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Appaloosa Horses: Breed Profile, Facts and Care

By Alex Verwest


Updated on

The Appaloosa is known to be one of the most beautiful and unique looking horse breeds out there. Its spotted coat pattern is always a real treat for our eyes, that’s why the Appaloosa also became one of the most popular horse breeds out there.

Its history is also quite rich as well, and so, for today’s article we decided to bring you a full guide showcasing everything there is to know about this wondrous breed.

We will be talking all about the breed’s unique features and why it became such a household name, but before we get into all of that we should give you a brief introduction to its history.

The Origins of the Appaloosa Horse

Appaloosa leopard horse
Photo by Helga / stock.adobe.com

This breed was originally brought to North America around 500 years ago. It took a while to actually sell the idea of owning an Appaloosa horse, but once the wheels started turning, there was no way that this breed could ever lose traction on the market.

Around a decade or so later, the breed was spread all across the continent, becoming quite a staple for Native American tribes, due to how good they were at practically everything.

The name of this breed also features quite an impressive history, with these horses originally being known as Palouse horses because they were originally found around the Palouse River. It didn’t take long though for the name to change and evolve, and before long the horse had officially become known as the Appaloosa horse.

The breed’s original creators, if we can say that, were the Nez Perce tribe, a group of indigenous people of the Northwest Plateau, that came up with both names for these horses. They’re also the main reason why this breed actually became so popular to begin with.

They did so by “advertising” the horses to an American explorer by the name of Meriwether Lewis, and as soon as he made his way back home, he quickly wrote about the beautiful pided horses with large spots of white irregularly scattered all across their multicolored bodies.

Beautiful young appaloosa horse portrait in the fields
Photo by Martin / stock.adobe.com

He also decided to use certain keywords to describe the horses here, such as “elegant”, “excellent and “durable”. Each and every one of these attracted a lot of attention to them, eventually leading to more explorers making their way to Nez Perce’s farmhouse and buying their very own Appaloosa horses.

Before long, the breed was widespread and it became one of the most popular breeds at the time, to the point where even to this day it is still considered to be one of the best breeds your money could get you.

Interestingly enough though, the Appaloosa horse breed that you see these days is nowhere near as pure as you may think. This is due to the fact that as soon as it made its way to the rest of the continent, the breed’s DNA had already been mingled with, adding in American Quarter Horse, Thoroughbreds and even Arabian splices to the mix.

These experiments led to perfecting the breed even further, making it faster, stronger and more adaptable than ever before.

How Large are Appaloosa horses?

Secret Heir Appaloosa stallion
World Champion stallion Secret Heir / Photo by Appaloosa Horse Club / facebook.com

The typical Appaloosa horse is known to be fairly large, although it is definitely not the largest breed you could get.

They are known to be around 14 hands or 56 inches tall, with a maximum height of about 15 hands or 60 inches. As far as the weight is concerned, you are looking at a 950 to 1,200 pounds horse.

So, as you can quickly tell, while it is not the heaviest or largest of horses, it is actually quite athletic and because of this it can still be used around the farmhouse for labor, although that’s definitely not the main reason as to why you would get one for yourself.

Appaloosa Horse Uses

Appaloosa Foal
Photo by getspotted / pixabay.com

As far as its general uses are concerned, Nez Perce wanted to create this breed mainly for transport, hunting and battle. This is why it was an instant hit with the natives that were mostly living off of the land at the time, hunting for food in their spare time.

Nowadays though, because of how much mixing went into their DNA, Appaloosa horses are a lot more versatile, being considered all-purpose horses that can do almost anything and everything.

For example, if you want a good long-distance trail riding horse, you will definitely get your money’s worth out of this breed. If you need to work your cattle it will also deliver on that promise and as far as any riding or racing sports are concerned, the Appaloosa horse has won more than its fair share of matches.

Due to its history with the natives, the breed is also often times showcased in film and on television. Its distinctive markings immediately stand out, and as such it is a very popular choice for the main character’s trusty companion.

What makes it all the better though is the fact that, despite being an athletic horse that could very well inflict a lot of damage, it is extremely gentle and friendly, to the point where you won’t ever hear of one attacking its owner for no real reason.

Its loyalty is also worth mentioning because, if treated right, the Appaloosa horse will forever stick by you through thick and thin. All that you’ll need to do is you’ll need to make sure that they’re properly take care of and you’ll immediately feel attached to this beautiful new four-legged friend you just made.

How Much Do Appaloosa Horses Cost?

Appaloosa Horses Cost
Photo by Snuffleupagus / pixabay.com

Getting your hands on an Appaloosa horse is actually quite easy, but nabbing one for a cheap price is going to be quite the hassle to say the least.

That’s because this breed is really popular right now, so pretty much any breeder will have a few of them lying around. But, if you want to get a purebred Appaloosa horse with all of the papers ready, you will have to shill out more than a handful of golden coins if you know what I mean.

For the most part though, you should be able to get yourself an Appaloosa horse for about $1,000, but if you want to go the extra mile and actually get a high-quality purebred that you can use in competitions, you will need to jump on your wallet and pull out about $10,000 or so per horse.

A good indicator of an Appaloosa’s price is also the patterns that it has on its body. For example, the more striking the patterns are, the more money it’ll cost you.

Little Oaks Appaloosa
Little Oaks Appaloosa / facebook.com

So, if you want an Appaloosa horse but you don’t have the money to invest into a really beautifully patterned horse, you can always go with a cheaper one with minimal spotting.

If you also want your horse to have had its fair share of training and of course, the pedigree in order, you will want to spend a few extra dollars on that.

Many people often times opt for a cheaper horse, pretty much driving the asking price up so that people would also be interested in opting for a more expensive breed instead.

All in all though, if you want a quality horse and you don’t necessarily care about its pedigree or its patterns you can always go for a cheaper variant from your local breeder.

The Different Patterns of the Appaloosa Breed

Appaloosa Patterns
Leopard Rock Appaloosa horses / facebook.com

Most people immediately think of the Appaloosa breed as a rather simplistic solid color with a spotted blanked across its body.

The problem with this though is that it is factually incorrect. There are quite a handful of different patterns that you can get with the Appaloosa breed, amongst which the most popular are the following:

  • The Blanket – this is the most popular pattern on the market. You can tell if your horse has this pattern because it will have a solid coat with a spotted blanket of white all over its hindquarters
  • The Snowcap – this pattern is quite similar to the blanket, but without the actual spots over its hindquarters. Instead, this pattern features quite a handful of frostings all over its back
  • The Frost/Varnish – while these are two different patterns, they are similar enough to the point where we can categorize them both all the same. In simple terms, these patterns feature white hairs scattered all across the horse’s coat
  • The Marble – if you liked the spotted blanket pattern but you wished that it expanded a bit past the horse’s hindquarters, you need to get yourself a marble patterned horse instead
  • The Leopard – as the name suggests, this pattern features a white base coat that is plastered with black spots all over. This pattern is also referred to as the Dalmatian by certain breeders
  • The Snowflake – similarly, if you liked the leopard pattern a lot but you wished it was reversed, you need to go with a snowflake patterned horse instead
  • The Solid – as the name suggests, if you wanted a simple horse that has the Appaloosa characteristics but without the actual patterns all across its body, you can always just opt for a solid pattern instead.


Appaloosa stallion
Photo by Karakal / wikipedia.org

This is where we have to take a bit of a walk and tell you why, while the Appaloosa horse is definitely one of the best horse breeds around, it may not be the best choice for you if you are a beginner or a novice in the field.

It is one of the best riding horses for sure, and training it is not the hardest thing to do, but because of the breed’s history with the Native Americans, let’s just say that they are quite temperamental when it comes to being entrapped or mistreated.

This doesn’t mean that the breed will attack you for no reason, but more so it means that it can get quite into the ride, eventually going so fast that you won’t be able to keep yourself in the saddle.

This horse breed is also known for being very courageous, so even if they find a bunch of hurdles in front of them, they will still continue onwards without a care in the world because they trust their own abilities more than anything else.

This breed is also very intelligent and independent, which are traits that it picked up after being used as war horses by the Natives back in the day.

Because of their intelligence, they will also remember any sign of mistreatment, so make sure to always act nice and respectful towards your horse unless you want it to never listen to an order you give it.

As such, while it can still be a good choice no matter your experience level, it is more so considered to be an experienced rider’s best choice. If you want to improve your horse-riding skills there are plenty of other choices to pick from out there.

Appaloosa Horse Diet and Nutrition

Appaloosa Horse Diet
Photo by Megan Zopf / pixabay.com

The Appaloosa’s diet is quite typical, so you won’t really need to worry all that much about giving it extra nutrients, unless you want to grow your horse for a specific purpose.

For the most part, the Appaloosa horse will love to graze around all day long, and as long as it gets its fair share of good-quality hay, grains, grass and maybe a few veggies and fruits, they will be more than happy enough with their lives.

You can still supplement them if you want to, although it is not a requirement per se. If you do want to do it, we recommend that you go with a fair share of supplements and vitamins such as probiotics, prebiotics, vitamins and Omega-3 oils.

It all depends on the actual purpose that you want to grow your horse for. For example, if you want your horse to help you around the farm a lot by pulling on carts, you should consider giving it extra food and nutrients so that it has the strength to do it all.

If you just want a beautiful horse with a majestic spotted pattern, you can always just make sure to give it the proper vitamins and oils and it will be more than enough for it.

Appaloosa Horse Breeding

Intuit Appaloosa Stallion
Intuit Appaloosa Stallion / Photo by Appaloosa Horse Club / facebook.com

As far as the breeding is concerned, Appaloosas are nowhere near as special as you may think. You obviously need to breed it only with healthy horses, which is why we always recommend that you visit the vet before you start the process.

If the horse has any sort of genetic issues, you should not breed it any further because the more damaged the parents are, the worse off the offspring will be.

Most people decide to get their mares pregnant around winter or summer time so that they can have a foal early in the year. Just remember to get your mare cycling to time with when you want to breed her.

Keep in mind that this breed only really breeds for around 5-7 days during a 21-day cycle, and as soon as that cycle is over there’s no way you can start breeding it any further.

Appaloosa Health Problems

Appaloosa Health
Photo by Sven Lachmann / pixabay.com

For the most part, you shouldn’t have to worry about your Appaloosa having any health problems, although there is this certain eye affliction that can take their eyesight if you’re not careful with it.

You can tell right off the bat that your Appaloosa’s eyes tend to water a lot, and because of this they can get targeted a lot by flies. This in itself isn’t too bad, although it can lead to infections or irritation, and if you’re not careful this can even lead to your horse losing its eyesight.

Just make sure to always have a fly mask on the ready so that you won’t have to worry about any of that. On top of that, the Appaloosa horse can also carry the gene which causes congenital stationary blindness. This is why you need to check your horse before you breed it any further.

Last but not least, your horse will also be prone to equine recurrent uveitis, a lot more so than most other breeds in fact. This, in simpler terms, is the infection of the eye’s uveal tract which in turn can result in puffy red eyes and yes, eventually blindness.

As you can tell though, most of these problems can be avoided, you just need to make sure that you always check your horse at the vet so that these illnesses don’t get any worse. If you do that you will find that the Appaloosa horse is one of the healthiest and safest options on the market right now.


So, are Appaloosas perfect for you? This definitely depends on what you want from a horse. If you want a good and healthy horse that is also very beautiful and very intelligent, we would argue that this is amongst the best options on the market right now.

Just keep in mind that it is not the best option for beginners. This shouldn’t deter you though if you just really want a good horse to have around your farm and you’ve fallen in love with its spotted patterns.

Do whatever makes you happy, and as long as you enjoy seeing it around your barn and petting it that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?

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About Alex Verwest

Alex is an equestrian consultant who has co-founded several successful start-up companies and worked with various international equestrian businesses. Using his experience and connections in this field, he loves to introduce readers to many outstanding small equestrian brands, sharing stories about equestrian lifestyle and trends. Learn more about Seriously Equestrian's Editorial Process.

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