The Appaloosa horse is one of the most ancient horses in history.  It can trace its ancestors to prehistoric times, and has been one of the breeds with the most contribution to modern times.  They are an extremely versatile animal, and have a very loyal following of owners, riders and breeders.

Appaloosa History

The term Appaloosa did not refer to the spotted horses until sometime in the 1800’s.  It was derived from the name of the Palouse river.  The river drained into an area in Washington and Idaho that was called the Plaouse Country, and settlers called the spotted horses from that region “Palouse horses” which eventually morphed into the term Appaloosa.

Before that, the spotted horse went by many different names.  The first record of the spotted horse was found to be over 18,000 years old.  Caves in Lascaux and Peche France depict the spotted horses, and while there is some question as to whether these horses were actually used or were just depicted from a dream, it shows that the spotted horse has had a prominent place in peoples lives for thousands of years.

These spotted horses continued to have a place in history, with records of their use and existence found all over Europe and Asia in the form of art.  China, in the time around 100 BC has much art depicting the spotted horse.  They were referred to as “Celestial” of “Heavenly” horses, and were highly prized as war horses.  11th century art from Persia (which is now Iran) shows these horses being ridden to fight enemies.  There is also much history of the spotted horse in England and France.

The horses made their way to the Americas when the Spanish brought them over to aid in the conquest of the New World.  By the 1600’s, they were found as far North as present day New Mexico.  In the 1680’s, the Pueblo Indian slaves revolted against the Spanish and drove them South.  They proceeded to trade the horses to the Plains Indians, so that by the early 1700’s, nearly all of the Plains tribes had been supplied.  The Shoshone tribe traded horses to the Nez Perce tribe, who became the most skilled horsemen and breeders of the Native Americans.  They were very selective, and bred for color, strength and stamina.  They were the most notable horsemen, and were recorded in history by many of the settlers as such.

The war of 1877 brought misfortune to the tribe, as they were defeated by the US Calvary and most of their herd was confiscated.  The numbers of the beautiful spotted horse went into decline, and it became a forgotten breed for the next 60 years or so.

In the year 1937, the Western Horseman magazine ran a series of articles on the Appaloosa horse that sparked a renewed interest in the breed.  A gentleman and Appaloosa aficionado by the name of Claude Thompson got together with other owners and breeders and formed the Appaloosa Horse Club.  The club quickly took off, and by the 1970’s, it was the third largest breed registry in the world.  It currently has over 33,000 members, and keeps records on over 635,000 registered Appaloosa horses.

Appaloosa Horse Club

The Appaloosa Horse Club in the US is dedicated to the promotion and breeding of the Appaloosa.  It has many programs and awards systems that allow appaloosa owners to compete ad succeed in a variety of events.  One such program is the Appaloosa Competitive All-Breed Achievement Program or ACAAP.  This program allows a horse to earn a Certificate of Achievement when it earns 20 merits in any given ACAAP category.  It gets a Certificate of Superior Achievement by earning 60 merits, and a Certificate of Lifetime Achievement when it earns an exceptional number of points in a category.  It can also earn a Versatility Champion award by winning 5 Certificates of Achievement in 5 different categories.  There is also a yearly High Point Dressage award, and the yearly ACAAP Master award, which goes to the horse the highest number of merits earned in the year.  The categories are the following: Barrel Racing, Challenged Riders, Combined Training (aka eventing) Cutting, Dressage, Driving, English Equitation, English Pleasure, Games, Halter, Judged Trail Riding, Over Fences, Reining, Roping, Showmanship, Team Penning, Trail, Western Equitation, Western Pleasure, Western Riding, Working Cow Horse, and 4-H.  There are also awards for racing, and the AHC offers both a National and a World show.

Breed Characteristics

Appaloosa horses can be registered with the AHC if genetic testing reveals the animal has Appaloosa parentage.  In general, an appaloosa horse has some sort of spotting or mottling of the skin.  The skin is a very important indicator, and is usually pink, with dark overlaying spots.  It is found most commonly on the muzzle and and around they eyes, as well as in the hind end area.  Another common indicator is the white sclera around the eye.  The sclera is the part of the eye surrounding the iris that we would call the “white” of the eye.  This is usually covered on most horse breeds, but shows on the Appaloosa.  There are several color types which include Black, Dark Brown, Bay, Buckskin, Chestnut, Dun, Palomino, Red Roan, Gray, Gruella, Bay Roan, or Blue Roan.  More information and a color pattern guide can be found on the Appaloosa Horse Club website.

The conformation of the Appaloosa is varied due to the many different uses of the horse.  A solid and sound conformation is obviously desired to ensure strength, speed, agility and longevity.

They are popular horses in Australia, you can visit the association website hereAustralian Appaloosa Association