Miniature horses are a very popular and beloved breed for those who do not want or cannot have full size horses but still love the horse experience. Miniatures, like all horses, come in a variety of colors and patterns. Trying to understand what each color means can be confusing, especially for the beginner horse owner.
Unlike most other livestock, the color of a horse can be determined genetically. Knowing a horse’s true “genetic” color (that is, what its parents carried) can help you decide what to breed for or against in order to produce the desired phenotype (the way a specific animal looks). Unfortunately, pedigree research can often be misleading or even inaccurate in determining a horse’s actual color because many people rely solely on how a horse “looks” (called its phenotype) rather than what it actually is genetically.
There are four common patterns of coloring in miniatures that you should be familiar with. These are:
A horse with the pinto pattern is white with jagged flowing blotches of colored hairs, often overlapping. These spots typically originate on the head, chest, flank and buttock areas & spread toward the neck, tail, legs & back. Almost never does the white cross the body, but if it does it is usually scattered or apron-faced, bald-faced or bonnet-faced.
Sabino horses have extensive white leg markings that may be roaned or speckled. They also tend to have a lot of facial white. They are normally born a solid color but progressively accumulate more white hairs as they grow up. They can be a variety of colors, but are typically dapple or pinto.
Similarly to the tobiano, an overo has a white pattern but consists of more random blotches of color that rarely overlap each other. These dots typically originate on the shoulders, head, or underbelly & spread to the legs, feet, tail & head. They can be a variety of colors, including black, bay, chestnut/sorrel, grullo & buckskin.
Appaloosas have a dark base coat color with various combinations of spot patterns on top of it. They can have abundant or sparse spots covering the entire body or they can be covered in a spotted blanket (called a blanket with spots). Appaloosas can be any type of horse and can carry any of the other color patterns mentioned in this article.
This is a dominant pattern, meaning it occurs no matter what other genes the horse may have. This color is characterized by the gradual occurrence of individual white hairs throughout the body, mane, tail & legs. The speed of the onset varies from horse to horse. Eventually, the horse will look completely gray. This color can be a variety of shades from very light to very dark.