How To Get A Horse’s Coat To Dapple

How To Get A Horse’s Coat To Dapple

June 30, 2021

Dappling is the presence of asymmetrical spots on an animal's skin. On horses, dapples are spheres of a slightly different shade than the rest of the coat. They're furtive -- they can appear, vanish and then reappear at various phases in a horse’s life. Consider it or not, you may have a role in whether your horse’s coat gets dapples. Horses might only get them at certain times of the year. In the winter some horses have them, but when you clip them the dapples disappear. Many gray horses have dapples at some point in their lives. They are naturally not born with this pattern, and many times aren’t even born gray -- they can be born with any base color, often black but also chestnut or brown. They get gray as they get older, gradually getting those circular dapples. And as you have observed, dapples often appear to be condition-reliant. Usually, they are thought to be a sign of good health, so that would somewhat explain the condition connection. But they are usually relatively short-lived. As the horse ages, the dapples fade, the hair whitens and the dapples disappear completely. Your best chance of having dapples occur is to ensure all the horse’s dietary needs are met, his diet is balanced, and his coat is well-looked after. Start with your forage. Feed the best-quality forage you can, and make sure your horse is getting enough. Horses of other colors - browns, chestnuts, blacks, and bays don’t dapple certainly or intensely like dapple grays do, but some do have the genetic nature for dapples to recurrently appear. Classically dapples appear after a horse sheds its winter coat growth. They can be difficult to see. Good grooming and health will highlight them. If your horse is healthy and you groom him suitably and regularly, but you still don’t see dapples, he doesn’t have the genes to produce them.

Upright nutrition is essential for healthy skin and coat, letting dapples appear in horses that are genetically disposed to them. Make sure your horse’s diet is providing adequate excellent protein and the amino acids lysine and methionine, which are the most limiting. Some old-time horse managers swear that protein is crucial for dapples and that it will put a bloom on the coat. Feeding your horse a diet of high-quality forage such as good pasture grass or hay that isn’t too old will give your horse most of these nutrients; a commercial grain will round it out. Other than diet, grooming practices are extremely important for coat quality. Try spending at least 10 to 15 minutes grooming your horse at least several times a week, and you will see the benefits. Start with a rubber curry to stir up all the dirt, and then remove it with a stiff brush. In the summer, or if your horse is clipped, finish off with a soft brush. If you take all these steps you will see dapples and won’t be disappointed. If you own a horse with these good-looking spherical spots, then count yourself lucky.


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