The Beauty of an Appaloosa Horse


While composing a prior post on the beauty of a horse, I was reminded of a portion of the Pslams – “{The Lord’s} delight is not in the strength of the horse (PS 147:10).” Yet, God must surely delight in the beauty of a horse, a possibility that may have occurred to some of us during the recent Triple Crown racing season and / or through admiring Dega’s renditions of race horses. Perhaps the Lord especially delights in the breed of horses known as Appaloosa’s.

Traveling back and forth between Japan and my parents’ birth home area of Minneapolis, in my youth, we met a family on one of the voyages across the Pacific who had a ranch in Montana. Among the many wonderful discoveries during multiple visits there was the beauty of the Appaloosa. A ‘spotted backside’ might not at all be desirable among humans and some other living beings, but in my view this common Appaloosa trait provides one of the most compelling amalgams of both solid color and random patterning that I know of in the animal world.

Most closely associated with the Nez Perce nation among indigenous American peoples, the breed initially suffered along with the decline of the community propagating its existence in the latter 19th century. Yet, despite that sad history, and perhaps because of its compelling beauty, the Appaloosa breed of horses has since thrived.

Our friends’ ranch had numerous Appaloosas, but three that I remember fondly, and for differing reasons. One, named Lonesome, a striking looking horse had Thoroughbred blood lineage and was tall and slim, with a reputation for being occasionally arbitrary as was another more dramatically colored one named Blue. Leo, like Lonesome, was mostly spotted all over, but when first seen with his more compact and robust physique, could be identified as having an American Quarter Horse lineage.

My favorite, the one with whom I became most familiar, was Marble, a mare of not-readily-evident Appaloosa lineage, among whom some are almost white and others appear almost black. Marble looked like a common brown Morgan horse, except for one distinctive detail – she had one blue eye, like one sees in some Australian shepherd dogs. Unlike the sometimes mercurial Lonesome, and the sometimes stubborn Leo, Marble would let me bridle her in the pasture, lead her into the stable next to the tack room, and saddle her without much difficulty.

An Appaloosa gelding, with a Morgan-coloring like “Marble” (note the slight brindle pattern)

The patterned coat commonly associated with Appaloosa horses may be an acquired taste, much like variegated plants among gardeners. I find horses of this background stunning to look at, and I especially appreciate how they have often been portrayed in Western art, such as in the paintings of Charles M. Russel (whose expressive Western-themed paintings I hope to feature in a future blog). It tells us something about the aesthetic sensibility of the Nez Perce that they they would have pursued breeding and cultivating the bloodline of these horses, not only for their utilitarian value but also for their sheer beauty.

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