weight can be anything from 1,000 to 1,100 pounds which are around 450 to 500 kg (3). When you compare the Appaloosas’ weight with other horse breeds this is a rather common weight for horses this size.

Appaloosas have a light, yet sturdy conformation. The bone structure of these horses is good and solid which makes them suitable for various uses of equestrian pleasure and even for show jumping.

They have strong legs, are compact, and suitable for dressage. Due to their sturdy build, they are also used as stock horses. Very heavy Appaloosa horses can even weigh up to 1250 pounds. 

Colors 

Besides the very common leopard-complex spots on the Appaloosas coat, there are a few more distinctive characteristics when it comes to the types of Appaloosa horses and the Appaloosa horses colors.

Many of these horses show so-called skin-muzzling. The skin-muzzling, which describes spotted skin, appears often around the eyes, muzzle, anus, and genitalia.

All of the base Appaloosa colors are recognized by the Appaloosa Horse Club: black, bay, palomino, dun, grulla, roan, cremello, and buckskin. On top of these base coats, the Appaloosa shows various pattern variations.

Those unique spots and patterns are called the “leopard complex”. When lighter spots overlay darker skin, the spot seems to have a halo which often makes the coat look like the coat of a leopard or reminds me personally of cultures inside a petri dish. 

Temperament 

Appaloosa Horse temperament is nothing for beginners or novices.

Even though the Appaloosa horse breed is considered as one of the best riding horses, the Appaloosa behavior – full of courage and fiery temperament – should preferably be handled by experienced equestrians who are confident in the saddle.

Appaloosas are intelligent and independent horses who were used as war horses by the Native Americans due to their brave personality.

They will not tolerate being abused or mishandled by their owner — which should be a given anyway. If you are familiar with horses and an experienced rider, this breed will be a great choice for you.

If you are a beginner or novice and still make some mistakes when riding your horse, the Appaloosa will challenge beginners and novices and you should rather choose another breed to improve your horse riding skills. 

Appaloosa Horse Care

The Appaloosa Breed of Horse (Caballo appaloosa) is preferably be held in large and plain areas, where they can graze a lot.

As they are intelligent and self-conscious horses, they will actively ask for what they need and not just relax in their stable and wait for you – you need to have a lot of time.

They are susceptible to parasites, which is why you must groom and brush them consequently and frequently to successfully prevent this.

Diet and Nutrition 

The Appaloosa horse’s diet is typical to a grazer and does not differ much from the common horse diet.

Appaloosas love to graze and that’s why their diet should mainly consist of good-quality hay, grass, grains, and even some veggies and fruit – your horse will get all of those precious nutrients if your Appaloosa has enough space and variety in the pasture (4).

If it does not, it is recommended that you supplement vitamins and supplements like probiotics & prebiotics, vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K, and Omega-3 oils (5). The amount of food depends on the size and activity of your horse. 

Health Problems 

Spotted Appaloosa Horses have been bred to be solid and healthy horses that are robust for their diverse uses (6) and they are not too prone to genetic problems. However, the Appaloosa is vulnerable to a few diseases which can turn out serious.

If you have a light-colored Appaloosa you should be aware that your horse might get sunburn. Apply zinc-oxide creme to the pink skin areas of your horse (muzzle, eye-area, ears) and keep it out of strong midday sun as long as possible (7).

Another possible health problem that is quite unique for this breed is Night blindness (8) – renounce from riding at dusk or night and take your horse into its stable before it gets dark.

It is thought that the LP gene, which ensures the stunning spotted coat, is also responsible for this health issue. Appaloosas are also 8x more likely to become completely blind compared to other breeds (9).

Grooming 

When it comes to grooming, the famous Appaloosa Horses are not too demanding.

The coat, mane, and tail of this spotty horse breed are easier to maintain compared to some other breeds and you should be fine with 2-3x/week of Appaloosa grooming (10).

Brush the coat of your horse with a body brush to clean it from small particles and to strengthen your emotional relationship. Use a Curry Comb to remove more serious dirt and grease from its coat and to stimulate the blood flow of your horse (11).

You should inspect the hooves every week to prevent injuries or infections (12). Use a hoof pick to remove the packed dirt from the hoof of your Appaloosa. 

Appaloosa Horse History

The Appaloosa horse’s history is quite colorful and rich. Appaloosa horse information tells us that the breed is considered a genuinely American Horse breed.

The Naz Perce, a Native American tribe who used to live by the river Palouse, gave the Appaloosa horses the pronunciation of their name. Appaloosa Horses were revived in the 16th century when they were brought to North America by the Spanish. 

Origin 

Even though the Naz Perce and the Spanish are often claimed as the Appaloosa horse origin, the true origin of the Appaloosa might be located much more east than Spain and they seem to have been around for even longer than the 16th century.

Astonishingly the breed of the Appaloosa is believed to date back more than 1000 years – ancient cave carvings, objects, and paintings on which the famously leopard-complex spotted horses are displayed on walls and objects dating back to Ancient Greece, the Hay Dynasty in China, and Persia.

This is an indication of where the first Appaloosas truly originated from (13). 

Historic Development

The historic development that this horse with the spotted coat had to endure is worth to be mentioned in history books – and it is mentioned in some. In the 11th and 12th centuries, paintings of the first spotted horse appeared in France and Spain.

When the Spanish took the ancestors of the modern Appaloosa in the 16th century with them to North America, they were introduced to the Naz Perce.

Most famously this breed almost came to its end during 1876 when the settlers from England, France, and Spain evicted the Naz Perce from their native land (14) – excessive fights and killing between the Native Americans and the American government almost made the Appaloosas go extinct. 

Notable Appaloosa Horses 

There are numerous famous Appaloosa horses throughout history – some of them come from ancient legends or paintings and others were ridden by Marlon Brandon in Hollywood movies.

Seeing that the Appaloosa is a magnificent and friendly horse, it has been used for multiple purposes in history and made some of these horses famous.

Raksh – The Spotted Warhorse of Rostam

The earlier Persians, nowadays Iranians, claim that the ancestor of all spotted horses is the horse Raksh.

Raksh’s coat was described as  “rose leaves that have been scattered upon a saffron ground” and he was the spotted warhorse of the Persian hero Rostam. Rostam was the son of Zal and is considered to be Iran’s gloriest folk hero. He lived approximately in 400 BC.

Cojo Rojo & Marlon Brando

Cojo Rojo was an Appaloosa ridden by Marlon Brando in the movie “The Appaloosa” from 1966.

As the director of the movie wanted a horse with a black blanket, they dyed Cojo Rojo’s coat black, which was originally a blood bay – for no apparent reason.

Cojo Rojo soon became famous and got sold shortly after the movie. 

Pay N Go & Paul McCartney

One of the most famous Appaloosas is Pay N Go. Pay N Go was a bay leopard Appaloosa standing at 16.2 hands who received a very touching request from ex-Beatle Paul McCartney himself.

This Grand Prix dressage horse was performed at the memorial service of the late Linda McCartney, Paul McCartney’s beloved wife, in 1998 in Manhattan, New York. 

Myths and Legends 

Several myths and legends are surrounding the Appaloosa horse from all around the world.

Especially in China, Persia, Spain, England, and Uzbekistan those horses made for grand tales and legends as their leopard-complex spots caught the attention of emperors, nobles, and aristocrats.

Some anthropologists even argue that the ancient carvings from 18,000 BC are thought to represent dreams and visions, rather than actual horses as they seem so divine. 

Celestial Horses of China

Emperor Wu Ti, who reigned around 100 BC, sent officials to Uzbekistan where the leopard-spotted horses have been sighted. He considered them to be superior horses and called them Heavenly or Celestial horses.

It is even said that some Chinese believe the Appaloosa to be prophesied in their Book of Changes as “the heavenly horses that will come from the northwest.”

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

In the British Museum in London, you can see the miniature illustration of a spotted horse in the Commentary on the Apocalypse of St. John Saint Beatus de Liebana.

The book was written around 776 –  the eighth century. The illustration shows that one of the four horses of the Four Horseman is a leopard-complex spotted horse. 

General Howard and Chief Joseph

The Nez Perce Chief Joseph surrendered after horrendous killings to the white settlers and their General Howard. All the Appaloosa horses were confiscated from the Native Americans.

Later Chief Joseph was asked to teach the son of General Howard, Erskin, his Indian ways – in return he was granted a wish and Joseph asked for one Appaloosa to breed with his mares.

His request was never answered and this became the biggest regret of Erskin, who wished he would have helped his wise teacher Joseph. 

Modern Appaloosa Horses

Nowadays the Appaloosa is a well-known and popular horse for its unique features, like its high level of strength and stamina.

In 1938 the Appaloosa Horse Society was founded to re-establish the Appaloosa horse breeding and to redefine the horse.  Coming from going almost extinct, this breed is thriving today and had its resurgence in the 20th century.  

Breeding 

The beautiful Appaloosa horse can be found anywhere around the globe these days. The Appaloosa Horse Society introduced some hot bloods and Arabian horses to redefine the Appaloosa in the 19th century.

This achieved a more fierce temperament in the horse, which was one of the goals. Especially in the US and the UK, Appaloosas have become very popular.

Its leopard-complex spotted coats also play a big role in breeding, as there is a strong competition to breed the most beautiful spotted horses. There are a lot of popular bloodlines, like PRINCESSE PASCALE of 2009 & REDHEART PASCALIUS of 2013.

Population 

The Appaloosa Horse population is documented at over 570,000 Appaloosa horses living around the world.

This number indicates that the breed is not rare anymore, but some equestrians differentiate between the common Appaloosa which is popular today and the “true foundation Appaloosa” which hasn’t been cross-bred – and of those, there are estimated to be less than 200 horses alive, which would mean the true foundation Appaloosas are indeed rare and endangered to go extinct.

It is not documented how many Appaloosa horses live in each country, but the US, the UK, New Zealand, and Russia have popular Appaloosa Horse Clubs.

Uses 

The Appaloosa horse is a very versatile breed. Since their early days, they have been used for farming, long-distance-trail riding, English, and Western riding.

Due to their very high intelligence and natural athleticism, they are fine horses for dressage, jumping, and eventing. Currently, an Appaloosa holds the all-breed record for the 4.5 furlongs distance, which was set in 1989. In the UK they are also widely used for fox hunting.

As they are very pleasant horses to look at, they are still being used for movie productions – the latest example would be an Appaloosa playing next to Matt Damon in the movie “True Grit”. 

Appaloosa Horse Prices

The Appaloosa horse price to purchase a spotted horse of your own, largely depends on the age, size, health, Appaloosa horse pedigree and the Appaloosa horse training the animal has received.

You can spend as little as 450$ for Appaloosa horse foals that haven’t been trained or broken in. You can also spend as much as 13,500$ for a calm and spirited horse that has received a lot of training (15). 

Purchase Price 

The Appaloosa is not necessarily considered an expensive breed. Besides the physical and biographical features that determine the Appaloosa price, its coat color, and the bloodline also play a big role in what you will pay for your spotted horse. The average price for a middle-aged and well-trained Appaloosa mare or stallion will be around $5000-$7000.

Racehorses or well-acclaimed horses of this breed can cost more than 10,000$. The most expensive Appaloosa currently on the free market is a 15-year old leopard-piebald mare from Poland which is listed at over 24,000$ (16).

Ownership Costs 

It is essential that when you decide to buy an Appaloosa horse, you do not only look at the price and the pretty coat.

If you try to save money by buying a “cheaper” horse or just go for the prettiest horse, you most certainly will pay for this in the long run as the horse may have not received enough training or has a difficult temperament.

The daily costs of ownership should also be taken into consideration: board, feed, veterinarian care, and hoof care are just some of the regular costs. 

Board 

When it comes to boarding the decisive factor of monthly costs for boarding and care is your location.

If you live in an area where horseback riding is popular and there are a lot of smallholdings around you can pay as little as $200/month.

If you live in a big city, you can pay up to §400-$600 each month for boarding. Your annual boarding can therefore cost between $1,200-$7,200(17).

Feed 

Appaloosas are pretty cost-efficient to maintain when it comes to their diet. They are natural grazers and you should provide your Appaloosa with high-quality hay which will cost you around $2-$15 a bale, depending on your location.

You will need 15-30 bales per month. Provide your horse with a salt block to ensure it gets enough minerals. A salt block costs around $10 and usually lasts for 2 months.

Veterinary Care 

The annual cost of the vet caring for your horse will be approximately around $200-$300 if you set up a yearly care plan.

A yearly care plan can be done by yourself and consists of a list/schedule of all the feed, care and exercise your horse needs throughout a year. This helps you to maintain your horse’s health and to avoid unexpected costs due to negligence of your horses’ care.

The $200-$300 will cover the annual vaccinations, the deworming for 12 months, and teeth floating once or twice per year. The costs do not cover anything unexpected like injuries, inflammations, or colics – all of them alone can easily cost you $500-$1200 depending on the severity of the problem. 

Hoof Care 

Your Appaloosa will regularly need horseshoes or a hoof trim. It needs to get a trim every 6-8 weeks if you let your horse walk barefoot.

Trimming your horses’ hooves will most likely cost around $20-$35 for each trim. Shoeing your horse will cost you more than twice as much – around $80. This brings the costs to anything from $150-$1000 annually depending on the hoof care. 

Buying an Appaloosa Horse

Buying an Appaloosa should not be your first horse to purchase or own. This breed is usually not suited for kids, beginners, or novices as they have a passionate and fiery temperament.

Make sure to meet your Appaloosa before buying it as the temperament of the horse should match your expertise and what you are looking for. Your Appaloosa should always come with documentation and health certificates. 

Is the Appaloosa Horse Right for You? 

The Appaloosa is a very versatile horse when it comes to use – there is almost nothing that this horse is not suited for: dressage, jumping, trekking, English and Western are just some examples of the multiple uses this horse is suitable for.

Its beauty captures the interest of a lot of riders, but it is not a good horse for beginners or novices.

Appaloosas are very intelligent horses with a fiery temperament that are not too forgiving of beginners’ mistakes as other horse breeds are. If you make a mistake while riding your Appaloosa and it gets confused, it just might throw you off.

If you are an advanced rider and you like to train regularly with your horse and be challenged once in a while, the Appaloosa will make for a great companion.

How to Buy an Appaloosa Horse? 

If you are confident that the Appaloosa breed is the right choice for you, you will first need to search for the Appaloosa breeder of your choice.

You will want to buy from a breeder that is open with you and lets you handle and ride the horse before talking about the purchase.

Take a look at the horse farm and how the horses are treated:

  • Are the stables clean?
  • How does the Appaloosa horse’s gait feel when riding? Is there enough space for the horses?
  • Are the horses out on the paddock?

The horse seller should also ask you several questions to make sure the horse is sold into a good home and handed to an experienced rider.

Similar Breeds to Appaloosa

The Appaloosa is not the only horse breed that has a beautiful spotted coat.

If you would like to get a horse with a spotted coat, but the Appaloosa is not suitable for you since you maybe are not experienced enough for this fiery breed, we will tell you about some great alternatives.

There are a lot of pretty spotted horse breeds, which will be a better choice for beginners and novices because they are more forgiving of mistakes when being ridden. 

Tiger Horse 

Contrary to their name these horses are not striped but spotted very similar to the Appaloosa. They also came from Spain and have been bred by the Nez Perce, but they have different bloodlines.

They are related to each other and the Tiger Horse is recognized as a four-gaited color breed. They can only be separated by experts. 

Mustang 

The common feature of this breed and the Appaloosas is the spotted coat of both breeds – but not all mustangs have a spotted coat.

The difference between the two breeds is that the Appaloosa must show muzzling and striped hooves and the mustang doesn’t have these characteristics in their studbooks. 

Pony of The Americas

The Pony of the Americas is a relatively new breed and comes from the cross-bred foundation of Shetland-Arab-Appaloosa mixes. They have a mark on their flanks that looks like a handprint.

The most common feature of this breed and the Appaloosas is their spotted coats. The biggest differences are the small height of the Pony of the Americas (11.2 to 13.2 hands) compared to the Appaloosas (14.2-16 hands).

FAQ 

What is an Appaloosa horse? 

The Appaloosa Horse is a beautiful, full-sized North American horse breed. Its distinctive features are its leopard-complex spotted coat and oftentimes striped hooves.  

What does an Appaloosa horse look like? 

The Appaloosa Horse has a characteristic leopard-complex spotted coat which is acknowledged in multiple colors. It is a tall horse with a small, but an elegant head. 

How did the Appaloosa horse get its name? 

The Appaloosa got its name from the Native American Tribe of the Nez Perce. The Nez Perce bred the Appaloosa for many years and lived next to a river called Palouse, which gave the horse breed its name.

Can you ride an Appaloosa horse? 

Riding an Appaloosa horse is very much possible. It can be ridden by experienced adult riders of all ages – not by kids. It is a strong-willed and intelligent horse and is used in many equestrian areas.

Are Appaloosa horses good for beginners? 

The Appaloosa horse is not a suitable horse for beginners or kids. It is a strong-willed and intelligent horse that might challenge beginners and novices. 

How tall is an Appaloosa horse? 

An Appaloosa horse stands at 14.2-16 hands which are approximately 64-72 inches. They are quite tall and sturdy horses but of light conformation. 

​​How much does an Appaloosa horse weigh? 

Appaloosas are well-built and of light conformation and weigh around 1,000-1,100 pounds which is 450-500kg. They are elegantly built and not too big.

How big is an Appaloosa horse? 

The Appaloosa horse is a sturdy and robust horse with an athletic body. They are comfortably sized horses for all experienced adult riders. 

How much does an Appaloosa horse cost? 

An Appaloosa horse can cost anything from 100$ for an untrained foal up to 24,000$ for an accomplished mare that participated in tournaments. 

How much does an Appaloosa horse ownership cost? 

The costs of owning an Appaloosa Horse do not differ much from owning a horse in general (roughly 350-600$/month). The costs depend on your living situation and the country and city you live in. 

How long do Appaloosa horses live? 

The Appaloosa horse lifespan is between 26-30 years if they are well-cared for and get enough exercise and quality-feed. This is similar to the common lifespan of many horse breeds.

How fast can an Appaloosa horse run? 

Appaloosa horse speed is something this breed is very well-known for. They can run up to 55 miles per hour at top speed at the distance of a quarter-mile. 

How much can an Appaloosa horse pull? 

It is not documented how much an Appaloosa horse can pull, but as they have been used for farming purposes for a long time, they will be able to pull their weight at least.

How much can an Appaloosa horse carry? 

Most horses can carry up to a maximum of 20-35% of their weight and Appaloosa horses should be able to do the same, even though it has not been documented clearly how much they can carry. They can safely carry all adult riders of a healthy weight.

At what age is an Appaloosa horse full grown? 

When your Appaloosa turns 12 months old, it will have reached 90% of its full-grown Appaloosa horse height. After this rapid growth boost, the further 10% growth can take up to 6 years.

What are Appaloosa horses used for? 

The use of the Appaloosa horse is very versatile. It is widely used for pleasure in English and Western riding, jumping, dressage, trekking, long-distance trail riding, cattle, and rodeo events, and even for racing. 

References 

1, 3. Britannica, 2022. Appaloosa. Link
2. Lisa A Boden, Tim DH Parkin, Julia Yates, Dominic Mellor & Rowland R Kao. 2012. Summary of current knowledge of the size and spatial distribution of the horse population within Great Britain. Link
4. Todd C. Holbrook. 2014. Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery. Link
5. Del Johnson, Horse Guard. 2015. You Are the Appaloosa of My Eye!. Link
6. PetMD. 2022. Appaloosa. Link
7. Equisearch. 2005. Sun Protection for Horses. Link
8, 9. The University of Minnesota Extension. 2022. Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU). Link
10, 11, 12. National AG Safety Database, Richard, Dawn M., Malinowski, Karyn. 2022. Grooming Horses Safely. Link
13. Appaloosa Museum & Heritage Center Foundation, 2022. History of the Appaloosa. Link
14. Oregon Encyclopedia, David Lewis. 2022. Appaloosa horse breed. Link
15, 16. Ehorses. 2022. Appaloosa horse prices. Link
17. Equine Helper. 2022. Boarding A Horse: How Much It Costs. Link

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