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Use and characteristics of Appaloosas
Because of their interesting and varied history, and the fact that the stud book is still partially open (some Arabian, Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse blood is permissible, depending on the registry), Appaloosas can vary in body type as well as colouring. This offers plenty of choice to purchasers wishing to buy an Appaloosa. Generally speaking, Appaloosas are between 14 to 16 hh (56 to 64 inches, 142 to 163 cm) and weigh around 950 to 1,250 pounds. There is a big range of colour patterns, which will usually be specified by vendors offering to sell an Appaloosa. These include snowflake, marble, leopard spotted, blanket spotted, white blanket, and few spot leopard. The most well-known is probably the leopard spot: a white horse with dark spots. Snowflake is the reverse, a dark coloured horse with light spots. The blanket variations, where the horse has a contrasting coat colour, particularly over the hips, loins and croup, can be light coloured with dark spots, or dark with light. Other notable characteristics of the true Appaloosa are mottled skin, striped hooves and a white sclera around the eye. They are, on the whole, excellent family riding horses.
Origin and history of breeding Appaloosas
Experts believe that horses with spotted coat colouring closely resembling that of the modern leopard spot Appaloosas existed 25,000 years ago. The most famous examples are the cave paintings known as the Dappled Horses of Pech-Merle, which clearly show spotted coat markings. The Lp gene that transmits the leopard colouring has been found in the DNA of extremely ancient horses. Much later, in the 17th and 18th centuries, portraits of Spanish and Spanish-influenced breeds such as the Lippizaner show animals with spotted coats. Spotted breeds such as the British Spotted Pony and Danish Knabstrupper have also existed for centuries. The Appaloosa, however, can stake its claim as a product of North America. Indeed, it was largely created in the 18th and 19th centuries by the indigenous Niimíípu, or Ni Mi Poo people, sometimes incorrectly called the Nez Percé. They were skilled horse breeders and traders, knowing how to select horses to create and improve on the qualities they desired. The horses were named for the river that ran through their territory, the Palouse. However, they were driven from their land and onto a 1400 mile march to Canada. Eventually forced to submit, their horses were taken from them. In 1937, people began to reclaim the Appaloosa and its important history, and in 1938 the Appaloosa Horse Club was formed. Today, the Niimíípu are once again involved in breeding horses, using Akhal-Tekes as well as Appaloosas.
Appaloosa horses in equestrianism
Appaloosas are popular horses for both Western and English events. Western competitions cover roping, reining and cutting as well as riding. Appaloosas are also a popular choice for barrel racing as well as more mainstream events such as eventing, endurance and show jumping. Specialist gaited offshoots such as the Tiger and Shuffle horses now have their own registries.