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About the Appaloosa
A horse like no other
Unlike any other breed of horse, the Appaloosa's colour, temperament,
versatility and phenomenal athletic prowess have destined it
to be different. Those who ride an Appaloosa will tell you there
is little it can't do, and not much it won't.
An Appaloosa is a safe child's mount one day, and a focussed
competitor the next. You'll see these talented animals excel
in every field, from trekking to Grand Prix dressage, western
riding to three-day eventing. It's not unusual to see the
same horse complete a cross-country course, then the slowest
of western pleasure classes and then demonstrate complete
control of a cow in a working cowhorse event, all in the space
of one weekend.
Perhaps more than any other breed of horse, the Appaloosa
is capable of excellence in any and all equestrian disciplines.
Appaloosa riders will credit this to the breed's natural willingness
to please and terrific attitude. Appaloosas are physically
tough, strong and agile but most importantly, they enjoy being
around and pleasing people.
There can be no doubting the quality of the New Zealand Appaloosa,
whose representatives have to date helped New Zealand riders
rise to world class and Olympic standard in dressage and eventing.
Sometimes thought of as 'only' a western horse, the Appaloosa
has proved time and again that nothing could be further from
the truth! The infinitely talented Broadcast News, a Te Awamutu
bred solid coloured Appaloosa, took the F.E.I.'s Eventing
Horse of the World title in 1998, proving his dominance beyond
question. His sire Time'll Tell is pictured above right, demonstrating his own versatility. In 2003 I'm Sunday's Silhouette (left) was pre-selected
for the NZ Athens Olympics team in dressage. This Auckland
bred mare is thought to be the world's first Appaloosa to
reach this level.
You never know what you're going to
Appaloosas come in all shapes, sizes and colours. What's more,
Appaloosas may change as they get older, developing more white,
and producing coat patterns you wouldn't have dreamed of.
Some Appaloosas have no white at all, while some are almost
completely white. Others have a sprinkling of white throughout
their coats, and some have white blankets over their rumps,
with - or without - spots. One thing's for sure, you won't
find it hard to tell any two apart!
Make no mistake though; the Appaloosa is a breed, not a colour
or a coat pattern. Its characteristics go far beyond its colourful
appearance, although Appaloosa colour makes an Appaloosa most
easily recognisable. It is perfectly possible to breed together
2 highly coloured Appaloosas and have the resulting foal born
without a speck of white and for that plain coloured foal
in turn to later produce a coloured foal of its own. The pursuit
of both quality and colour is what keeps Appaloosa breeders
the world over interested - foaling time is just like Christmas!
The differences don't stop there
You'll notice many Appaloosas have white surrounding their
eyes, giving them a very human appearance. This doesn't mean
they're wild; it's a natural and unique characteristic that
is not seen in any other breed. You can usually also see vertical
stripes on Appaloosas' hooves, and mottled skin on exposed
areas. You may also see some Appaloosas with very sparse tails.
Most common in black or bay base colours, this characteristic
was prized in the breed's early history as it allowed the
animals to be ridden through dense undergrowth without snagging
How tall is an Appaloosa? Well, it depends. The modern Appaloosa
ranges from 14hh upwards, and 16.2hh is not unusual. There's
no upper height limit, but Appaloosas are horses, so are not
less than 14hh. If an Appaloosa happens to fall below the
minimum 14hh mark, it is considered a pony and does not
qualify for registration as an Appaloosa horse.
Because the Appaloosa is a dominant breed, it has often been
crossed with other breeds to produce taller, or more muscular,
or finer animals that retain the wonderful temperament and
colour the breed is known for. In New Zealand, crossing with
Thoroughbreds to produce outstanding (and calm!) dressage
and jumping types is common, as is crossing with the Quarter
Horse to produce type more suited to western riding.
Keeping the colour
Some breeds and colour patterns disrupt Appaloosa colour and
are disallowed by the New Zealand breed registry for that
reason. For example, the grey gene is dominant over others,
so when an Appaloosa is crossed with a grey and the resulting
foal carries the grey gene, any Appaloosa colour will fade
as the horse ages.
The coat patterns of Pintos and Paints indicate colour-producing
genes of a completely different type and can co-exist with
Appaloosa colour. This cross is also disallowed.
What is a registered Appaloosa?
A registered Appaloosa has a traceable pedigree, is on record
with the breed association and has an endorsed registration
certificate to prove it. The association can tell you its
name, parentage, date of birth, colour, brands and identifying
characteristics so that you as a buyer (or seller) can be
confident that the Appaloosa in question is what it is represented
to be. You also know that the horse has met the minimum standards
for Appaloosa registration in New Zealand.
The official breed registry is the Appaloosa Horse Association
of New Zealand. You'll find their comprehensive web site at
www.appaloosaassn.co.nz complete with plenty of information
about the breed, registration, annual and lifetime awards
for competitive horses and riders and much more.
Where did the breed come from?
The Appaloosa's heritage is as colourful and unique as its
coat pattern. Humans have recognised and appreciated the spotted
horse throughout history. Ancient cave drawings as far back
as 20,000 years ago in what is now France depict spotted horses,
as do detailed images in Asian and 17th century Chinese art.
The Spanish introduced horses to North America as they explored
the American continents. Eventually, as these horses found
their way into the lives of Indians and were traded to other
tribes, their use spread until most native American populations
in the Northwest were mounted (c 1710).
The Nez Perce of Washington, Oregon and Idaho became especially
sophisticated horsemen, and their mounts - which included
many spotted individuals - were prized and envied by other
tribes. Historians believe they were the first tribe to breed
selectively for specific traits - intelligence and speed -
keeping the best animals and trading away those less desirable.
When white settlers came to the Northwest Palouse region,
they called the spotted horses "Palouse horses"
or "a Palouse horse". Over time, the name was shortened
and slurred to "Appalousey" and finally "Appaloosa".
During the Nez Perce War of the late 1800s, Appaloosa horses
helped the Nez Perce avoid battles and elude the US Cavalry
for several months. The tribe fled over 1,300 miles of rugged,
punishing terrain under the guidance of the famed Chief Joseph.
When they were defeated in Montana, their surviving horses
were surrendered to soldiers, left behind or dispersed to
settlers. This had a devastating effect on the breed, which
was dying out until 1938, when the Appaloosa Horse Club was
formed in the USA for the preservation and improvement of
the diminishing spotted horse. Since that time, the breed
has not only recovered, but has become one of the world's
most popular and widely used.