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What is a Dappled Horse?

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Written by: Brad Heath 

Dapple grey horses are extremely unique in appearance. Dappled horses get their name because of the “dapples” on their coat. A dapple is the ring shaped pattern of variations in their coat color. 

If you’re ready to learn more about dappled horses, you’re in the right place. Keep reading to discover 13 facts you might not have known about dapple horses.

1. Dapple Grey Horses

dapple grey horse in a field eating grassDapple horses are most commonly referred to as dapple grey horses because dapples are the most common in horses with a grey coat color. However, dapples aren’t just limited to greys. The dapple discoloration and shape can also appear on bays, palominos, buckskins, and blacks.. The one color that it’s extremely rare to see dapples on is chestnut. 

2. Dapples are Genetic

A common question is - what causes dapples? The short answer is: genetics! It’s commonly thought that a horse having dapples is a sign of good health. So naturally, many horse owners worry that if dapples don’t appear, that their horse may be lacking nutrients or have an unhealthy coat. This is not the case! Horses either have the gene for dapples, or they do not.

3. A Dappled Horse Doesn't Always Have Dapples

Yes, you read that right! Just because a horse has dapples, doesn’t mean that they will present dapples on their coat all of the time. Dapples tend to be seasonal, and can show more after a horse sheds their winter coat.

4. Dapples are Unpredictable

We just said that dapples can show more after the winter coat has shed. However, this isn’t always the case. Dapples are extremely unpredictable in how and when they present. So, some horses may have more dapples in the Spring or Fall, while others may appear more in the Summer or Winter. There really is no rhyme or reason, it’s very random and dependent upon each horse.

5. You Can Promote Dappling

Like we mentioned earlier, if your horse doesn’t have the gene to present dapples, there is nothing that you can do to make their coat dapple. However, if you have seen your horse dapple before and would like to promote it, there are a few things that you can do:

  • Ensure that they are eating a nutrient rich diet

  • Frequently and properly groom them

  • Promote good overall wellness with regular vet appointments

  • Keep the horse dewormed 

  • Maintain treatment on any medical conditions or diseases such as gastric ulcers 

To get a better insight of your horse’s overall health, an at-home Equine Health Kit is a good idea. The test kit from 5Strands specifically for horses tests food, nutritional, metal/mineral imbalances, as well as environmental intolerances. 

6. Grey Dapple Horse Breeds

In theory, most any breed of horse could be considered a grey dapple horse, because there are greys in a lot of breeds. However, the most common grey dapple horse breeds are Thoroughbreds, Quarter horses, and Arabians.

7. Flea-Bitten Grey Horses

Dapples on horses are commonly mistaken for another color variation that’s known as “flea-bitten” horses. Although the two can look similar in some cases, flea-bitten horses will have spots that appear more like freckles, or tiny clusters of “flea-bites”. Whereas dapples are larger, round-shaped, and more spread apart.

dapple grey horse vs. fleabitten grey horse

8. Dapple Grey Horses are Symbolic

Yes, if you have a dappled horse that is grey, they are a little bit more special! Grey horses are known in astrology and symbolism to represent patience, wisdom, and balance.

9. Dappling is Most Prominent Between Ages 2-7

Horses can start to show dapples when they are yearlings. However, between the ages 2-7, this is when the coat color starts to change drastically and the most dapples will appear.

10. George Washington Had a Dapple Grey Horse

Blueskin was one of George Washington’s primary mount horses in the Revolutionary War. Blueskin was a half-Arabian, dapple grey horse.

11. Dapples Show Up in Certain Areas

side view of a dapple horse wearing a saddleMost commonly, dapples will appear on horses under their bellies, on their neck, their shoulders, or on their hindquarters.

12. Dappling is Part of the Aging Process

For horses with the gene, dappling is simply a part of the aging process. Dapples are very visible and prominent in younger horses, and as they age, the dapples will become less and less as the coat color fully changes and transitions.

13. Dapple Grey Horses Go Way Back

The gene that causes dappling in the coat of a horse is believed to be 1000s of years old. Dappled horses have been around for a long time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What color is a dapple horse? 

Dapple horses are most common in horses with a grey coat color, however, dappled horses can be most any color. 

What is a dapple grey horse? 

A dappled horse is a horse that has the round-shaped “dapples” of color variation on their coat. A dapple grey horse is simply a horse that has a grey coat and has dapples. 

Can I give my horse dapples?

Dapples in a horses’ coat come from genetics, so there is no way to add dapples.

What vitamins are best for a horse’s coat?

Key nutrients like biotin, fatty acids such as Omega-3’s, and zinc are important to improve horse coat health.

How much is a dapple grey horse?

Since dapple gray horses can be most any breed, the price varies greatly. The cost isn’t determined by the dapple gene, but rather by the breed, age, and any training that they may have received.



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