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Horse Writing Tip: Colors

July 19, 2014

Happy weekend everyone!

For this week’s horse tips, I thought I’d talk about horse colors and breeds. While an encyclopedic knowledge won’t be necessary unless horses figure majorly in your work, it will add texture to your world if you diversify your characters’ mounts and describe them more complexly than brown, black, or white. Horses purchased from breeders also have birth certificates that state their birthdate, registered name*, breed, color, and any white markings, which can be used as a plot point.

Now, the best way to view horse colors is to find a book with photographs. Seriously. The internet is vast, and it’s accuracy is questionable. It will take you less time to go to your local library and ask your librarian for a book on horse coat colors and markings than to find a good website with all the information you need, and I know this because I’ve been looking for a website to show you all for the past hour, 5 minutes ago suddenly remembered I have a book on this, and fetched the book in 0.005 seconds. Sigh.

Common horse colors are grey, fleabitten grey, dappled grey, bay, black, chestnut, liver chestnut, sorrel (that’s Penny’s color), brown, roan, strawberry roan, blue roan, dun, palomino, spotted, piebald, skewbald, cream, and brindle. Here is the most satisfactory website I found that has good pictures in a slideshow, or this Breyer website views colors through a more genetic lens. I can also recommend Google image searching the color you’re interested in and the word horse, but make sure to check the source website.

Color-wise, horses can also be distinguished by any white markings (aka white spots) on their face or legs. Horse people have organized these markings into different types, but the types and names vary from group to group. For the face, there are star, stripe, white face, blaze, snip, and interrupted stripe.

The leg white markings are white to knee, mid-cannon, half-pastern, or coronet. They can be on all the legs or one leg or any other combination: if there’s one mark, you can say the horse has XYZ and either leave it at that, or remark on which leg it’s on (front left; front right; back left; back right).  Horses can have multiple white markings on their face and legs, and the different combinations are used to distinguish one horse from other. For the face and leg markings, I gave up and am going to offer you the Wikipedia article  as an internet resource. Again, now that you know the terms, you can Google image search them.

So to put this all together, let’s describe Penny.

This is the most recent full body shot I have of Penny. She's giving nose kisses to her then neighbor, Gracie.

This is the most recent full body shot I have of Penny. She’s giving nose kisses to her then neighbor, Gracie.

Here's a less attractive photo of Pen's face, but it shows her whole face. She's just been loaded into the horse trailer and is wondering where all the food at.

Here’s a less attractive photo of Pen’s face, but it shows her whole face. She’s just been loaded into the horse trailer and is wondering where all the food at.

Look at the pretty. If I were to describe her to another horse person, I would say she’s a sorrel mare with a star on her forehead.

Next post about breeds! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments.











*Registered names are for official record and breeding purposes and may or may not be what the horse is called on a daily basis. Penny’s registered name is Jacqueline CooSoo. Some horse breeds have specific naming traditions as well: CooSoo was Penny’s sire’s name, and it’s traditional for horses of Penny’s breed to adopt some aspect of their sire’s name. In addition, some horses can have a “show name,” which is the name a rider enters their horse in competitions. This can also be different, and explains why in racing the horse names sound a bit convoluted.  When Penny and I entered competitions, her show name was Flying Grace, though I rarely ever call her that. So all and all, Penny has three names. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the famous racehorse Seabiscuit used the same name in all three instances: as his registered name on his birth certificate; as his show name when he entered races; and as his regular name for everyday use.


From → Writing Tips

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