For a long time, coloured horses were looked down on, considered second best. People didn’t really want them. But why was the coloured horse undesirable for such a long time? And how are they making a come back?
What is a coloured horse?
Referring to a horse as coloured seems to be a very British term. I think other countries who have always had a wide variety of horse coat colours, such as America, tend to use the specific names for the different coats rather than coloured.
According to CHAPS (the Coloured horse and pony society) a coloured horse is defined as a horse who is either Piebald; black and white or Skewbald; white and any other colour. The white patches don’t include face markings or any markings below the elbow and stifle. For more information on horse coat colours and genetics check out this article.
Why were coloured horses considered second best?
I think there are several reasons why coloured horses were considered second best to solid coloured horses. But I think the main reason is popularity and preference, based on what people were aspiring to.
Thoroughbreds & Sports Horses
Until recently, you didn’t see many coloured sports horses, especially at top level. This is because so most breeds of sports horse didn’t have the genetics for a coloured coat, so you didn’t see them competing in sports such as Dressage, Eventing and Show Jumping. This made amateur riders lean towards horses with solid coat colours.
Thoroughbreds are so purely bred, that in theory, it is impossible to get a coloured thoroughbred. Like sports horses, there are no coloured genes found in thoroughbreds. So the only way to get a coloured thoroughbred would be to cross bred them with a breed who had coloured genes. But then the offspring wouldn’t be a thoroughbred.
Average Riding Horses & Natives
Here in the UK, coloured coats were only found in native types and cross bred horses. While natives and cross breeds can be fantastic horses, on the whole, they are not as good as sports horses in terms of performance. They are more suited to the every day rider with lower goals.
These two factors combined meant that solid colour horses were associated with top level competition and sport. Whereas coloured horses were associated with happy hackers. So it’s not surprising that they were viewed as less popular and possibly cheaper.
How are coloured horses becoming more popular?
It was in the 1980s when a group of coloured fans decided to get together to change the opinion of the coloured horse. Both CHAPS and BSPA (British Skewbald and Piebald Association) formed to promote the use of coloured horses in all equestrian sports, starting with the show ring. Coloured classes are now some of the most competitive on the circuit.
Coloured genes in sports horses
People also started introducing coloured genes into sports horse breeding programmes. While it is still a bit unusual to see coloured horses competing at top level in the Olympic sports, there are plenty of sports horse stallions out their aimed at the competitive amateur rider. They are just as good as solid colour stallions for the same price range and give the breeder the chance at having a foal with a more interesting coat colour.
This is also being seen in racing. A few breeding operations cross bred their thoroughbreds with coloured horses. They then bred the offspring back to thoroughbreds until they had a high enough % thoroughbred to be allowed to race under rules. There have now been a small number of coloured racehorses, with one of the best known stallions being I Was Framed. But a coloured thoroughbred is yet to have much success on the racecourse.
Why do people love coloureds?
Everyone has a preference and while some people love a bay, others love a coloured. Coloured horses can be so varied and stand out that I can totally see why people like them. Not only that, but these coloured genes come from the reliable coloured cob. While a traditional cob might not be your ideal horse, their hardy traits and sensible temperaments are very desirable. It’s not unreasonable to think that these traits have also been passed down to their coloured offspring.